Memoir is all about voice, getting to know the author through their unique idiolect. Is it snarky, pretentious, dull? Foreign, candid, funny? The writer can never fool the reader. We know when someone is telling it like it is and when they’re hiding behind a mask. As a reader, I want the real deal because ultimately, it’s about whether or not I can relate. Is the author a person, no matter where they’re from, that I am growing to understand and care about? This is what turns the page. If not, next.
A good memoirist is also a world builder. They know how to show not tell. They provide the sensual details readers need to make a movie in their heads. Through products, historic figures, fashion, art, music, flora and fauna they pinpoint the story in a unique slice of society, in a specific era.
A compelling memoirist risks revealing their inner landscape. It’s not only who the author is and what happened to him or her but how the shared events impact his/her interior life, and frame subsequent outlook. Without this layer of complexity, a memoir may read like travel writing or gossip and losses the power to profoundly connect with its audience.
I relish memoirs because those able to craft their story, so that others can enter in, offer the gift of a wider view that tells me I am not alone. Even if my life is vastly different, I understand. Humanity is complicated, crazy, ironic, poignant, and rich with meaning.
We all have a story, and every story matters because everyone has a divine destiny. I share my memoirs, to display the power of Christ in my very messy, very ordinary life. Come be a fly on my wall.
Favorites you may enjoy:
A Girl Name Zippy by Haven Kimmel
The Color of Water by James McBride
The Big House by George Howe Colt
The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway
When I was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago
Lazy B by Sandra Day O’Connor and H. Alan Day
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
Rain of Gold by Victor Villaseñor
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolf