Of course, I am referring to the controversy surrounding the recent non-fiction title If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer by the Goldman Family, which made #2 on the New York Times bestselling list. This is the confession of all confessions--if it's true. Or a warped piece of creative fiction, if it isn't.
Eric Kampmann, publisher of what many seem to be calling "the O.J. book", spoke tonight at the Express Yourself...Authors' Conference held at the Sheraton Park Ridge Hotel in Valley Forge, PA. As a Canadian visiting Pennsylvania, but being familiar with the O.J. media blitz and news about this book, I found it interesting to observe the faces of the people in the room as Kampmann described his passionate belief that this book has its place. Many showed a hint of distaste--not necessarily because of the decision the publisher made to tackle such a sensitive issue, but perhaps more because O.J. Simpson's theoretical 'confession' was being told at all, and in such a shocking way. Kampmann's connection to the Goldman family and to seeing that a certain subtle justice was served by publishing If I Did It seemed apparent in some of his speech, and one could only admire that he saw the people and emotions behind the book and not just dollar signs. Certainly, this story/confession/non-fiction work would have been told eventually, and I can relate to the emotion surrounding the murder of a loved one and to wanting a sense of justice.
My youngest brother Jason Kaye was murdered in Edmonton in January 2006. Since around 2000, he had lived a troubled life of alcoholism and mental illness, making him an unstable and unreliable employee. Without a job, he quickly found himself out on the street. But Jason had a heart of gold and a wacky sense of humor. And this kid was amazingly brilliant with a computer! He was only 28 when he was beaten and left to die in a cold, dark alley. His murderer has not been identified or found; he will probably never be found.
I truly empathize with the Goldmans. No none wants to feel that a murderer has gotten away with the crime. Or even worse, bragged about it or profited in any way from it. The Ron Goldman Foundation for Justice was set up to "empower, inspire, motivate and assist those people that are victims of crime" and "positively impact the lives of these survivors who start each day with pain, grief, trauma and injustice". This book, O.J.'s alleged confession, was their way to ensure that any profit would benefit other victims. Good for them!
Believe me, murder affects people in different ways, even the strongest of people. People who know me would say I'm pretty levelheaded and strong--stubborn even--but I had an extremely hard time leaving my house after my brother's murder. I lived in the same city but far from the rough east end where Jason had died. Yet, I had problems facing people and constantly felt anxiety and panic because even my neighborhood, which was far removed from Jason's world, didn't feel safe anymore.
Although I didn't have the resources to set up a foundation, I found my own way to make some sense of a senseless death, which is what I believe the Goldmans are trying to do. My brother read one of my novels--and only one. Whale Song. I had given him a copy of the original 2003 version shortly after it was released. I found that copy in his room when I went to clean it out. The pages were stained and worn, the cover dull in places. But that book was the most wonderful, beautiful thing I saw in that dingy room. It meant that my brother, throughout all of his downs and being homeless and moving from shelter to street to shelter, had kept a fragile grasp on at least one possession that meant something to him.
Seeing that battered, bruised, worn copy of Whale Song was a gift. For me. And I value it. In response to Jason's murder and finding my book, I have dedicated the new, improved, expanded version of Whale Song to my brother Jason. You will read about him in one of the front pages, and I am permanently donating a percentage of my royalties to the 3 organizations that did their best to help him. Hope Mission, the Bissell Centre and the Mustard Seed Church are doing what they can to make a difference--to combat addictions, homelessness and poverty.
Of course this won't bring my brother back. Neither will the Goldmans' book bring back their son. But out of grief and despair can come the most defining moments of clarity and hope. And we all deserve to find that.