Q: I recently came across your interview with Kathleen Ossip online, and I really appreciated your comment that it is not necessary "to attach redemptive endings to stories that resist it" in talking about your writing and amneoir but I was curious as to why you referred to redemptive endings as an American desire?
A: Obviously, there are stories in all cultures that have redemptive endings (the Christian New Testament, for example). But not every culture insists on them all the time. There's something about US culture that values the story about victory despite the odds, recovery from serious _____, rags to riches, etc. Look at the memoirs on the New York Times Bestseller list, and you'll see what I mean. "I once was lost, but now am found" - the conversion narrative was the first American success story.
This is, of course, why a lot of modern writers write about the other side of things – the tragedies, the injustices, the more complicated and ambiguous stories. Some of them see the "American success story" as being ideology. That's why Theodore Dreiser titled his novel An American Tragedy. That's why Richard Wright wrote Native Son.