Are the lives of others really interesting and enticing enough to read about?
The term ‘memoir’ is yet another word stolen from the French – in this case the French word ‘memoire’ meaning ‘reminiscence’. Unlike an autobiography, which is a self-written account of someone’s life, a memoir is rather a historical account written from personal knowledge, thus giving a snapshot taken from within a lifetime. And of course there’s a host of bestselling memoirs to choose from!
More often than not memoirs deal with something gritty and personal- maybe a hardship or a struggle, or a time period crucial to the writers life. Although factual, the writer may use fictional techniques to draw their readers into the story, and facts take a backseat to feelings and emotions.
So why read a memoir? Are the lives of others really interesting and enticing enough to read about?
Perhaps surprisingly, sometimes you don’t need superheroes, or heroines-there is drama in daily existence! Regular humans sometimes do superhuman things-like changing their lives for the better, dragging themselves up out of seemingly hopeless situations, or living through an extraordinary experience. Added to that, a well written memoir is as close to real life as you can get in a book. It can feel as though you are living another’s life, walking in another’s shoes…..
Memoirs make a connection.
But why should we care about these personal experiences, of the reminiscing of an individual with whom we have no obvious connection? The answer is that we do have a connection. A human connection. Living another’s experience through the pages of a book can bring people together as one human race rather than dividing. As the world continues to become more socially conscious (think ‘black lives matter’, ‘me too’, and ‘fair trade’), the lived experience of individuals can spur on the wider community to support the minority or those treated unjustly.
Influences which can change a course of life for better.
On a personal level, living in another’s shoes can help us become more empathic, understanding, and less judgemental. We see the story behind situations people find themselves in, which are often a complicated plethora of many different aspects of life. We gain an understanding of past mental, emotional, physical and spiritual influences which can change a course of life for better or for worse. Personal memoirs can change hearts, minds and perspectives, in short, can help us understand one another as fellow humans.
Furthermore, reflecting on another’s experience can help others in similar situations to have hope, move them to act, or simply make them feel less alone. They see their own life, or experiences reflected on the page before them, and gain comfort. An understanding that we are all fallible, imperfect and flawed, yet regardless have much to offer our fellow humans.