Graham E. Fuller has an intimidating resume. He earned both a Bachelor and Master of Arts from Harvard University, spent two decades as an operations officer for the CIA — a gig that shuffled him and his family around the globe to no fewer than seven countries — and he's written 10 books, most relating to Islam and politics of the Middle East.
That's why some might be surprised to learn he's penned a memoir that's not about his extraordinary career, but about his adopted son Luke, who struggled with identity issues and a serious drug addiction that eventually killed him.
Fuller recently chatted with Pique from his home in Squamish about why he wrote Three Truths and a Lie — which is currently available at Whistler's Armchair Books, as well as on Amazon and Kindle — and what he hopes others take from it.
Pique: Why did you decide to write about such a personal topic?
Graham Fuller: As people get older they tend to get more reflective. As I look back at my life I see this whole experience of adopting an interracial (Korean) child then going through the whole saga with him as one of the most important events in my life — not just what happened, but taking stock of its meaning. In the years after he died, 17 years ago, I hadn't thought about writing about it.
Pique: Could you have written it without the time and space?
Fuller: It wasn't that I thought it was too raw and painful and I can't face it. I talk a good bit about processing his death. This is an important universal aspect so many families who have to process the death of children face. As we get older, we gain different life experience and maybe our philosophy on life and death begins to change. I would guess I have a broader canvas against which to look at these particular events. There are three chapters after he dies. It doesn't end with his death. Those chapters are about who was Luke, which is trying to find out after the fact who really was this person who entered into my life as a comet then passed out again over a 20-year period. How do I see him in retrospect, which is different than day-to-day living through crises and problems. Then there's a chapter called 'How Could This Happen to Us?' Thinking about life and death of someone in the family maybe changes a bit as you come to live with it.
Pique: What was your goal?
Fuller: I felt my family and I had been through a powerful experience that changed us and changed our thinking and I thought this would be of interest to other people who face similar kinds of experiences. That's been one of the satisfying (outcomes) of the book. I cringe sometimes that the book might be too frank, but I've been surprised that a lot of people have come up to me and said, 'The book has meant so much to me because we have a son or daughter who had a drug problem or identity (struggle)'... I don't know what I expected out of it, but that's been one of the most rewarding aspects of the book: what it's meant to people in a positive way.
Pique: What was it like raising kids as an ex pat?
Fuller: There are certain kinds of pressures (in) being different for kids growing up overseas. Especially when they come back from Afghanistan and lived through a coup and bombings and their friends say, 'So I hear you were living in Afghanistan?' And they say, 'That must be awesome' then they change the subject. You have all these kids who have extraordinary experiences, yet no one is really interested when you get back home.In the case of our son, Luke was coming back at around age 6 or 7 and then being plunged into the world of the American mall where bored teenagers are hanging out. They just have been exposed to a great deal more and they have a greater perspective of what's normal in life. I didn't grow up overseas at all. I got interested in overseas countries when I was 17 or 18 and didn't get to any place until I was 21. To our kids (his two biological daughters) and Luke the different language was in their face from day one. That was normal to them. Then suddenly they come back to the U.S. and it's supposed to be the normal, but is different for them.