To prevent narrators from coming across as a whiny victims, modern memoirs seem to require that the narrators take responsibility for their complicity in the disasters they’re recording.
There are times in life when s**t happens, when you’re standing on a street corner with your back safely against a building, and a taxi jumps the curb and hits you. Are you guilty of placing yourself in harm’s way? Is a child born to grifters or alcoholics, for example, complicit?
My memoir (or family history) tells the story of what happened after my dying mother let me know she wanted me to find money she had concealed. Who had she concealed it from, and why? What had her kids done that made her want to hide her money from us? (We know why she hid it from our father.) And, had she ever intended her secrecy to cause the subsequent fallout—to herself and to her kids alike—that it did? Say, the IRS got wind of it and seized it. (It didn’t.) Who’d be responsible for its loss?
My take? Sometimes you’re largely an innocent bystander, writing about your family’s foibles.
If you’re writing a memoir or family history, you might like these posts:
Is It Memoir or Family History?
Memoir or Family History? A Deeper Look at the Differences
Follow me on Twitter @lynettebenton for more writing talk.
Linda Gartz says
I agree with the s**t happens part of life. We all have that stuff in our families — and have to live with the fallout. Writing about how you handled it — now that’s where the art comes in. I look forward to reading your memoir. THanks for highlighting my site here. I’ve been away from Twitter #memoir for a while — a goof-up on a organizer.
Lynette Benton says
Thank you for your comment, Linda. Lovely to hear from you again. I hope everything’s settled down and your writing’s coming along.