Oren’s unconventional childhood captured in memoir

Author Oren Siedler and her father Bruce reflect on Oren’s unusual and unconventional childhood which is now the subject of a memoir, ‘Bruce and Me’.
Author Oren Siedler and her father Bruce reflect on Oren’s unusual and unconventional childhood which is now the subject of a memoir, ‘Bruce and Me’.
Oren Siedler’s childhood was so unconventional that she had to lie to her high school friends about what her father really did.
“I tried so hard not to be different, but with a hippy mother living at a Buddhist retreat near Byron Bay and a father in America who was a con artist and white-collar criminal, it was a bit hard,” she said.
“I would have to make up lies about what my father did and I was living with subterfuge for so long.
“It was very lonely.”
Oren’s unusual childhood has now become a memoir with ‘Bruce and Me’ released just last week.
Recently returned from a five-week holiday in Bali with both her mum and dad (her parents have been divorced for 30 years), the 40-year-old, who now lives near Byron Bay, said writing the book had been a cathartic experience.
A film maker by profession, Oren had always loved writing and had kept a journal and diary all through her childhood.
“Years ago I thought it would be interesting to write a book about my father and the ‘out of the box’ way he lived his life,” she said.
“It was while I was studying film making in Sydney that I started thinking about making a documentary about his life.”
The documentary ‘Bruce and Me’ was completed in 2005.
“A literary agent then contacted me and suggested that I write a memoir, so I did, but it took me two years,” Oren said.
“While I set out to write a book about my father, the story actually became a story about me and my childhood and the constant shuffling between my parents in Australia and America.
“When I was with my father in America our lives consisted of moving house and changing schools, cross-country road-tripping and seeing my father move from one scam to the next.”
Needing to remember countless aliases, birth dates and addresses and living in constant fear of spot checks from police, Oren became disillusioned and began to reject her father’s lifestyle.
“At times it was exciting and beyond all rules and even though I loved my father and we had a great relationship, when I grew into my teens and early 20s I really started to resent him and what he was doing,” she said.
“I was actually relieved when he finally went to jail.”
Oren vividly remembers one time when she was only about nine and the police raided her father’s house.
“Bruce ran out the back door, leaving me to deal with the police,” she said.
But it was Oren’s strange childhood that has helped to make her the strong, independent woman she is today.
And while she says she missed out on the innocence and sweetness of childhood, today she enjoys a ‘normal’ life and a close relationship with both her parents.
“My mum was a bit reticent about the book, but Bruce was fine,” Oren said.
Visiting Oren before he returns home to Kentucky, Bruce, now 70, said he really liked the book.
“It pulls no punches and I am sorry that I put her through what I did, but at the time you don’t think about that,” he said. “I am retired from scamming. I got two inheritances so I don’t need to do that anymore.”
‘Bruce and Me’ is available at local book stores and Oren will be a guest at the 2009 Byron Bay Writers Fest.

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