‘Af­fair’ isn’t a fair por­trait

The Washington Post - - FREE FOR ALL - Irene Smith Lands­man, Gar­rett Park

Heller McAlpin, in “Au­thor again shares her fam­ily’s sto­ries,” a gen­er­ally pos­i­tive Oct. 7 Book World re­view of Kathryn Har­ri­son’s new mem­oir, “On Sun­set,” char­ac­ter­ized Har­ri­son’s ear­lier mem­oir, “The Kiss,” as be­ing “about the af­fair she had . . . with her long-es­tranged fa­ther.” I must as­sert that “af­fair” does not re­motely de­scribe what hap­pened to Har­ri­son.

When “The Kiss” came out, The Post’s Jonathan Yardley wrote, in a blis­ter­ing re­view un­der the head­line “Daddy’s Girl Cashes In,” that he found the mem­oir to be “slimy, re­pel­lent, mere­tri­cious, [and] cyn­i­cal.” He par­tic­u­larly ob­jected to the book’s com­mer­cial suc­cess and seemed to hate the au­thor even more than the book. Nowhere in the re­view did he crit­i­cize Har­ri­son’s min­is­ter fa­ther, long es­tranged from the fam­ily, who groomed, en­ticed, ma­nip­u­lated and fi­nally se­duced his own daugh­ter.

I read that book, and the only mys­tery it left me with is how the poor young woman kept her san­ity af­ter such an ex­pe­ri­ence. Yardley’s re­view was in 1997. Will vic­tim-blam­ing ever end? Es­pe­cially af­ter the past month in Washington, I won­der.

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