Four months before his granddaughter, Mariel, was born, American writer Ernest Hemingway shot himself in a cabin in Idaho. He struggled with addiction – and his suicide was one of several in the Hemingway family.
On Think, guest host Lauren Silverman talked with Mariel Hemingway, the actress and author, about overcoming the “Hemingway Curse” and the legacy of mental illness in her family.
The KERA Interview
Mariel Hemingway on:
… the “Hemingway Curse”:
“It’s no fun to be in a family where your legacy, while great, the greater sort of label is the 'Hemingway Curse.' That was a hard thing to live with. That was sort of my survival like, ‘Damn it; I will not be that. I will defy that. I’m not going to end up like the rest of my family.’ It’s also like daunting cause you’re constantly like is this going to happen to me today? What horrible thing is going to happen? When I had children it was sort of when I said to myself, ‘I will no longer allow this to be our moniker. This is not what the subtitle of my life story is. It’s just not going to be that, and I don’t want it to be that for my children.’”
… how she dealt with her family’s legacy:
“That’s my message to everybody. We all think it’s daunting to talk about these things that we think are huge big secrets, but there’s not one new problem in the world. I think there’s nine problems, and they all have different wrapping paper, and we’ve all got some version of them. Once you talk about them you’re like, ‘Oh, that wasn’t so bad.’ Because also memory and speaking about memory doesn’t mean that it’s happening, and I think that’s a very important thing to remember. When we delve into the past, it really just is the past. So when I tell my story, I’m not married to my story anymore. It’s a story.”
… using social media to spread awareness:
“That hashtag, that whatever, that moment that somebody takes to bring awareness to even just do that, that’s a little bit of something. And there is somebody out there that actually looks at that and feels something and looks at the pictures that are related to it. Watching my following, which is not huge, but it’s got a little bit of a presence, I see them and their really grateful because they’re kind of these people in the shadows. They feel as though they are in the shadows. They feel as though no one has a voice for them. And it’s not that I’m their voice, it’s just that I’m a voice that can enable them to find the right kind of help, and that’s really what’s important.”
Learn more about Mariel Hemingway's book: "Out Came the Sun: Overcoming the Legacy of Mental Illness, Addiction, and Suicide in My Family."