Sunday, April 19, 2015

What is a Memoir?

A memoir is a writer’s exploration of some aspects and experiences of his or her life. Memoirs examine a life through a particular prism—a mother’s descent into dementia, a boy’s struggle to survive in a concentration camp, a childhood on a farm in South Africa. There is usually an identifiable thread tying the life story together. In the Canadian memoir Finding Rosa: A Mother with Alzheimer’s, a Daughter in Search of the Past, author Caterina Edwards takes a physical journey to Istria, her mother’s homeland. In doing so, she gains fresh insights into her troubled relationship with her mother. In My Father’s Country: The Story of a German Family, German memoirist Wibke Bruhns describes her relationship with a father who was executed for conspiring to assassinate Hitler. Each of these books takes a particular snapshot in time and enlarges it for the reader, bringing into view the emotional and physical layers of one aspect of the author’s life.

While we usually think of memoir in terms of a book or story, memoir can take the form of a traditional narrative, a poem, series of photos, a video, or a painting. An artist friend of mine is creating what she calls a "stand-up memoir," a comedic routine exploring her life. In other words—the type of life story you create can be as unique as you are! In this blog, I will be focusing on life writing, but will also occasionally explore the role of visuals—art and photography—in the development of memoir. Click below to watch a powerful video defining memoir with images, words,and music.

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