The Nayers encountered a violent accident just because of a match that was lighted in the wrong place and the wrong time. When the author’s mother lighted a match in the cellar of the vacation home they were staying in, her mother and father were consumed by a flash fire. Their mother barely survived and she had scars which made her unrecognizable. She had to undergo 37 operations.
But this was not the worst part. The Nayers siblings were not able to see their parents 9 months after the accident. And with their reconnection with their parents who looked totally different, the process was slow and painful.
40 years after the incident, their daughter, Louise, authored Burned: A Memoir. In this memoir, she recounted how difficult it was to pick up where their family left off. She described how her mother remained determined while his father was desperate. Their mother, despite being disfigured, learned how to be confident of herself and she even urged their father to go back being a doctor. Basically, the memoir teaches us how life can be restored just by having the willingness to do so.
Nayers’ desire to write the memoir was not a conscious one. It seems like the thought just always comes out and finally, when she was 42, which is the same age when the accident happened to her mother, she felt the need to write so she could move on. She was having panic attacks and sometimes, she is thinking of stopping in writing. But she knew she had to continue because even if she doesn’t believe in closure, the transformation is important and it’s what she wants to share to others. She thinks that maybe, that is a form of closure.
The author acknowledges how the accident immensely affected all of them. Nayers could say that their life is privileged and at some point, she thought that she doesn’t have the right to express the pain of being separated and the feeling of horror due to the burns. But she learned that what remains unspoken usually carries a lot of weight and could bring you down. In their childhood, she and her sister didn’t have a psychiatrist to help them cope with the situation. She thinks that being left all alone in the tragedy with no one to talk to deeply affected their adulthood.
Currently, Nayers is writing another novel. It is about a mother who is also a wife and a social worker. The setting is in New York during the 1920s. Nayers says that writing the memoir has taught her a lot about structures in writing. She is really enjoying the freedom in doing what she wants to do. She needs to research too for her new novel just like what she did for the memoir. But the most important thing is Burned: A Memoir is now out and available to the world where the troubled could seek inspiration. As the author moves on from that tragedy, she hopes her readers would do so too in their own tragedies.
About the Author
Louise Nayer is a writer, poet, and Professor of English at City College of San Francisco. She lives in San Francisco.