Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature by Meredith Maran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Memoir is an interesting place to be writing. On one hand, you are trying to tell the truth about specifics aspects of your life. On the other hand, your truth can only be perceived by you as the author—outsiders can easily view your story as fiction because they don't know the things you do. In Why We Write About Ourselves, the twenty authors included in this book explore that fluid line between creative nonfiction and fiction, including why some choose to write their own story in one or both ways.
I enjoyed reading this book because it's not always easy to get writers to talk about themselves and the process, even if they make a living writing about themselves. It's fascinating to see what makes a writer choose to tell a real story and, like some writers in this collection, it was never really a purposeful choice. It just happened. Which brings me to one of the most memorable lines for me from this collection: “I began to think that some of us are the designated rememberers. Why do we remember? I don’t know. But I think that’s why memoir interests us— because we’re the ones who pass the stories.” (Pat Conroy) That is what this collection is all about.
The biggest impact this book has had on me? I now have an insatiable desire to write my memoirs. But it isn't because I think I have a particularly interesting story to tell. I probably don't. Like most of the writers in this book, I know writing in this genre isn't to try and humiliate those who may have done me wrong in the past or make lots of money. It isn't even to get published—it's just to get a story down in your own words. That's it.
If that's the one thing any writer can take away from this book, it's that. I'll write my story, and not for anyone else but myself so maybe one day it'll all be written, and I won't have to think about these things anymore. Or I may even be able to look back at them with a totally different perspective, someone that's now seeing these memories from the outside, rather than stuck inside all of the action.
*Received a copy of this book from Penguin First to Read
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