Jaycee Dugard as a girl. She was snatched off the street in South Lake Tahoe… (Nick Ut / Associated Press )
Readers almost certainly will be fascinated by Jaycee Lee Dugard's account of her 18 years in captivity when her memoir is released this summer. No doubt her publisher will reap a bounty of sales. The question is what Dugard will get out of it.
Now in her early 30s, she doesn't need the money. The Legislature approved a $20-million settlement for her and her family, in recognition of a parole officer's failure to properly check on her kidnapper, Phillip Garrido, a previously registered sex offender. She doesn't need the fame either. She's been in the news in ways that would make anyone uncomfortable; hardly a person in the country doesn't know at least something about her imprisonment in a shed in a suburban backyard, sexually abused by Garrido, giving birth to her first child when she was 14.
These days, any strange or tragic event, especially if it is tinged with the salacious, is Internet fare. If it's sensational enough, that is followed by an instant ghostwritten book, and maybe a movie. Publicists and agents pound at the metaphorical door and sometimes the physical one and pressure even fairly sophisticated people into spilling it all. The process lacks dignity, and the results often aren't very good.
We have no way of knowing, but we'd like to think another scenario might have unfolded in this case: A young woman who has been immersed in this nightmare for most of her life, whether living it or living in its aftermath (Garrido and his wife pleaded guilty in April), tries to make sense of it all by writing her story. Her manager says no ghostwriter has been involved in the project; the book's cover is quiet and tasteful, showing a joyous young Jaycee with the title "A Stolen Life" above and her name below. Perhaps writing it gave her a sense of accomplishment, the first she has been granted beyond the considerable accomplishment of surviving her ordeal.
It's hard to imagine that Dugard is in a position to bring perspective to her horrific experience. She was deprived of proper education, medical care, decent surroundings and normal social interaction from age 11 to age 29; it has been less than two years since her rescue, certainly not time enough to fashion a settled life for herself.
We're eager to learn about her perceptions of what was happening to her, how she managed her thoughts and behavior, whether she tried to escape. How did her daughters perceive the larger world once they were able to become a part of it? We hope that Dugard will give readers insight and give herself respect and a chance for catharsis. We hope she makes a lot of money and puts it toward a life of the fulfillment and joy that she was denied for so long.
Behind the scenes: How the editorial board arrived at its position on Jaycee Dugard's memoir.