Jeannette Walls Answers Your Questions

I'm so glad that came across! I originally wrote "The Glass Castle" as an homage to my parents -- even though there are some passages where they come across as rather flawed. It's been interesting to see how people react to them; some think they were wonderful, some see them as unfit parents. They did a lot to help me believe in myself, but there's one incident in particular that I wrote about that stands out. When I was very young and I thought I heard a monster under my bed, but instead of telling me there were no such thing as monsters -- which wouldn't have made me feel any safer -- Dad and I got weapons and went out looking for the monster. He called it Demon Hunting. He said that demons like to scare people but in face-to-face combat, they're big cowards. It was a metaphor, of course, for confronting your own fears. It breaks my heart that dad wasn't able to conquer all of his own demons, but he did raise some fairly fearless kids. Though it's ironic that it took me this long to face the truth -- which once I confronted it wasn't really scary at all. (P.S. I love your name.)

8. Cindy C., of Kelso, Wash., writes:

If I could change anything, it would be that I wish my parents could have taught me love the way yours did. I had to learn that on my own, mother to son. My question to you is this: If you could change but ONE thing in your former years, what would it be?

Jeannette responds:

That my father didn't drink.

9. Debbie Teubert, of Irvine, Calif., writes:

First of all, I have to comment that your life-loving, positive attitude is absolutely refreshing. What worries me is that, I might not have recognized you (or your brother) as kids in need. You are probably sensitive to those signs. What are some of those signs? Would you have wanted any "outside" assistance? And if so, how would you TODAY approach a kid in the same situation? I wouldn't want to offend or interfere with the parents either.

Jeannette responds:

That is such an interesting, intelligent, sensitive question -- and I'm not sure how to answer it. I'm not certain that some well-meaning person's interference would have helped. I honestly don't know. The times I was most insulted when I was growing up were when someone called us needy or poor or tried to help in a heavy-handed way. One time, a teacher announced in front of a class full of students that I needed to dress better and she handed me a bag full of clothes from a church drive. It was just awful. On the other hand, there was another teacher, the one I was named for (see question 4), who stepped in and made sure that I wasn't kicked off the high school newspaper when some people felt that someone like me shouldn't be allowed into the newspaper offices. I'll never forget that act of kindness. There's such a fine line between help that makes someone feel inferior and assistance that genuinely improves someone's life. Thank you so much for caring enough to ask.

10. Lexie Conner, of Pittsfield, Ill., writes:

Would you have told your story if your mother had not moved to New York? Do you think that when we tell our story, we embellish?

Jeannette responds:

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