Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Karen Lynch and Her Memoir GOOD COP, BAD DAUGHTER . . .

Christal Cooper

*Article With Excerpts – 2,451 Words

The Trained Observer:
Writer & Police Officer Karen Lynch
On Her Memoir Good Cop, Bad Daughter
Twitter @baddaughter18

“I suppose you could say, police work trained me to be a writer. Both cops and writers are “trained observers.” We must take detailed note of the minutiae of daily life, and glean what we can from it, whether we are searching for evidence of a crime, or doing a character study, the same ability to focus on both the large and small picture is essential to the work.”

       In February of 2014 Nothing But The Truth LLC Press published Karen Lynch’s memoir Good Cop, Bad Daughter:  Memoirs of an Unlikely Police Officer.

In Good Cop, Bad Daughter, 29 year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department, Karen Lynch, writes about how being raised by a mentally ill mother and a tribe of hippies gave her the perfect training she needed in order to become a police officer.

       Karen Lynch entered into the police force in 1981, one year after she graduated from college only to read the newspaper headline that the job market was degrading and therefore her college degree from U.C. Berkeley was useless.

       I put a quarter in the box, dug out a paper, and was skimming the news when an ad stopped me cold.  Four uniformed women smiled at me above a caption ordering, “Join the SFPD.”  The women looked proud and confident, part of a big, happy family.  I felt a surge of envy.  I’d spent my childhood yearning to be part of a family.  For a moment, I tried to envision myself belonging to this group of uniformed sisters.
Then I imagined how Mom would react if she saw the ad.  I could almost hear her outrage:  “look at those storm trooper sell-outs.  Now they’re using women to protect the capitalist pigs!”
Excerpt from Prologue

       Karen Lynch, 57, was born in San Francisco to an absentee  father and a mentally ill and manipulative mother who, at some times, exhibited violence to her daughter. 

I had grown up in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood as the Summer Love dawned in San Francisco.  Mom had abandoned her East Coast family, fleeing them as if running for her life.  She spent many years on government assistance because of her illness – manic depression with overtones of paranoid schizophrenia.  She seldom mentioned her New York family, but during the episodes she occasionally ranted in public about her awful parents, lashing out at strangers, insulting and terrifying them.  Sometimes the police came and took her away.  I was glad to see the police, but Mom hated them.
One of my biggest fears was that I’d end up like her; dependent, reliant upon the Department of Social services or the generosity of some boyfriend to keep me alive.   I had learned form an early age that relying on the kindness of strangers was a risky business.
Excerpt from Prologue.

In 1981, she became one of the first female police officers in the San Francisco Police Department.  During her 29 years in the San Francisco Police Department she worked in a variety of positions.

“I began as a “Patrolman” which means I worked uniform street patrol. After nine years working the streets of the Central Station district, I was promoted to Inspector and assigned to the Hit & Run Detail for many years. We handled vehicle fatalities, Felony Drunk Driving, as well as hit & run accidents. After years of waiting on the Homicide list, my name came up for assignment, and after the interview process, I was transferred to Homicide where I worked my last five years.”

The victim’s mother opened the door and led us down the hallway, and there, collapsed on the ground, was a body in a pool of thick fluid.  I knew it was blood, but my mind registered it as something else – strawberry Jell-O.  The contents of a human skull poured out on wall-to-wall carpet looked exactly like strawberry Jell-O.  The man’s skull had been blown open with a .45 caliber handgun-a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  I knew I should have been paralyzed with shock at seeing something so obscene, something surely no human was ever meant to see.  Yet, all I could think of was strawberry Jell-O.  Maybe cherry.  No, definitely strawberry.  In spite of the body and gun that were right in front of me, a part of my mind insisted on seeing the red, gelatinous pool as nothing more than a dessert spill.
Excerpt “Siberia” page 252.

       Throughout the later years of her tenure at the police department her friends urged her to write about her childhood experiences and experiences as a San Francisco police officer. 
       “But life was hectic with our three children, and both Greg, my husband, and I, working full time, so I kept the idea on the back burner.”
In 2009, she began to feel burned out from her job in the homicide unit, and one month before her diagnosis found herself sitting at her boss’s desk telling him that the job was killing her.  A few weeks later she found a lump in her breast and was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive type of cancer. 

       “The nurse who provided counseling at the breast health center told me I probably would not want to continue doing police work after the treatment. At the time I dismissed that notion, thinking I would never want to leave my job. But when the surgery, chemo, and radiation were over, I found my life priorities had changed.”
She decided to retire from the San Francisco Police Department in order to spend time with her family.  Also, the writing of her memoir moved from the back burner to the front burner, and she began to write with an intense urgency.

       “I felt compelled by three forces. One, I wanted my children to know what my childhood had been like and why I had no relationship with any of my family of origin.
And two, I wanted to tell the story of the first women who worked as patrol officers in San Francisco, the resistance we faced from the old guard, and how we overcame it. 

Another impetus was the idea that telling my story might give hope to young people who are living through difficult childhoods.  Had books like The Glass Castle, Liar's Club, and Angela's Ashes existed when I was a child, I would have taken great comfort in knowing I was not alone, and that people go on to escape childhood pain and create beautiful lives.”

       Two weeks before my academy class was to start I called Mom, knowing I could no longer avoid telling her.
“Mom, I have some good news.”
“Let me guess:  you’re getting married,” she said, without enthusiasm.  Married?  Where had that come from?  I wasn’t even dating anyone.
“Well, no, “ I worked to keep my tone upbeat.  ‘I’ve decided to join the San Francisco Police Department.  They’re doing a big hiring drive and opening the doors to women.”
“Are you out of your mind?”  she shrieked.  “How could you ever think of joining them after everything they’ve done to me?  They’ve been persecuting me for decades!  I knew you hated me, but this is the worst thing you’ve ever done to me!  Why not just drive a stake through my heart?”
I took a deep breath.
“Mom, this is not about you.  It’s just something I have to do.”
“Well, isn’t that the world’s greatest news!  My daughter’s becoming a fucking Nazi!”  She slammed down the receiver without saying goodbye.
Excerpt “Wench” Page 134

       Lynch attended numerous writers’ workshops one of which was the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, where she met SF Grotto leader Julia Scheeres, who is the best-selling author of Jesusland and A Thousand Lives.

“Julia Scheeres knows how to teach the skills necessary for powerful memoir, and she is an excellent editor. Her SF Grotto workshops are always sellouts.”

Perhaps her greatest influence was Cheryl Strayed author of the bestseller and Oprah Winfrey pick Wild.

“I was a little obsessed with Cheryl and began following her around the country to participate in workshops she taught. As well as being an excellent writer, she is a great writing teacher.”

She also attended the Florida Gulf Coast University’s Sanibel Writer’s Conference in Florida with workshops led by Steve Almond, whose writing tips Lynch utilized in writing Good Cop, Bad Daughter.

The most difficult parts of the book to write was not about her childhood and the abuse she received from her mother, but her experiences at the police academy.
Mentally going back to the training, such as the scene where we are bombed with CS gas in a Quonset hut, or when we were used as Officer Devlin’s test dummies to demonstrate the carotid restraint, made me realize just how intense that period of my life was.”

Of course, I’d done the exact thing the instructor told us not to do, and that was why I was now dying.  Stinging needles penetrated the pores of my face, neck, scalp, and hands.  Ever atom of skin not covered by my blue jumpsuit was being suffocated.  This invader would kill me, I was certain.  My body was in primal panic mode, unwilling to accept an early death at twenty-two.  Every molecule of my being was fighting to survive.  I had fought for my life with Mom seven years earlier using only my bare hands, but against this attacker, I was defenseless.
It was week sixteen and we were in a Quonset hut at Santa Rita Prison, being bombarded with tear gas so we would know how it felt.  The logic of the exercise seemed iffy.
Excerpt “The Gas Chamber” Page 183   

       By now the book, titled The Floating World, was too lengthy and needed intense editing.  Her childhood friend, writer and playwright Stephanie Lehmann, whom she lost contact with, came to her rescue.

“Though Stephanie lives in Manhattan, she returns to San Francisco frequently to visit family. On one of those trips, several years ago, she looked me up and we reconnected then, and also connected on Facebook. She offered to read my book and because of her editing, I was able to whittle the 150,000 meandering words I started with into an 80,000-word story. The she gave me the title for the book, which is much more clever than my original title.”

       She then queried agents and publishers for two years and finally met Nothing But the Truth LLC publisher and founder Christine Bronstein through a women’s networking group called A Band of Women.

I asked Christine if she knew of any agents who might represent me. I was so naïve about the business it didn't even occur to me that a writer could go directly to a publisher. I thought an agent was a necessary part of the equation. So when Christine asked to read the book, I was surprised and delighted. Luckily for me she loved it, and here we are.”  

       Today Lynch lives with her husband of 25 years Greg, who is also retired from the San Francisco Police Department, and their youngest of three children, Kyra, 14.  The couple also has two sons, 23 and 20, whom Lynch always knew, from the age of 11, she was meant to give birth to.
“I have no idea where this certainty came from, but it was a driving force in my life. I always knew they would be boys, and there would be two. My husband bet me we would have girls, both times, and he lost, both times.”

The one thing in the back of Lynch’s mind is her mother’s mental illness and if it was hereditary and perhaps would pass on down to her biological children.
“My youngest is adopted, so she is mercifully free of my DNA. When I decided to have biological children, I of course, considered the possibility that my mother’s issues could be hereditary.  My mother had refused to take medication, and she exacerbated her illness by drinking a lot of alcohol. The medications are much more effective today, and though my children are very healthy now, I am sure I will recognize the symptoms if they ever need help.
        As for me, I have struggled with depression on and off, but have found a medication combination that works for me.”

       The one question that permeates from the book is how in the world did Karen Lynch turn out so well without any signs of addiction, promiscuity, or delinquent behavior?
“I have always felt the presence of some sort of spiritual guidance. Some might call it a guardian angel, but I don’t know how I would define it. I can say that this force has compelled me to do things such as join the police department, have my sons, and adopt my daughter. The force seems to lead me in the right direction. To some, that will sound insane, I know, but it’s true.”

She also credits her mother’s ex-boyfriend Jim, the only healthy father figure she has known, and the one who comes to her rescue in the book, when no one else would.   
“I would not be here had Jim not stepped up and taken me in when I was on the streets. And because of Jim, another theme in my book is how the love of one adult can save an at risk child.”

Jim stepped in as my sole, if illegal, guardian.  I was fifteen, and even at that age, I understood his generosity and the risk he was taking.  I’d had a small taste of life as a homeless teen, and I was certain if not for Jim, I would have been in serious trouble.  So we began our search for an apartment.  Jim told the landlords he was my stepfather in order to explain our different last names.  An occasional building owner would raise his eyebrows, as if we were Lolita and Humbert Humbert.  But it only took a few weeks to find an affordable one-bedroom in the Inner Sunset.
Just as we’d settled into the new apartment and I’d started the new school year, Mom called from the hospital.
Excerpt ‘Floating Alone” pages 120-121.

As a result Lynch maintains a philosophy of positivism, optimism and faith in a Higher Power and humanity.

      “I have chosen to believe that everything, no matter how horrid it seems at the time, is happening for a reason, and that reason is not for me to understand. I love the writings of Victor Frankl. If he can keep the faith in a concentration camp, I sure can do the same in my life."

Photograph Description And Copyright Information

Photo 1
Karen Lynch and the jacket cover of Good Cop, Bad Daughter

Photo 2
Karen Lynch
Copyright by Karen Lynch

Photo 3a
Web logo for Nothing But the Truth LLC Press
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 4
Jacket cover of Good Cop, Bad Daughter

Photo 5
Karen Lynch (far right) and her partner
Copyright granted by Karen Lynch

Photo 6
Karen Lynch
Copyright granted by Karen Lynch

Photo 7
San Francisco Police Department Badge
Public Domain

Photo 8
Karen Lynch as a little girl reading
Copyright granted by Karen Lynch

Photo 9
Karen Lynch (far left) with one of her partners.
Copyright granted by Karen Lynch.

Photo 10
Karen Lynch, far left.
Copyright granted by Karen Lynch.

Photo 11
Karen Lynch
Copyright granted by Karen Lynch

Photo 12
Crime Scene Tape
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 13
Karen Lynch after her cancer treatments.
Copyright granted by Karen Lynch

Photo 14
Karen Lynch in 2013
Copyright granted by Karen Lynch

Photo 15
Karen Lynch, far right, with one of her partners in 1984
Copyright granted by Karen Lynch

Photo 16
Jacket cover of The Glass Castle

Photo 17
Jacket cover of Liar’s Club

Photo 18
Jacket cover of Angela’s Ashes

Photo 19
Karen Lynch press photo.

Photo 20
Jacket cover of Jesusland

Photo 21
Jacket cover of A Thousand Lives

Photo 22
Julia Scheeres 2015.
Copyright granted by Julia Scheeres

Photo 23
Jacket cover of Wild

Photo 24
Web photo of Cheryl Strayed
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 25
Arts & Letters review of Good Cop, Bad Daughter

Photo 26
Karen Lynch holding Good Cop, Bad Daughter

Photo 27
Press poster board of Good Cop, Bad Daughter

Photo 28
Web photo of Stephanie Lehmann
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 29.
Web logo for Stephanie Lehmann’s website.
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 30
Stephanie Lehmann and Karen Lynch
Copyright granted by Karen Lynch

Photo 31
Karen Lynch, middle, at the Nothing But The Truth booth
Copyright granted by Karen Lynch.

Photo 32
Web photo of Christine Bronstein
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

Photo 33
Web logo for A Band of Women

Photo 34
Christine Bronstein holding Good Cop, Bad Daughter
Copyright granted by Karen Lynch

Photo 35
Karen Lynch
Copyright granted by Karen Lynch

Photo 36.
Karen Lynch reading Good Cop, Bad Daughter
Copyright granted by Karen Lynch

Photo 37
Karen Lynch during an interview
Copyright granted by Karen Lynch.

Photo 38
Karen Lynch giving a reading from Good Cop, Bad Daughter

Photo 39
Karen Lynch
Copyright granted by Karen Lynch

Photo 40
Karen Lynch
Copyright granted by Karen Lynch

Photo 41
Victor Frankl in 1965
Attributed to Professor Dr. Franz Vesely
CCASA 3.0 Germany

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