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June 27, 2024 35 mins

Deep in Dina’s family lore is a story of a fire; someone burned a house down. But who? And why? After a lifetime of wondering, Dina finally hunts down the truth.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Family Secrets is a production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (00:12):
I'm Danny Shapiro, and this is family Secrets, the secrets
that are kept from us, the secrets we keep from others,
and the secrets we keep from ourselves. My guest today
is Dina Gashman, journalist and author of the recent essay

collection So Sorry for Your Loss. Dina's is a story
of the long reach of a buried family secret through
the generations, and the desire of one tenacious woman to
understand what really happened and how to make it right,
or at least as right as possible.

Speaker 3 (00:56):
I was born in Fort Arts, Texas. We live to
Euston when I was in third grade, and my parents
were high school sweethearts, so my family goes back in Texas,
you know, generation. So my childhood was actually pretty wonderful.
I was outside all the time. This was pre technology,
so you know, my sisters and I were all was

outside making mud pies. And I had very loving parents,
and I was close with my both sets of grandparents,
and we were all pretty physically close together, so I
was spending the night with them all the time. But
it was it was actually very happy and wonderful, and
I don't think. There wasn't much that I knew about
my grandparents except that they were just wonderful people. I

didn't really, obviously as a kid, pay attention to their stories.

Speaker 2 (01:44):
And you were the oldest of four yes, yeah, oldest
four girls. So growing up in the first the Fort
Worth area and then the Houston area, what were the
expectations of the kind of prison supposed to grow up
to be?

Speaker 3 (02:01):
I think the expectations were I'd be a cheerleader beyond
the drill team, you know, a very kind of Texas
view of the world, and I was not going in
that direction at all. I was very creative, wanted to
be a writer. You know, I always loved school, but
I just rebelled by you know, wearing combat boots and
all that kind of stuff. But I think the expectations were,
you get married, you have a family. And my parents

knew pretty quickly that I was probably going to go
in a different director, maybe even leave Texas, and they
they didn't discourage me from that. But I think in
general it was more just like, you get married, you
have children. Women didn't necessarily work that much. Honestly. My
mom was a stay at home mom, so that was
kind of the world that I was brought up in,
and I think I rebelled against a probably around junior high.

Speaker 2 (02:46):
And you know, even though you adored your mom, you
also had that adolescent rebellion feeling was I don't want
to grow up and have your life.

Speaker 3 (02:54):
At the time, yes, I very much saw my mom
as this woman who who had never really left Texas
and who had kind of I viewed, I guess her
life is small, and I feel terrible saying that, but
as a teenager I did. I just thought, I want
to go to Paris, I want to go to New York.
I want to, you know, have this big life. And
I remember getting in a fight with her when I

was in high school and I said, you know, you're
just a housewife. And I apologized for that probably literally
until her dying day, and she would always laugh it off.
But I felt horrible. But at the time I meant
I was very much steering myself away from being like,
quote unquote just a housewife and living in the suburbs
like that seems horrible to me, so I definitely rebelled

against it.

Speaker 2 (03:41):
Hovering Over Dina's childhood was a story, well not exactly
a story more like family law or a legend something
about a fire. Though the details were super hazy, it
was always there in the background, part of the music
of her life. As a teenager, some of the details

began to emerge.

Speaker 3 (04:04):
At some point. I think in high school, I heard
the story of the fire and it just took shape
in my imagination. And I never asked about it. But
I had heard the story of a fire that happened
on my mom's side, and I knew a woman had
committed arson, but I didn't inquire any further. And also

at that time, when I was in high school, I
remember my mom telling me that my great ants on
her side had traced our lineage and this is before
twenty three and me, this is you know. So it
was literally typewritten pages that she handed me, and I
was so excited because I was sure in the pages,
I was like, you know what, there's going to be
some woman that like fought in the front lines with
battle dressed as a man, or like marched for women's

rights in the twenties, or I just was so sure
that as opposed to the housewife that I didn't want
to become, that there'd be some woman that I could
maybe like hinge my identity on. And so I got
the papers and there wasn't anything. There wasn't anything. It
was very basic stuff.

Speaker 2 (05:01):
And this would have been in the.

Speaker 3 (05:03):
Nineties, yeah, early nineties.

Speaker 2 (05:06):
So those pages just sort of sat around for a
long time.

Speaker 3 (05:10):
It was a dead end, yes, and I actually still
have them. I somehow held on to them through all
moves all over the country, and but it was it
was a dead end. And at that time, I don't
I think I was just looking for some kind of
heroin and it just was you know, your family goes
back to the Mayflower and you know that kind of stuff,
and so but I held on to them for whatever reason.

Speaker 2 (05:28):
What do you think that was about the feeling of
you know, wanting, hoping, you know, needing for there to
be a role model in a way sort of within
your family tree, someone that would maybe help make sense
to you of you.

Speaker 3 (05:46):
I think a lot of it maybe was just that
I did feel very different where I grew up, because
when we moved to Euston, it was all about the
status quo, very homogeneous, like everyone has the same person everyone,
you know, it just felt like everyone had to follow
in this Why that just felt so wrong to me.
I couldn't even imagine doing that, and I and I

wanted to push against it, because I could very easily
fall into that right. And so I think it may
have been about like, if maybe if I can find
someone you did something different, then it'll free me up
a little bit. Maybe it would help me understand myself.
And you know, my other sisters went in with cheerleading
and did all that kind of stuff, and maybe it
would help me understand, like why was I the one

that was like I want the arts and something bigger
and something wilder, And maybe it would have made me
understand myself in that way.

Speaker 2 (06:36):
It's so interesting the way that I think so often
we feel the need to place ourselves within a narrative,
you know, as opposed to just doing sometimes what you
know we have to do, which is just make the narrative,
forge the narrative, start the narrative. But just that feeling
of sort of already being part of a story that

has begun before.

Speaker 3 (06:58):
Yeah, I wanted out of Texas, the South, so I
left for UCLA and I loved it, and I thought
I would never leave, and I certainly thought i'd never
come back to Texas. That was not even an faint idea.
So I went to school, I studied English, stayed in
California for many years. I had, you know, all kinds
of jobs that would hopefully get me to that writing

life that I always wanted and so waited tables, had
temp jobs, but always wrote. It was always kind of
part of what I was doing. And then I lived
in New York for a little bit, back to LA.

Speaker 2 (07:32):
And all of those years when you moved around, you
moved across country, you kept with you those pages, the
you know, typewritten pages of family history, genealogy. They never
got lost. They were important enough to pull on to.
Did that story also sort of reside in you somewhere,

just as like this sense of this mystery that you
hadn't been able to solve it? Did?

Speaker 3 (07:59):
I mean that story of the fire? I loved how
it was in my imagination, honestly, And I've asked myself
all the time, like why did I not ask my mom,
you know, I had plenty of time, or my grandmother?
Why did I not sit them down and say, okay,
what happened? Right? Because I knew that there was this
story of a fire. But I'm my only answer, I
guess is that I just I liked the way it
was in my mind, but I did. I carried that

with me for years, and every once in a while
I would kind of think about it and imagine. I
think when I was in college, actually I saw Terrence
Malick's film bad Lands, which in that film, there's this
very cinematic, operatic fire scene, and it's you know, the
main character's father is horrible, so she burns down the house.

And somehow that scene in that movie, which I loved,
became part of this family bore in my imagination. So
I told myself that it was my grandmother that did it,
and she burned her childhood house down to save her
and her sisters and her mother because my great grandfather
was an acol what she was, but I don't know
if he was a bad guy. I just knew he

was an alcoholic. So I just created this thing of
it's kind of like bad Lands, and it's this big
operatic fire and my grandmother did it and no one
was hurt, but you know that she was the rebel.
And so I just kind of let it sit there
in my mind for years, but I thought about it often,
and I thought about writing about it Auten, but I
never did.

Speaker 2 (09:23):
When you saw bad Lands, did it fit together with
the vision of the fire that you had already been
carrying around with you? Was it already sort of this
in your imagination in your inner life. Was it this
big operatic thing or did it sort of supplant that
in some way?

Speaker 3 (09:41):
I think when I saw the film, that's what it became.
It just gave me a visual that I could cling onto.
And Terrence Malick is from Texas. Like there were, you know,
sort of things that overlapped that felt like I could
kind of hold onto it, and they just blended together
in my mind. But I do think the film probably
influenced what was going on in my head.

Speaker 2 (10:05):
Eventually, Dina does find herself back in Texas. Her grandmother
passes away, followed by her great aunts and then her mother.
It's during this period of grief and loss that Dina
feels a pull to return to Texas. The irony is
not lost on her. She has become the very thing
she had judged and run away from a suburban Texas mom.

In taking on this role, Dina rethinks her own mother's
life also. She misses her terribly.

Speaker 3 (10:39):
You know, my mom died in twenty eighteen, and that
really was, you know, the poll for me to come back,
and I really needed my roots. But I think losing
my mom, and I think most people that have lost
someone they deeply love, one of the things that's really
hard for me is realizing that when you lose someone,
then you lose their stories, right. You can't ask them
ever again, and that's just hard to live with. And

I know I never asked my mom, I never asked
my grandmother about this story, and I just think to myself,
like why didn't I, Like, now, if they were here,
I would sit them down and just say tell me everything.
So I think losing my mom really pushed me to
look at this story closer and say, like, let me
just figure this out because I can't ask her anymore
of that. The stories are gone. Like basically, I'm the

oldest female on that side now, I think, which is
a strange thing to realize, but they're all gone, that
whole line of women, And so I think that really
kind of kicked me into gear to say, like, Okay,
maybe I need to ask the question. Finally. You know,
I asked my dad first, because he knew my mom
and her family since he was a teenager, so I
figured he'd be reliable. But his you know, his response was,

I'm pretty sure it happened. And he was like, I
think it was your great aunt. I knows, but that's
kind of all I got from here.

Speaker 2 (11:57):
We'll be right back. With few details from her father,
Dina starts to dig. She gets in touch with all
sorts of family members, determined to get information about her

great aunt Ana's. In her excavation, she finds out about something,
or rather someone she hadn't known existed. Aunt Anas had
a son, Steve.

Speaker 3 (12:34):
Oh Man. Well, you know, first I'd ask my cousin,
and you know, nobody knew anything. My cousin didn't know anything,
my uncle didn't know anything. Some distant relative in Arkansas
that I called didn't know anything. And then when I
found out about Anas's son, and I thought, after all
of these years and then all of this time digging,
I thought, oh my gosh, I'm gonna get his number

and when it makes sense to just call him immediately.
But I got the number and I just kind of
froze and I put it in my desk and it
took me about two weeks to make the call. I
was very nervous because I didn't know the guy, and
to call somebody up and say, hey, you know, did
your mom commit Arsen? It's extremely awkward. And as a
journalist I ask questions all the time, but with the

hard questions, I have to really get myself into that zone.
So I sat on it for about two weeks and
it was scary. I mean, my heart was racing that
he was so sweet and so gracious, but you know,
I said, I heard this story that your mom maybe
committed arson. Did you know anything about that? And he
had no clue. And he told me that he didn't

even know that his mom had been married before his
father until he was eighteen and they told him. So
that just shows you that even her being married before
was a secret. Yeah, a secret. And so you know,
I asked his permission. I said, are you okay if
I kind of dig further into this. It was a
scary thing to ask and kind of surprising that you
wouldn't know about this huge thing in his mom's past.

So he did give me permission to kind of dig deeper,
which I appreciated.

Speaker 2 (14:03):
You know, I'm interested to in making the distinction between
like Yes, you're a journalist and you're used to asking
hard questions and you have to kind of gear yourself
up to ask them in the line of work. But
I would imagine that it would have felt different to
be asking these questions when you're dealing with something that

is as personal as a family story.

Speaker 3 (14:28):
Yes, it adds a whole other layer of For one thing,
I don't want to bring something up for this guy
that I don't even know, you know, this guy in
North Texas who, yes, he's related to me, but you know,
it's I don't want to call him and then just
dig up things that maybe he doesn't want to think
about or what you know, doesn't want to have in
his life. I guess I had to feel like it

was worth it to even go there. And I think
that's when my dad, who had told me he thought
it was I know, is when I told my dad this,
he said, maybe you should just kind of leave this alone.
But I just couldn't.

Speaker 2 (14:59):
I you know, I had his permission, and was your
dad's feeling let sleeping dogs lie kind of why stir
up something that is ancient history kind of feeling?

Speaker 3 (15:11):
I think it's that and then just be you know,
my dad's a pretty sensitive person, so I think he
was probably thinking of and as his son and just
you know, maybe, yeah, maybe you don't want to do
this to somebody that is not asking these questions, and
that that is the hard thing about finding out a
secret or being a journalist or you know, trying to
look into these stories as you almost have to think like, okay,

well is this my story to tell? And I did
grapple with that. When my dad said, you know, maybe
you should leave it alone, I thought, okay, is this
my story to tell? This is this other guy's mother.
It's not my mom. But I just felt like, you know,
these are the women in my family that eventually came
to the conclusion that it is it is my story
to tell.

Speaker 2 (15:49):
Yeah, that makes a lot of That makes a lot
of sense to me. I mean, both the grappling with
it and the questions and it sort of fell on you.
He just simply didn't know. But that didn't make the
story not a true story. It didn't erase the story.

Speaker 3 (16:04):

Speaker 2 (16:08):
Dina is at this point a working mom with a
young kid. She's living a rich and busy life in Austin.
Still she doesn't lose her drive to solve the mystery,
to close the chapter, to understand what happened the night
of the fire and in its aftermath.

Speaker 3 (16:26):
The other thing that really pushed me is that I
pitched this to some editors at Mother Tongue magazine. I
had never met them, and we just had one of
those meet and greet kind of zooms, and they asked,
you know, the question, is there anything you've been burning
to write? So it was just the perfect.

Speaker 2 (16:41):
Timing, interesting choice of words, too right.

Speaker 3 (16:44):
Exactly, And you know, editors don't often ask that, so
it's a magical question to get as a writer. And
I hadn't prepared a pitch. I just started going off
about my great aunt and saying like, this is what's
going on. And I always thought about it, and I
don't know what the outcome is going to be. I
don't know if I'm gonna really find any true evidence, but
I need to go on a road trip. And they
were like, go for it, and so then I sort

of had. Then I had to do it, and you know,
from that on it became extremely important. And I you know,
I've never really done investigative work before, so I mean
I had like a little bored with pictures up and
things like that. So it became a huge part of
my days for sure.

Speaker 2 (17:23):
And you brought in a genealogist slash genealogical detective in
a way, right, I had.

Speaker 3 (17:31):
Yeah, So I had looked on you know, ancestry dot com,
which you don't really find that much there. And I
talked to a lot of small town historians because I
knew that I had lived in Fort Worth and then
also in which it's a falls, which is North Texas,
and so I talked to small town historians up there
who were very helpful as far as census records and

marriage records and things like that. So they were sending
me those kinds of things. But I just we weren't
finding any a news story or anything about a fire,
and so I was about to give up. And I
remember there's this group called the Texas Genealogical Society. They
do a conference every year, and so I just thought, Okay,
let me find somebody on their board who's in North Texas,

and let me just give it one last shot. I mean,
I was about to be write the article and say
I didn't find out anything. But it was a great try,
you know, and that was going to not be a
great article. So I emailed this woman in North Texas
and I just sent her everything I had. I said,
here's marriagereckers, here's social security, here's an address that she
lived in. And I sent it off one night, just thinking, okay,
this is this is kind of my last shot, right,

this is kind of my hail Mary. I don't know
what else to do. And then I woke up in
the morning to like six emails from this woman. The
subject lines were like found it, She's guilty, she did it.
I mean, it was crazy. And so I opened these
emails and it was news clippings that she had found
from nineteen forty six with the most film noir kind

of headlines like Brunette burns out, Blondet rival bibles house.
So they were basically framing my great Anna as this
like Brunette fe fatale, and there it was. It was crazy.
It was right in front of my I mean, I
still get chill's thinking about it, that this thing that
had lived in my mind for decades, it was right

in front of my face in the newspaper that she
had burned down a house.

Speaker 2 (19:21):
And until that moment, were you sure that it was true?
And Were you sure that it was her? Because my
sense is that there was some question in your mind
from early on when you first heard word of this,
the lore of this fire, of really just not even
being sure A that had happened, and B who said
it if it did? So that moment, what was that like?

Speaker 3 (19:44):
I was not sure at all until that moment. I
thought it was one of those things, you know, because
sometimes we just create stories in our minds, you know,
I think whilst people do this where you have like
a memory and you're like, did that actually happens? I
make that up? And so I really didn't know. I
didn't know it was her. I didn't know if a
fire happened or if this was just some family legend
that somehow, you know, just endured over these years. So

it really wasn't until that moment that I thought, Wow,
this actually is part of my family story and part
of my story. And you know, it was several clippings,
and you know, the more I dug in it was
that there was so much more to it. I mean,
that she had been married to this guy, they divorced,
he was abusive, that she didn't just try to burn

the house down once she went back three times that
she was sent to the North Texas State Hospital.

Speaker 2 (20:34):
When it is the first time that you actually saw her,
like saw an image of her as part of the
clippings and the lurid headlines.

Speaker 3 (20:43):
Well that was interesting because the clippings that the genealogist
sent me were just you know, headlines, and I didn't
see a picture until one of the historians, like that
same week, because we were all kind of emailing a
lot during that week, and one of the historians email
me and she's like, I'm sure you've seen this. I
found this on eBay and it was the actual crime

photo I think that you know on hebeo was for sale,
like true crime photo. It was a black and white
photo of Inez in what looks like prison clothes and
she's sitting there and she has a black eye and
she's kind of smiling and it said, you know, I
Na's Burger, which was her married name at that time,
arrested for arson. I mean, that was the first time

I saw her face and she looked like my grandmother
was just crazy and my mother seeing her there, but
it's then with a black eye and with this almost
like a little bit of a triumphant smile. It was
just it was unbelievable to see that. So I bought
it for like nineteen dollars on the spot. But that
was the first time I saw an image of her
at that time.

Speaker 2 (21:53):
We'll be back in a moment with more family secrets.
Dina does what so many of us do when we're

trying to figure something out. She gets into her car
and drives. She heads out on a road trip to
Wichita Falls and Fort Worth to visit the North Texas
State Hospital where Ainez had been sent. The visit is
powerful and illuminating. It's a very different place today than
it was back then.

Speaker 3 (22:36):
So when she was there. I think it opened in
the twenties or thirties, And yes, it was created to
be one of these places where they're like milking cows
and making carrots. And that's not to say that it
was a you know, idyllic place, because when I went there,
in the lobby, they have the electric shock machines they
used in that era. They had you know all this.
I mean, they're showing the history of the place. So

it was meant to be, you know, let's rehabilitate these people.
And I can only imagine what it was like for
her there. And I know that she was sent there
because I don't know for sure, but in the newspaper
articles or the news articles, it would say that nine
people testified that she was not of sound mind, and
one of them was with my great grandmother that said that.

And I imagine, and this is one of those things
I'll just have to, you know, keep in my imagination,
but I would think that they said that so that
she would go to a state hospital instead of to jail.
That's just my thinking of why they would do that.
But so, yeah, she was sent there, and I don't
know for how long is I can't get the records.
But going up to this place, I mean, it's these
old brick buildings. I mean half of them are condemned.

It's a pretty sad place.

Speaker 2 (23:44):
Well, and she was released on bail the first time
that she was sent there, right.

Speaker 3 (23:50):
So this is where the story it's it's almost becomes
like a dark comedy in a way, because I mean,
no one died, so I could say. But so she
went to his house and I did go visit the
house or that the house that's you know on that
site now, So she went to the house and tried
to burn it down the first time and it didn't work.
She went a second time and it didn't work, but
she and she got arrested and she was released on

bail after that second attempt, and supposedly, from what the
newspaper said, after the second attempt, she'd got in a cap,
went straight back at Birningtown like she was determined. She
was not happy. And so after that third attempt is
when she was arrested and then send that's to the
state hospital.

Speaker 2 (24:28):
And so would it have been after the third attempt
that she a photograph was taken of her with the
black eye and the kind of small triumphant smile or
there's no way to really know that.

Speaker 3 (24:38):
Yeah, so it was after that third attempt when she
was officially arrested and then.

Speaker 2 (24:42):
Put on trial, and the smile was she had done it.

Speaker 3 (24:46):
Yeah, I mean, that's the crazy thing. I mean, I
still have that picture in my office. You know, I've
stared at that picture a lot because it's such a
mysterious thing. But yes, I think you know her quotes.
I mean, if you've ever looked at nineteen forties newspapers,
they're horrifying and hilarious. This just the way that they
phrase things unbelievable. But some of her quotes were that,

you know, I don't regret it at all. My ex
husband beat me, and wouldn't you do the same thing?
And I could only imagine that, yes, she she didn't
want to kill him. I actually have. I actually also
talked to some forensic psychologists and they say it's significant
that every time she went nobody was there. Like, I
don't think she was trying to kill him. I think
she just, especially being a woman at that time, that

was kind of all she had. I mean, you know,
they didn't have a lot of money. She's not like
she knew powerful people. Her only way to say, this
guy is abusing me and I'm pissed is to turn
his house down. And it's pretty sad when you read
the papers, you know, the guy wasn't really made us
to be a bad guy at all. Which it's not

perfect now, but it's so different now that I don't
think he would just be painted as you know, some husband,
that poor guy, I got his house burned down. But
at the time she was the bad which is crazy.

Speaker 2 (26:02):
And nothing is made of the fact that she has
evidence of being hurt.

Speaker 3 (26:08):
No I mean, I think one article mentioned it, but
not even in a you know, it was just kind
of like, why not it's with the black eye said this.
So that was another thing that really struck me, especially
seeing the photos and reading those quotes, is just women
at that time, I mean, had very little recourse when
it came to that kind of abuse. And you know,

the other mystery that I'll just say that I may
never find out is they had been divorced and he
had been remarried, yet he was still abusing her. So
like were they having an affair? You know, That's something
that I don't know how I would ever find that answer.
But that's another sort of part of the mystery, is well,
why were they still well what was going on with
those two? And then the state hospital was I, you know,

got a tour and I talked to the president at
the time, and he told me that women in that
era would be dropped off for much less than ourson.
And one of these one of the things he said
to me was, you know, things like menopause, which it's
just you know, husbands would just literally drop women off
at the gates at this place.

Speaker 2 (27:10):
Well like okay, dear, you know, spend, spend the next
eighteen months here and I'll pick you up.

Speaker 3 (27:15):
Yeah, I can't take your mood. So, you know, just
go into this mental hospital place.

Speaker 2 (27:20):
There's no way of knowing how long she was there.
And I mean you do know that when she at
some point after she got out, she remarried and she
married Steve's father and they had a long, happy marriage
and they had you know this son. There's so much
that is available to us now in terms of being

able to ask institutions for records to understand, you know,
what happened. Do the records exist or are they lost
to history?

Speaker 3 (27:51):
Well, if they do exist, I mean that's the part
where I did hit a dead end. Is the story
still stays. I mean I feel like there's more to tell,
the more to find out, like how long was she
there or what the records would say. And I reached
back out to her son. Well, the first time I
reached back out is when I the articles came out,
and I just said, I said, you know, I did

find some things out. Do you want to read this?
And I sent it to him before publication and he
said no, not right now. He said, when it comes out,
maybe you could send it to me on the side
of them, but it's like he just didn't want to know.
And then when I did send it to him, he
did read it and he just said something like, you know,
this is a different kind of read for me, and
he said he has very mixed emotions and I'm pulling

at the email. He said, I will consider her a
person of courage, and he you know, I said, I
appreciate your writing and research. And then I reached out
to him pretty recently because I wanted to see if
I could talk to him farther and maybe because he's
the only person that could get the records released. And
he just said out. He was very sweet and he
just said no, And from there, I can't really do

that because he's the only person that could unlock that.

Speaker 2 (28:59):
There can really be a point in life where it's
too much, where the idea of re understanding or re
ordering or rethinking your history when there is nothing to
be done about it, there's no conversation to be had.
That kind of reckoning is just more than somebody wants to,

you know, it feels that they can bear It doesn't
if we go back to the idea of narrative, it
does not fit into the narrative of you know, this
was my life, this was my mother, this was my father,
this was our history.

Speaker 3 (29:34):
Yeah, and I think he's probably in his seventies now,
and yeah, he probably just is like, you know what,
I don't need to go there. I don't need to
unearth sayings. And you know, my motivations are very different.
I mean I'm thinking about you know, a lot of
it is about women and what women have endored, and
you know, going back to even when I was in
high school and searching for that kind of specifically female heroin.

I mean I didn't get those pages in high school
and think like where's the guy, Like where's the guy
that did something great? Like it? It was a one
had to be a woman. And so I think that, Yeah,
for him, he's living his life, he's working, he doesn't
need to know more. Whereas I'm sitting here going I
want to know everything.

Speaker 2 (30:15):
Where does it end up sitting with you? And you know,
how does it end up feeling to you? I mean
you you made a piece of work out of it.
You know that exists in the world, but perhaps more important,
you were able to find that person, someone who didn't
sit back and just contend with her lot in life.

And I mean even divorce was pretty unusual in those days.
Whatever the circumstances of their divorce was, she was definitely
trying to get out of there. Yes, So what has
that done for you in terms of just a feeling
that you were right all along? There was somebody in
that family tree of yours, there was a woman who

walked a different path than the path of all of
the other women around her.

Speaker 3 (31:07):
I think it's two things. It's the fact that, yes,
I am related to somebody, and I'm sure the people
on road that I don't even know about that I'm
related to that did things like this. But a woman that,
you know, she didn't necessarily do the thing that I
was thinking about back in high school. Right, she didn't
challenge government or right in the war. She did something

very different than that, but extremely brave. And when I
went to the house, and you know, we were just
outside looking at it, I just thought, that's terrifying, actually
walking into someone's house three times with a match. It's
not a small thing to do. I mean, that's it's
a huge thing to do. So it's made me look
at all the women in my family. I think in

a different light, and you know, it kind of colors
everything my mom, my grandmother, and just realizing that it
doesn't have to be some big thing that a person
does to make them credible or someone that can inspire you.
You know, even my mom the way she lived her life.
Every human has hard things to deal with, and you know,

my mom certainly did, my grandmother certainly did. And seeing
those things as heroic. I think my great aunt has
helped me understand that a little bit better. And just
I guess elevating all the women in my family in
a way is you know, just understanding that any moment
in life can be hard. It doesn't have to be
grand if that makes sense.

Speaker 2 (32:31):
Yeah, that's beautiful. It totally makes sense. And you're the
mother of a son, but you also have nieces. This
is something that you feel is part of the legacy
that you are able to pass on to that generation.

Speaker 3 (32:46):
Yes, definitely my nieces and my son too. Like I mean,
you know, he's six now, I'm not gonna tell him yet,
but eventually, yes, to tell him that, Like you had
this person in your family who really stood up for
herself in extremely brave and bold way. Not that I'm
condoning Arson, but for her to do that in the
forties and say I don't regret it is a very

powerful thing. And one of the things that I keep
thinking since writing the piece and finding all this out,
is just I wish I could just sit her down
and say you're amazing, Like this didn't have to be
a secret. This shouldn't have been something that was shameful.
This shouldn't have been something that, you know, my grandmother
and her sisters and my great grandmother felt like they
couldn't share that. It's really that I admire her and

I still have. You know, I still have her photo
in my office and I sometimes look at it and
just out loud or like you're a badass, Like I
just wish she could have known that or felt that
instead of feeling ashamed of it, which she obviously did
because she didn't tell anybody. You know, I always do.
You remember my mom saying that my grandmother we called
her Mamma. She would say, you know, Mamma and her
sisters they had it hard, and you know they didn't

It wasn't easy for them growing up, and she would say,
like they had to be pretty tough. So I think
maybe that has something to do with how this all
turned out.

Speaker 2 (34:19):
Family Secrets is a production of iHeartRadio. Molly Zaccur is
the story editor and Dylan Fagan is the executive producer.
If you have a family secret you'd like to share,
please leave us a voicemail and your story could appear
on an upcoming episode. Our number is one eight eight
eight Secret zero. That's the number zero. You can also

find me on Instagram at Danny Ryder. And if you'd
like to know more about the story that inspired this podcast,
check out my memoir Inheritance.

Speaker 1 (35:18):
For more podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts,
or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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