The Truths I Told, by Ethel Rohan

Readers of memoir and non-fiction often want to know how much of the author’s work is fabricated. Similarly, readers of fiction speculate about how much of the work is true. My short collection, Hard to Say, won the PANK Little Books 2010 Contest and is now on sale. The collection is largely set in Dublin, Ireland, and contains fifteen linked short-short stories. The parallels between my life and the narrator’s have begged the question: How much in these stories is autobiography? Let’s consult the tell-all table below!

Story Title
Plot Summary
% of Events That Actually Occurred
Adult narrator seeks cures for insomnia, nightmares, anxiety and TMJ.
“Fresh From God”
Child narrator’s mother gives birth to sixth baby and spirals deeper into depression.
Child narrator’s mother defies septicemia and death, but narrator worries the doctors had “somehow switched [her mother] at the hospital or taken too much out of her.”
Child narrator’s older brother “frightened [her] mind almost out of [her] body,” but the siblings reach the unlikeliest of truces after she burns his favorite toy soldiers. 
Child narrator’s mother is stung by wasp and narrator contemplates the girl in the moon.
Child narrator witnesses bloodied robbery at her local off-license and is forever linked to the injured storekeeper and his assailants.
Child narrator goes on school field trip to Stone Age passage tombs at New Grange and witnesses a nosebleed that will never leave her imagination.
“Here, Daddy”
Child narrator recounts the worst of her parents’ fights.
Child narrator prone to breaking bones and running away from home.
Child narrator buries in the back garden the raw liver her mother intended to eat for dinner.
Child narrator-as-wizard in bedroom scene with her abuser’s young son-as-wizard.
Teen narrator’s mother’s psychosis leads to mandatory stay in mental hospital.
Young Adult narrator hosts Bon Voyage party before emigrating to New York.
Young Adult narrator forms bizarre relationship with college drama instructor.
Adult narrator keeps vigil by mother’s deathbed & travels across continents and time.

Ethel Rohan is the author of Hard to Say, PANK, 2011, and Cut Through the Bone, Dark Sky Books, 2010, the latter named a 2010 Notable Story Collection by The Story Prize. Her work has or will appear in World Literature Today, The Irish Times, The Chattahoochee Review, The Los Angeles Review, Southeast Review Online, Potomac Review, and elsewhere. She earned her MFA in fiction from Mills College, California. Raised in Ireland, Ethel Rohan now lives in San Francisco. Learn more about Hard to Say at Visit Ethel Rohan at

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