Leaving My Self Behind

Leaving My Self Behind is the story of Harvey Mudd, born into a Los Angeles family of wealth, prestige, and respectability that traces its lineage back to the pilgrim fathers, a family in which patriotic attachment to America would be assumed. Mudd reveals, however, that his mother and father were not what they seemed. In a life-long search for their true stories, he discovers that the America he was taught to believe in is not what it seems either.

Mudd recounts a childhood sheltered behind the façade of wealth and manners in which there were pervasive secrets. He describes his adolescent struggles to escape his mother’s incomprehensible behaviors, and his later efforts to create a productive life out of this mixed “heritage” of privilege, cruelty, and oppression. It is a life that includes a love of books, an emotional breakdown, living abroad, military service, farming, environmental work, brushes with the Mafia, critically acclaimed books of poetry, and the follies of inappropriate business ventures.

Mudd’s memoir also traces his interactions with American history. We see the effects of World War II on the child and on his parents, effects that changed the course of all their lives. We see the effects of the Holocaust, of earthquakes, the war in Vietnam, the assassination of President Kennedy, the hippie movement of the sixties, the birth of environmentalism, and America’s relationships with the rest of the world. The gradual decay of civic responsibility and principles in American politics and society round out the picture of Mudd’s concerns.

The two stories, the author’s and America’s, come together in the last chapters as he comes to a greater understanding of his unhappy mother and flawed father, as well as of himself and of an individual’s relationship with the idea of “one’s country.” In the end, from the vantage of self-imposed exile, he sees the possibility of emotional peace, spiritual maturity and a new sort of freedom for himself.

Leaving My Self Behind is in the final stages of editing and will be published soon.