Erin Carr is a documentary filmmaker who just happens to be the daughter of former New York Times journalist David Carr. Erin and her twin sister were born prematurely to their cocaine-addicted parents. After leaving his infant daughters in a car while he went into a crack house to score a hit, David Carr straightened out his life. The girls mother abandoned them for her addiction. David famously wrote about his struggle with addiction in his memoir Night of the Gun. He became a single parent at a time when most people wouldn’t trust him with a fiscus plant, he said. Later he remarried and had a third daughter.
In 2015, after moderating a panel, David Carr was found unconscious at The Times and rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Erin’s memoir recounts her relationship with her father and her own struggle with alcoholism.
Shattered by grief, Erin begins sorting through almost 2000 email exchanges between father and daughter. “Always remember to update me on your tiny victories in addition to your persistent challenges. I am so, so proud of you.” But how will she do that now that he is gone? Her father was her greatest champion, offering her career and life advice that was sometimes acerbic, often challenging, but always inspirational. “Ask people what mistakes they’ve made so you can get their shortcuts,” he told her.
Trying to build a career as a documentary film maker, she gets a job at VICE and continues to drink hard, denying that she has a problem. At one point David tells Erin that looking at her is like looking in a dirty mirror, a compliment of sorts, but more than anything a call to action. Erin tries and fails to be sober on numerous occasions. She loses jobs. She loses friends. But her father never abandons her. Instead, he continues to mentor and challenge her to rise above her circumstances. “What will set you apart is not talent but will and a certain kind of humility, a willingness to let the world show you things that you play back as you grow as an artist.”
Erin’s memoir is a heartbreaking account of grief and loss and her relationship with a father who is also her mentor. She grapples with her extraordinary privilege — her father opened many doors for her, and she wonders whether she can make it on her own.
All that You Leave Behind, is the bold and brave story of an extraordinary father and the daughter who loved him.