by Diana Welch and Liz Welch, co-authors with Amanda Welch and Dan Welch of The Kids Are All Right: A Memoir
Like many siblings, we disagree about a lot of things. We can’t remember who came up with the title The Kids Are All Right, but we do know that each of us had a completely different take on its meaning. Liz took it literally: All four of us turned out remarkably well, despite losing our parents when we were so young. Our father died in a car accident in 1982, and our mother succumbed to cancer in 1985. When we became orphans, our eldest sister Amanda was nineteen; Liz was sixteen; our brother Dan was fourteen; and Diana had just turned eight. Since no local family would take all of us in, we were separated, each sent to live in a different place. Our book, The Kids Are All Right, tells (in four different voices) how being separated was the most painful part of dealing with the loss of our parents. It also tells the story of how, after five years living apart, we found one another and became a family again.
But back to the title: Dan thought it was a shout-out to our parents for doing such a good job raising us. Diana interpreted it to mean that each sibling’s memory is correct—even when the memories seem to be at odds with one another. “But I hate The Who” was Amanda’s first response. The band, whose song “The Kids Are Alright” inspired countless imitators, is associated more with the 1970s than the subsequent decade in which our story takes place.
It’s no surprise that we each have a different take on the title. We also have very different memories of major moments in our lives. In one chapter, Liz remembers Mom saying that the tumor was in her uterus and the size of a grapefruit. Amanda corrects Liz on the next page, insisting that, actually, it was cervical cancer, and only the size of a quarter. Dan’s stories are about what it was like to be the only boy in a house full of women. And Diana, who was four years old when our father died, admits that her memories of Dad are hazy and dim compared to ours, although she remembers his pipe tobacco smell and the scratch of his beard against her face.
So we made a very important decision: We would allow room for each of our own memories and refrain from trying to determine who was “right.” In the end we are all right, and that is the beauty of telling the story this way. It not only teaches an incredible lesson in perspective, but it also reveals everyone as an “unreliable narrator.” By writing the book together, we learned that four truths are stronger than one, because each individual viewpoint allows the reader to see a truth for themselves.
Both of us have had great success discussing this book in high school classrooms. Since it is told mostly from the point of view of teenage kids, high school-age students relate to it in a striking way. Some identify with tough-girl Amanda, others with eager-to-please Liz. The boys feel Dan’s pain and frustration, and everyone simply loves Diana’s young and innocent world view. Students draw all types of parallels. One sophomore girl approached Liz after a classroom discussion to say, “My parents got divorced when I was ten—I never thought about how it affected my little brother, until today.” The same student emailed Liz after she read the book to say, “Thank you for helping me see beyond my own experience—it really helped me let go of my anger, and see how hard it was for everyone.” In writing this book, we experienced something similar. There is no one to be mad at. We are just so happy that we really are, in the end, all right!
For more information about the book, go to: www.thekidsareallrightbook.com
For lesson plans, or to invite Diana or Liz into your classroom—to talk about the book or to lead a writing workshop based on their experiences writing this book—please contact them at: email@example.com