Family trauma casts long shadows over the lives of many people I know. It informs our ambitions and colors our dreams, and has its say in the people we choose to let into our hearts. Trauma is not a life sentence, however. Healing is a journey we’re all capable of, each in our own unique way. I am lucky, because I have found my way to an understanding of the richness of my own life, at the core of which is self-love. Whatever that gene is that transforms painful experiences into teachers, I seem to have been born with it.
Runs in the Family, my upcoming book, is an exploration of the trauma that wends its way down the generations of a family. Trauma, and the possibility of healing. The subject is damn near universal, but Runs in the Family is also a personal book. You may recognize some of the names here — my grandfather was composer Richard Rodgers, and my father was film producer Daniel Melnick, who was responsible for a body of work that includes All That Jazz, Footloose, Roxanne and LA Story. His father, Ben Melnick, is someone you probably never heard of, but he is as much a part of this story as my other, better known grandfather. Ben died when my dad was just nine, and there’s a straight line from that tragedy to the coke habit that was my father’s eventual undoing.
Bruce Springsteen, talking about his own journey of healing, said: “We are ghosts or we are ancestors in our children’s lives. As ancestors we walk along side of them. And we assist them in finding their own way, and some transcendence.” Part of my journey was to make the effort to understand my ancestors, unflinchingly and with great love. They are all my teachers now, even the ones who sewed considerable pain in their lifetimes, and I am grateful to every one of them. Runs in the Family is my way of sharing things I have learned from them with the world.