The Delicate Art of Memoir

 I must confess that I have an undying love for fiction; indeed, some of my happiest memories are of rainy weekends spent inside with a novel and a cup of tea or cocoa. But whenever I sit down to write, what comes most naturally is personal reflection – try as I might, I cannot create another world. Perhaps it is this ease that explains my other literary love: memoir. There is nothing like reading about someone else’s personal journey to self-discovery; it is at once inspiring and rewarding. Some of the best memoirs, I find, are those written by people with no particular claim to fame, people just like you and me who happened to find the time and the desire to tell their stories. They seem somehow more realistic than the celebrities who deign to give us the everyday details of their lives.

And so, in honor of budding memoirists, I offer a small selection that are (in my opinion) fine examples of the genre:

Dead End Gene Pool, by Wendy Burden has got to be the funniest memoir I’ve read in a long time, yet at the same time there is great poignancy to her humor. I came across this book in the heat of summer a few years ago and stayed up into the night sucking every last drop out of it – a finer non-fiction page-turner I have yet to find.

Pitch Uncertain, by Maisie Houghton is a far more typical example of memoir, though no less rewarding. Depicting a personal search for self in vivid detail, Houghton conjures up a fascinating life that is, on further inspection, no less typical than the lives of many others from her time.

Some of My Lives, by Rosamond Bernier is a self-described “scrapbook memoir” that in several small anecdotes suggests a full life, at once exciting and filled with experience. Bernier knew many “big names” yet her writing is never cluttered by name-dropping – indeed, she opens her inner circle and invites the reader to join her.

Evan, Teen Advisor
Northeast Branch

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