Imagine being invited to lunch by your ex-husband and his wife to discuss what to do with the hard-to-manage teenager you all have in common. Imagine that, instead of actually going to lunch, they simply stay in the car, turn to you as you sit in the back seat, and accuse you of providing drugs to said teenager. “They were looking for a confession,” writes Beth Myrle Rice of that day in 1995 when the incident happened to her.
Ironically, Clips & Consequences is in part what is known, by definition, as a confessional memoir. In other words, the book focuses on Beth’s interior journey as outer events unfold in her life. The thrust of Beth’s story is a custody situation in which she is coerced into signing away parental rights under threat of going to jail. As the jacket copy states: Beth muddles through a range of fear, shame, anger, and remorse, until she stumbles onto the path to recovery while immersing in Seattle’s Post-Grunge music scene and Poetry Slam, working with the skateboard industry, and reveling in her new-found sex goddess role. Ultimately she involves in a calling to regain her spirit.
The book as a whole is an organization of a wide variety of material from roughly 1995 through 1999, including journal entries, personal letters, original poetry, photographs, and photocopies of documents and pages from pertinent publications, in all more than 350 pages yielding what can only be described as stark emotional honesty.
Beth learns to live with the forced separation from her daughter while building her career as a sales rep, navigating the dating scene as a single woman for the first time in many years, and facing her personal flaws with honest self-criticism. “Sometimes I wonder if all people…review clips of consequence, analyzing…those frames that have strong impact,” she writes in an unmailed letter to her daughter. Beth’s questions of herself include her addiction to cigarettes, her personal use of alcohol, and her obsession with a local musician.
This memoir not only documents a personal journey, it also serves as social and political witness: Who gets to decide what a ‘good mother’ is? Are mistakes ‘wrong’? “It is not a rarity for a good person to make a wrong choice,” Beth writes. “Is twenty years in prison congruous with this act?” Through her journals and letters, Beth reconstitutes outer influences and inner motivations and by March of 1997 she realizes: “I am now changing my perception of this whole story.”
It’s not an easy process by any measure. Along the way, Beth suffers a couple of anxiety attacks and her father gets cancer. She continues to write in her journal, write letters, educate herself about marijuana laws, and generally live life her own way by “reading at Poetry Slams and other open mike venues, going out to hear music, riding my skateboard,” all the while continuing to work full-time for a hat manufacturer. Eventually she latches on fervently to the organized effort to legalize marijuana and hemp. In January 1998 she founds Purple Stripe Publishing (named after the purple stripe in her hair) and self-publishes a chapbook of her poetry.
By June of that year, her hemp activism begins in earnest with the first issue of the publication “Hemp Activist Times” (H.A.T. = hat) and her daughter Zoey graduates high school and is legally emancipated that summer. There is a preview of the sequel to this memoir at the end of the book which will presumably document a continuation of the relationship arc between Beth and her daughter as well as Beth’s progression as an activist.
Beth’s writing has clarity and her ability to organize all of this material is impressive but more importantly, she achieves what I believe was her goal with this memoir, to not only document a healing journey, but in addition, show herself as fully human. In this last regard, whether or not a reader enjoys this memoir will depend on how willing one is to be exposed to another person’s inside workings in minute detail, in writing. I give this book 4 stars.
About the Author
Beth still calls Seattle home but spends summers in Alaska and some winter in Mexico. She has been a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association since 2005.
About Lela Michael
Lela Michael is a freelance copy editor and book reviewer. Her website The Plot Thicks is on WordPress and she's on Twitter as @ThePlotThicks.