Mariel Hem­ing­way looks for lessons in her fa­mous fam­ily’s dark his­tory

The China Post - - LIFE - BY JO­CE­LYN NOVECK

Many peo­ple re­mem­ber Mariel Hem­ing­way best from her por­trayal of the sweet teenager Tracy in Woody Allen’s “Man­hat­tan,” where she de­liv­ered the film’s up­lift­ing closing line, a re­minder that “You have to have a lit­tle faith in peo­ple.”

But Hem­ing­way her­self, then only 16, was living a life with much dark­ness in it; her fam­ily was plagued by al­co­holism, drug ad­dic­tion and men­tal ill­ness. And sui­cide: seven of her fam­ily mem­bers have taken their own lives, in­clud­ing her fa­mous grand­fa­ther, Ernest Hem­ing­way, in 1961, and sis­ter Mar­gaux, the for­mer su­per­model, in 1996.

Hem­ing­way, now 53, has writ­ten two new mem­oirs, “Out Came the Sun” and a young-adult ver­sion, “In­vis­i­ble Girl,” in which she frankly re­counts her fam­ily’s strug­gles. The books, she says, are an ef­fort to shine a light on sub­jects still taboo in our cul­ture. She sat down with The As­so­ci­ated Press to dis­cuss the new books; the in­ter­view has been edited for length and clar­ity.

AP: You write at length about al­co­holism, drug ad­dic­tion, men­tal ill­ness and sui­cide in your fam­ily. Do you feel all th­ese things are con­nected?

Hem­ing­way: Yes, es­pe­cially in my fam­ily. Look at my grand­fa­ther, this ex­tra­or­di­nary man, Ernest Hem­ing­way, the great­est writer of the 20th cen­tury. But he was also self-med­i­cat­ing pain with a lot of drink­ing. Then I look at my old­est sis­ter (Muf­fet), who is still alive, who is won­der­ful, but ... I think her schizophre­nia and men­tal health is­sues were trig­gered by drug ad­dic­tion. My other sis­ter as well, she was a ma­jor al­co­holic. And you know, it’s a chem­i­cal. It changes your brain. In my fam­ily, it was never one glass of wine. It was a bot­tle. And it changes peo­ple.

AP: You write about how you’ve had seven peo­ple in your fam­ily com­mit sui­cide. And you’ve been in­volved in sui­cide pre­ven­tion ef­forts. Do we have a lot to learn about sui­cide?

Hem­ing­way: Sui­cide is ex­tremely com­plex. It is not nec­es­sar­ily some­body who suf­fers long-term men­tal ill­ness. It can be planned for 20 years, or it can hap­pen out of the blue. And we just need to talk more about it be­cause there is a tremen­dous amount of shame around sui­cide. It was a long heal­ing process for me, to un­der­stand how my own sis­ter could com­mit sui­cide and know­ing that I thought she was do­ing re­ally well, and you’ll see that in many sit­u­a­tions. The rea­son I wrote th­ese books is so that if Mariel Hem­ing­way, who comes from this fam­ily that every­body (knows), if SHE talks about her story, maybe I get some­one suf­fer­ing some­where in si­lence to find a safe space to tell their story. So that they can start to heal.

AP: In the 2013 doc­u­men­tary “Run­ning From Crazy” and now in your book, you men­tion some dis­turb­ing sus­pi­cions you had about your fa­ther and your two older sis­ters — the pos­si­bil­ity that he was sex­ual with them.

Hem­ing­way: I’m much hap­pier with how I dealt with it in the book than in the movie. It felt like there was in­ap­pro­pri­ate stuff go­ing on that I never saw. I wasn’t wit­ness to any­thing that was hor­ri­ble or hor­rific — but what I DO know is that my fa­ther drank, and when he drank he changed. And I watched it with both my par­ents. I watched it with my sis­ters. By the fourth glass of wine they were not the same peo­ple, their eyes had dropped and there was a dark­ness that had sort of over­come them.

AP: Why did you write the young adult book?

Hem­ing­way: Be­cause that’s (the age) when I was the most scared. Also when I was the most con­fused. A lot of kids don’t know that there’s some­body out there that gets it. You don’t know it’s not nor­mal. I thought that when par­ents fought and there was bro­ken glass and blood on the wall, that you cleaned it up be­cause this was your job.

AP: Your fam­ily name has quite a le­gacy at­tached to it. Are you hop­ing to in­flu­ence it?

Hem­ing­way: I’d hate to be so ego­tis­ti­cal to think I was adding to the le­gacy of my fam­ily. But the same time I do feel a re­spon­si­bil­ity to honor it. And there’s a lot of mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tions. I don’t think my grand­fa­ther was a great writer be­cause he drank too much and lived a hard life, I think he was a great writer be­cause he worked re­ally hard to be a great writer. And if he were to do it all over again, he wouldn’t do it drink­ing. And the irony is, he never wrote drunk. That was a rule of his. So ob­vi­ously at some level he un­der­stood that, and I just want peo­ple to ap­pre­ci­ate the great­ness of my fam­ily and also ap­pre­ci­ate how we are just like ev­ery­one else at the same time, in some way.


Actress and au­thor Mariel Hem­ing­way poses for a por­trait in pro­mo­tion of her new mem­oir “Out Came the Sun,” in New York on Mon­day, April 6.

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