Memoir Writing

Memoirs are a way of leaving a legacy behind. I always thought you had to be old, with a lifetime story to tell, but young people write them, especially famous young people, and sometimes these young people’s memoirs are very good.

Not expecting much from this season’s Open by Andre Agassi, I bought it for Paul–who loves tennis, and Andre Agassi–but also read it myself. Andre will be forty in April. It took him two years to write the book, so I consider late thirties young for memoir writing. Anyway, to my surprise, Open turned out to be a well-written book, with an authentic voice that rings true throughout the 385 pages. With only an eighth grade education that if it shone anywhere did so in English, but with expert help that Andre acknowledges, Open conveys a story that actually seems like it encompasses at least one lifetime.

We memoir writers–whatever our age–want desperately for our experiences to form a narrative, that drives a story worthy of being heard. Some of my beta readers have said, “Memoirs that get published are the memoirs of famous people; people want to know about their backgrounds and how they developed their careers. For the little people, it’s much harder to get a story out there. They have to ask the question, who would want to read it? What interest would their story hold for the general public?”

So who would want to read my story? Well, women crave stories about the complex relationships within their families. Some want to know about personal healing, and how to actualize themselves under difficult circumstances. Many women are interested in the meaning of jewels. As they read about the meaning of my jewels, they are thinking about the meaning of theirs. And, … and then my upbringing was unusual. The household names of Tiffany and Freud are part of my legacy. I have been affected by these legacies. People are interested in personal stories that have to do with those names. “And men,” I can hear my beta readers coaching me: “Don’t forget men.” Oh yes, I think, that’s true, women want to hear about personal experiences with men: why this relationship didn’t work, and that one did. They learn something. I know I do, especially when those experiences are written about convincingly and well. It’s like what I was saying about jewels, my stories make people think of their stories, or the other way around. Readers become privy to my secrets, while they think of theirs.