Memoir Writing - Go For It!

Wed, 11/20/2019 - 5:30am

I have been thinking about memoirs, in particular personal memoirs, and the journey of my family when I came across a piece in The New York Times. The article discusses the benefits that accrue to children who have learned their family history.

The author was first concerned with his own family and their inability to communicate, and he began to do research on what makes families effective. He discovered, to his amazement, that the answer is simple: “develop a strong family narrative.” Children who know more about their families do better when they face challenges.

“The more children knew about their families, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.”

The researchers interviewed families from their study after 9/11 and their findings were confirmed: “the ones [children] who knew more about their families proved to be more resilient, meaning they could moderate the effects of stress.”

So, those of you who are considering writing your memoirs, go for it! Not only will it benefit you as an exploration of who you are and where you come from, but it will also benefit your children, grandchildren and the generations to come.

Exercise:

Read the article in The New York Times. Write a brief family narrative. What do you know? What do you need to research? What interests you about the narrative? What is the underlying message throughout the story? Treat the piece as a story you might tell to your family, and then decide to tell it to the world.

And, just for fun, take a look at a family memoir that you like, for example the great memoir What Comes Next and How to Like It, by Abigail Thomas. Maybe you connect most to its structure, the rhythm and tonality of the language, or the way the author talks about her parents. Enjoy your story!