In Plain Sight

I had never really put much thought into what genre a memoir would be categorized in. I spent a whole semester reading powerful women’s memoirs last year and still it never dawned on me that what I was consuming was in fact creative nonfiction. The memoir seems to have recently become the next logical step in a career for many people who live life in the spotlight to some degree.

The topics can range from political power, the lessons learned through life or a specific events like illustrated in I am Malala. I find it interesting that given the number of memoirs being produced and the clear market of readers that the topic of creative nonfiction is not as present. Obviously now looking at the 5 memoirs that line the bookshelf in my living room I can see how the authors used life experience to provide insight or a critique. It seems to me that creative nonfiction is not gaining the recognition it deserves given what it is allowing so many authors to produce- though it should be pointed out that many of the authors are visitors to the genre.

Creative nonfiction has not been discussed in any of my English courses until this year. It seems to me that it is a specific genre that one must be invited into by those who have ventured into it before. When I think of the way that memoirs make use of the genre it appears that they could be a great jumping off point for learning about and even becoming a writer of creative nonfiction. Many memoirs are a collection of personal essays. Unlike other texts these can be arranged in any order or visual presentation and that idea of structure is a principle of the genre. These are life experiences that are being placed on the page so inevitably the use of the first person “I” will make an appearance. As someone who writes primarily for academics it can be a strange feeling putting the “I” on the page, but a memoir could help expose a writer to that and provide a level of comfort with the form. The language and tone that is used in memoirs is often not the same as in a traditional novel. It truly depends on the memoir but from my experience it can be relaxed. The author does not feel that they need to persuade or convince you of what they say because it is real.

The popular and literary memoir are on the rise and that in turn continues to fuel the debate over memory and the notion of truth, but another debate is creeping into my mind. Is the rise in pop culture icons and celebrity memoirs helping or hurting creative nonfiction. Does it want to be associated with those works or is there a boundary being crossed with how creative nonfiction is being used?

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