Introducing Patti Hawn, author of Good Girls Don’t

A few weeks ago two friends told me about Patti Hawn and suggested I meet her. After all, she lives in my hometown, she’s written a memoir, and she’s about my age. Without missing a beat, I sent her a private message on Facebook and suggested we get together. And she accepted and named one of my favorite restaurants where we could grab lunch  – I liked her already. We met for lunch a few days later (a blind date, so to speak), and we talked for an hour and a half without stopping. We also exchanged memoirs. Thus a beautiful new friendship was born.

I read Patti’s memoir, Good Girls Don’t, almost immediately and was taken by how detailed and intimate it is (I’ve shared my review at the end of this post). So I asked her if she’d write a guest post for Choices about how she wrote her deeply personal memoir with such clarity.

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Here’s Patti:

The Gift of Memories

By Patti Hawn

I wrote my book Good Girls Don’t shortly after reuniting with the son I surrendered to adoption over 40 years ago. Good Girls Don’t is about an era on the eve of the sexual revolution, prior to Roe vs. Wade, when many women died from illegal abortions. It is a unique time in history, foreign to an entire generation of women, that resulted in an incredible number of reunions between birth parents and their children – 20, 30, and 40 years ago.

My book is a deeply personal first-hand account of what it was like to be held captive in an unwanted pregnancy at the close of an era where home economics took precedence over sex education. It tells the story of the last generation of young women to experience life on the eve of the sexual revolution and the decisions a young woman makes based on this early trauma.

I began to write Good Girls Don’t shortly after meeting my son, in an effort to bond with him. I wanted to let him know the circumstances of his birth. I had no idea when I began this writing journey the places it would take me and the trapped memories that would explode onto the pages of my manuscript

The details of that time and place in my life seared through me, unstoppable with unexpected urgency. They rushed through me so fast they almost passed me by. It was shortly after we met that this chain of memories engulfed me with a force that begged to be written. Perhaps the sense of peace that had finally become part of my life held more power than I could ever imagine.

I recall a train ride from New York to Baltimore to visit him: 

            I sank deep into the large cushy train seat and let the clicking of the wheels lull me somewhere in the midst of yesterday and today. Like that of an ancient Tibetan bowl, the sound released trapped memories. It’s easy to forget where the train comes from or where it delivers me because I float suspended inside a sacred spot called in-between. Blurred telephone poles, faded factories, all ask if they are real. But inside this mighty capsule of steel and smoke where options are few, I rest. Here, there is nothing to control. I am free to tiptoe gently back through time, not rush and calculate as is my usual way.

As I began to write, my recollections of events surged onto the page with vivid clarity. I began to feel a sensory awareness of that time in my life that surprised me. I recall seeing an advertisement in a magazine, long before I considered writing a memoir, of a young girl sitting on the edge of a tub watching her mother in the mirror and the dark-haired woman became my mother. It was her face in that mirror. And I began to paint her with words.

When the memories came I was often in unlikely spots to write them down. I was sometimes on a distant location working on a film when a slender man in a tuxedo would flash into my mind prompted by a costume, and I saw my father as though he was in our home leaving for a music job. Or I was on a movie set in Baltimore in the woods where the creek across the street from my childhood home was etched in front of me and I could feel the trees of my youth. The day I spoke to the birth father of my son, so many years later, his voice filled me with the same longing I had when I was 15 years old. The Shirelles were definitely singing in the background.

For me, as a writer, the gift of memories is like breathing life back into those we may have lost. I felt this as I wrote about my parents, who I had lost many years prior. Yet another gift I received while writing my memoir.

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Thank you so much, Patti, for telling us your memoir-writing story. Yes, memories are a true gift.

About the Author and Her Story

12074516_10206259047729494_3806545379772099177_nEntertainment publicist Patti Hawn has worked on over thirty major motion pictures. Her film credits include some of the most acclaimed films of the last decade including winner of two Academy Awards “Ghost,” starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg; “Glory,” winner of three Academy Awards, starring Denzel Washington and Matthew Broderick; and the box office hit “Overboard” starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. Most recently she has served as the unit publicist on Garry Marshall’s “Raising Helen,” “August Rush,” and “Bride Wars,” starring Kate Hudson. Good Girls Don’t is the debut literary effort of Patti Hawn. Her book fits perfectly into the trend of real people telling their real life stories. Her book is a deeply personal first-hand account of what it was like to be trapped in an unwanted pregnancy at the close of an era where home economics took precedence over sex education. Her story starts in her childhood home in Takoma Park, Maryland, where as a teenager she became pregnant by her high school boyfriend. In the typical “solution” of the era, she is sent away to have the baby in secret and gives up her infant son on the day he is born. This is where the typical adoption story begins…and ends. Patti Hawn, who is the sister of the legendary film actress, Goldie Hawn, grew up in suburban Maryland where she attended The University of Maryland. She began her first career as a crisis intervention counselor in Silver Spring, Maryland and subsequently moved to Los Angeles where she became the director of a social service program assisting disabled people in rehabilitation services. Today Patti lives in Manhattan Beach, California with her husband and travels to India, Nepal, and Thailand where she works in humanitarian efforts.

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My review of Good Girls Don’t

Timely and Universal. In a crucial scene in Patti Hawn’s memoir Good Girls Don’t, pregnant, 15-year old Patti sits huddled in a car’s back seat as she is driven through the increasingly ominous neighborhood where her would-be abortionist is located. Before they arrive her mother decides instead to go ahead with Plan B. She decreed Patti would live out-of-town for the duration of her pregnancy, have the baby, immediately give it up for adoption, and never mention or think about this event again.

Easier said then done. Forty years later, Patti reunites with the son she kissed goodbye on the day of his birth. As she writes in her memoir, she never stopped loving him and longing to see him again.

Patti Hawn’s story is timely and universal because of the growing advocacy to make abortions illegal again. This generation’s young women could very well be at risk of having “back-alley” (the words we used in the 1950s) abortions or being forced to give up their babies after they are born.

I highly recommend Good Girls Don’t. The author’s memory doesn’t fail her as she writes the details of these life-changing events. Her writing is so intimate, descriptive, and raw I felt like I was right there with her, that she was personally telling her story to me.

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I hope my Choices readers will also read and review Good Girls Don’t. And please post your comments below.

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