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Events and memories that had thrashed about in his consciousness now surfaced. In some instances, his political instincts predominated. I remember discussing the Japanese episode and recommending a presentation that seemed less self-justifying; Warren did not change a word, as far as I can recall, of his original text. Most of the suggestions I made to Warren about his memoirs were not followed: that was as it should be. I could not know what was taking place in that summoning up of a lifetime and should not have expected that as proud and independent a spirit as Warren would, have preferred the judgments of a law clerk to his own.
By confessing error for his part in the Japanese relocation program, Warren was settling accounts with himself. Often he learned from the mistakes of others. A district attorney had been too passive or disorganized, an attorney general too partisan, a governor too indiscreet in his public utterances, a chief justice not forceful enough in securing unanimity among his colleagues. Regularly, however, Warren learned at his own expense. Financially pressed in an early campaign, Warren took a contribution from an independent oil contractor, creating embarrassment when he later attacked oil interests.
Thereafter he never allowed himself to be beholden to a benefactor, extolling nonpartisanship and denouncing conflicts of interests in public officials. The Japanese episode was a learning experience for Warren. His declaration about civil rights and the use of arbitrary governmental power was no campaign pap; he sprinkled similar pronouncements throughout his Supreme Court opinions.
The Japanese relocation program was a vivid example of the use of arbitrary governmental power at the expense of the rights of a virtually helpless minority.
Two themes had intertwined to produce the Japanese relocation policy: military necessity and racial or ethnic stereotyping. The Japanese should be evacuated from the Pacific Coast, so the argument ran, because of the distinct possibility of sabotage preparatory to an invasion. An invasion by Japanese forces was possible because, in and early , Japan controlled the Pacific. If one believed, as Warren did, in preparedness and civil defense, and if one thought that potential Japanese sabotage was peculiarly difficult to detect, then evacuation could be justified as a military necessity even though it was a drastic measure.
It was on these grounds that the military officials re sponsible for the relocation policy rationalized it; it was on these grounds that Warren supported it. Looking back at the episode, though, one could not gainsay its racist aspects. Because no reported cases of sabotage on the part of Japanese-Americans had emerged prior to the relocation decision, the decision assumed that something about the Japanese community on the West Coast—the indistinguishable features of its members to whites, or the purported cohesiveness and inscrutability of Orientals—made the prospect of sabotage among Japanese a vital military problem.
Sabotage among German-Americans or Italian-Americans, on the other hand, was a routine intelligence matter. Reflecting on the Japanese episode, Warren probably confronted the element of racial and ethnic stereotyping in his own thought. Board of Education in , Warren made no overt reference to, or repudiation of, the Japanese episode: at that time, and at least as late as , he did not see Brown as contradicting the relocation policy.
The ideals of racial harmony, equality, and civil liberties that Brown fostered guided Warren throughout his tenure as chief justice; nothing he did in those years was inconsistent with his stand on civil rights. But the Japanese relocation decision was. A man seemingly self-contained and resolute on the surface, Warren was capable of accommodation and growth within. Whenever the issue of the internment comes up, apologists and closet racists use the lame excuse "but we were at war.
Other closet racists try to mitigate America's shame by pointing out how racist Japan is. All true, but this very inability to distinguish between people in Japan and Americans of Japanese descent betrays hidden racism. All right, by this kind of sick logic I have a right to take revenge on you just because some white people you had nothing to do with did me wrong. Lastly, the criterion for internability one-eight of Japanese blood was exactly the criterion Hitler used in his Nurnberg Laws to determine who was legally a Jew.
Interesting similarity, huh? Anyone making excuses for the internment is either a racist or a fool. I have no beef against sweet, open-minded whites of today's generation. But when it comes to Archie Bunker's age group, what Imperial Japan did to them was no worse than what they did to thousands of African-American lynching victims. Harjo declined to go into detail but wrote a poignant Facebook post on Monday. I do know that for years Native women have had to run the gauntlet of Native males who abuse that power.
A few weeks after its publication, Alexie halted a national publicity tour for the book. Share story. By Brendan Kiley. Nina Shapiro. Most Read Local Stories 1 patient dies, 5 others infected by mold that closed Seattle Children's hospital operating rooms Our neighbor Alaska is having an environmental and political meltdown Danny Westneat Officials moved nearly mountain goats from the Olympics last summer. How are they doing now? A surprising lead. A family's year wait for answers. Seattle Times arts critic Moira Macdonald contributed to this report.
Does any figure—even one as interesting as Orson Welles—really warrant 1, pages of investigation? Donaldson is writing about his own experience writing biographies of Ernest Hemingway, F.
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Scott Fitzgerald, John Cheever, Archibald MacLeish, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Winfield Townley Scott, and Charlie Fenton, but the book is loaded with insights into the process and the sometimes legal complications of writing biography, including legal problems discussed in his interesting case studies. Only Indians lived there. This focuses on the good ones.
Among other interesting points: "Where letters have been a vital source for literary biographers, with all their ostentatious revelation and pronouncement, the smaller, casual intimacies of emails, which are increasingly being donated to public archives — Harold Pinter's and Wendy Cope's to the British Library — will offer insights that might, accidentally, be even more enlightening than a stash of letters can be.
How do you pin a life to the page?
Wilson, biographer of Tolstoy, C. A mystery exists at the heart of all literary biography: How does the mush of experience get turned into glittering artifact? America , by looking at maps, by studying visual images, and other sources beyond traditional archives. Explore this website and you'll find audio recordings of many interesting academic talks and some transcripts.
But thanks to a number of striking innovations, the patient has made a complete recovery. Alison Flood, The Guardian, When you can get so much from Wikipedia, is the market for biography declining? Kathryn Holeywell, organizer of a British conference of writers and academics on how biography should evolve in the age of the internet and Wikipedia, "believes there has been a shift in biography away from traditional 'life' narratives to what she is calling 'partial lives,' stories that look at a group, a particular event or an age.
In recent years, the UK's major non-fiction prize, the Samuel Johnson award, has gone to a range of innovative, sideways takes on biography rather than cradle-to-grave narratives. In Nocera's view, Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, written about a difficult man who was dying in his presence, lacks the distance that would have given him a chance not just to recount the life but to evaluate it.
Given the perspective of more time, someone else or Isaacson later can try to "make sense of it. Rockefeller to George Washington, and how their public reputations often concealed a far more interesting private person An artificial logic imposed on an 'incoherent succession of images'? What manifests as suspense on the page feels disconcertingly like anxiety in real life. Joseph Thomas, Slate, His censorious estate.
And yet my latest subject, Krystyna Skarbek, aka Christine Granville, has taught me to respect her freedom too Kate Buford's interview with him, yields gold: " A first-rate popular biography leaves readers feeling they know everything they need to know. A first-rate academic biography leaves readers feeling they know everything there is to know. Excellent insight into the life of Penelope Fitzgerald and the writing of her biography. Read this especially if you feel you've had a run of bad luck. Jamie's practical observations about writing biography, such as what's hot, how to make money, what he thinks about academic publishers and self-publishing, etc.
Although many writers leave instructions regarding posthumous publication and designate official biographers, conflicting interests between heirs and the public often overturn the expressed wishes of the deceased, writes Hamilton. God, what goes on there under his eyes? When writer AD Harvey invented an meeting between Dickens and Dostoevsky, it was for years accepted as fact.
So why did he do it — and why did he also create a series of fake academic identities? Fascinating profile of a man whose speed at finishing his dissertation and publishing a book made him suspect in academia. Rockefeller recommends that students of biography read Churchill's book about Monroe. She shows persuasively, and with flair, that not every biography of Monroe can be true in all the details, because they contradict each other profoundly.
Her book will burn into students' minds the lesson that biographical truth should never be taken for granted. Greene James Nye, Daily Mail, , illustrated with photos. Fashion and celebrity photographer Milton H. Greene was only 26 years old when he photographed Marilyn Monroe for Look magazine. He went on to take thousands of photos of the Hollywood siren, capturing both her vulnerability and her sex-bomb persona. Carl Rollyson wrote: "a fascinating study of biography as a genre and why it has incurred so much hostility.
Parker's process arrives to the truth of the matter in a field littered with the rambling surmises of New Critics hoping to eradicate authorial insight in favor of critical skewerings. Parker not only stands for the tried and true ways of literary tradition, but also embraces the potential of the Internet and blogging to enable the potential of new information as well as finding new ways to reach an audience that continues to expand generation after generation. Excellent New Yorker essay, The Historical Romance: Edmund Wilson's Adventures with Communism , in which Menand writes: "Intuitive knowledge—the sense of what life was like when we were not there to experience it—is precisely the knowledge we seek.
It is the true positive of historical work. Birzer, The Imaginative Conservative, Biography, it seems, carried about as much weight in the scholarly world as did a People magazine article. She learned a lot about her grandmother through her biographer's research. She would never have learned it herself, she says; you don't think about investigating your grandmother.
Ian Ker Oxford University Press blog, on writing academic critical biographies -- which capture the subject's intellectual and literary lives: G. Dwight Garner, reviewing T. Stiles accusing Edward J. Renehan Jr. Ross wrote this now-classic fly-on-the-wall "profile" after following Hemingway for two days while he and his wife Mary were stopping over in New York enroute to Venice. It was a model others, including Gay Talese, would follow. Johnson's life. Interesting on the process of writing a biography.
Johnson, she stayed at his Texas ranch Jobs was dying of cancer Contemporary biography has always been a tricky balancing act, even before Paula Broadwell demonstrated with her book about David H. Petraeus how the scales can tip decisively the wrong way. Look at the slideshow of Caro's painstaking process , especially slides 7 through Lyndall Gordon anticipates a new 'golden age' of biography: "If biography is ever to shape an art of its own, it will have to surrender the swollen tome of "definitive biography" We need to co-opt the narrative momentum of stories, the inward intensity of poetry, and the speed of drama, without surrendering the authenticity that is biography's distinct advantage.
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What happens when a biographer learns about potentially explosive information after the book is finished. Unidentified key players are the bane of biographers, who cannot resist the urge to tie all the knots. After publication, Sachs receives information about one such player from a reader fluent in genealogical research--and also learns he should have gone down one peripheral path of research he had chosen not to pursue.
By redacting all documents, no matter how benign, the government is throwing its past down the memory hole. Supreme Court, What he did about a controversial quotation that left an unwarranted blot on the life and legacy of Justice Clark. In earlier days, biographies were created a variety of forms and with different purposes from today: to edify and instruct, to counsel and polemicize.
With a memoir, they can talk about what they related to in the story. And when done right with truth it satisfies our craving for authenticity. But there are a hell of a lot of facts, and the more time I spent in the Johnson library, the more facts I got. The more facts you get, the closer you come to whatever truth there is. If the searing emotionalism found in the work of most repeat memoirists Angelou, Augusten Burroughs, Mary Karr, Jamaica Kincaid, Joyce Maynard, Frank McCourt, Lauren Slater would seem to have been generated by forces other than those fueling writers who, at the end of, or well into, their careers, tack on a few autobiographical works to their oeuvres Diana Athill, Gore Vidal , one quality unites all these writers.
Their lingua franca is candor. Save money on therapy. Write your life story. Styron is author of the memoir Reading My Father , and Kathryn Harrison, author of the memoir The Kiss , about dealing with memoir characters who really exist and other challenges. Are family loyalty and literary integrity necessarily at odds?
The Unacknowledged Lesson: Earl Warren and the Japanese Relocation Controversy
The story can become less authentic. And there are other potential pitfalls to writing your life story. Writers can be thrown into despair if they have trouble reconciling past failures or placing traumatic events into a larger context. People who can construct cohesive life narratives—where there are common threads and one event leads to the next—are likely to benefit from writing a memoir, he says, while those who view their lives as a series of random, unrelated events are not.
His research has found that life narratives are especially beneficial if they focus on redemption and overcoming adversity. But secrets foster a specific version of reality in which the individual pieces have to be arranged in a particular way, fitting so neatly together that if just one were to change position, the whole picture would fall apart. Suddenly you are not who you thought you were.
And then who are you? They speak of a fear of rejection, a fear of criticism, a fear of backlash, a fear of failure. What I always say to these women is, 'If you can't do it for yourself, please do it for your sisters. Please write your story in the world, for the benefit of other women. Lakin, on Jane Friedman's blog, Choose the type of voice that best suits the story you are telling. Avoid sounding whiny or looking for sympathy it's annoying. And "I have grown to understand that people have their own ideas of who and what I ought to be, wounded victim or heroic survivor.
They may enjoy the attention or be enraged by it. Stalled, with three unsatisfactory manuscripts in a drawer and an MFA in creative writing, Herron discovered through NaNoWriMo National Novel Writing Month that her best process was to write a "fast terrible [but revisable] draft," a process that she found worked for both memoirs and novels. Who cares? What's the conflict to be resolved? Are you believable? What's your platform how people know you and why they will listen to you? Jack Smith, The Writer, A long miscellany of observations about what makes some memoirs rise above the crowd, and some things seem to stand out: Voice is important, the quota for memoirs of abusive relationships has been filled, and you want to do more than tell the cumulative little stories of your life -- you want to tell your story in such a way that it resonates for the reader, who wants to keep reading.
It has to be about more than you. People have come to Finnegan to say that, really, Barbarian Days is not about surfing but about love or obsession or how to live. I later learned that memoirs in general sell better than investigative journalism. How many secrets can be exposed?
What if the truth is not as you remember it? They're all valid questions without easy answers, because it all depends on who you ask—and Maran Why We Write asked some heavy hitters. But to me, all these things are artificial. Life is lived in a much messier way. Our experience of life is messier than an arc with a before and after. How do they handle telling stories that might not be entirely theirs?
Reedsy is a site where self-publishing authors can find developmental editors, other kinds of editors, ghostwriters, book cover designers, publicists, and translators. By "nobodies" Adams means those who are neither generals, statesmen, nor celebrities. Frank McCourt and Mary Karr were the breakout nobodies who spawned many imitators. Adams sees 's memoirs as falling into three groups: the childhood memoir "incestuous, abusive, alcoholic, impoverished, minority, "normal," and the occasional privileged" ; the memoir of physical catastrophe "violence, quadriplegia, amputation, disease, death" ; and memoirs of mental catastrophe "madness, addiction, alcoholism, anorexia, brain damage".
It is an exploration into a family's past, a relentless hunt that unearths buried secrets with multiple layers and the uncertain motives of their keepers, and one son's attempt to fully understand the details and meaning of what has been hidden. From mental institutions to the Holocaust, from mothers and fathers to children and childhood, with its mysteries, sadness and joy--this book is one emotional ride. They can serve as springboards for those seeking higher office - and bridge-burners for those riding off into the sunset. Kojo explores the art of the political memoir - and what makes the great ones memorable and the poor ones forgettable.
End-of-career books tend to be the best because they're not campaign documents. Even if we "let it go and die with our ungrammatical pants down, the pertinent thing to remember is that in writing for our family our goal is not excellence so much as authenticity. What's she really like With each biography the challenge has been to answer the question John F. Kennedy posed when he said, "What makes journalism so fascinating and biography so interesting is the struggle to answer the question: 'What's he like? Without having to follow the dictates of the subject, the unauthorized biographer has a much better chance to penetrate the manufactured public image, which is crucial.
For, to quote President Kennedy again, "The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Concludes with her book list of fictional memoirs, some of which are memoirs that are not quite nonfiction, others of which are stories of other people posing as memoirs. Just listening to these interviews may be a memoir-writing course in itself.
Check out Kephart's book Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir "I think we have to stop imprisoning memoirs in marketing categories. Wince-inducing but maybe it's easier if you've incorporated parts of them into your memoirs. Liu, Wired, Sophie Roell, The Browser, via Salon. Legendary critic and memoirist Calvin Trillin discusses his favorite books of the genre. What may be different about a lot of the recent memoirs is the writers are not necessarily well known. Christina Haag, WSJ I once heard writing fiction described as planting a garden in the desert, and memoir as weeding in the jungle.
What I experienced was more akin to chiseling, as if all that had happened was stone, and I had only faith and a small bit of metal to find the shape, to tap out the places where meaning might lie. Invariably, to jot things down, I learned to carry a pen and index card with me wherever I went—even on beach walks clad only in a bikini. Times, , on people from our past banging on our cyberdoors, looking to set us straight on our memories.
We take half-remembered events and stitch them together to form a larger story that will, we hope, resonate with others and help them make sense of their own scraps. A first thing to ask yourself about personal narrative is: What portion of my experience will resonate with other people?
The Fry Chronicles. Stephen Fry twitter address: StephenFry , as Fast Company puts it, transforms how we read by producing the first book truly designed for the Internet his memoirs. Sanford Dody's own memoir of ghostwriting: Giving Up the Ghost James Birrens' brainchild. Structured memoir writing, two pages at a time, on a different theme each week, including branching points in life, family, health and body, sexuality, spirituality, work, death--and sharing those pieces aloud in small groups.
I got instructor training through Cheryl Svensson when she and Anita Reyes taught together. There are many local workshops and some online: I love teaching it and participants seem to love it too. It tends to draw an older group, or younger adults at a stage of life crisis or soul-searching. Now it's of Everyman. Tristram Hunt, The Observer, Excellent essay. Writing not only plays fast and loose with the past; it hijacks the past. Which may be why we put the past to paper. We want it hijacked What we want is a narrative, not a log; a tale, not a trial.
This is why most people write memoirs using the conventions not of history, but of fiction. The more you can yank yourself away from your own intimacy with yourself, the more reliable your self-awareness is likely to be We should see ourselves as literary critics, putting each incident in the perspective of a longer life story. The narrative form is a more supple way of understanding human processes, even unconscious ones, than rationalistic analysis.
See her website: Center for Journal Therapy. What's Yours? It's an act of memory. Pick at your memories. An interesting read. Proceeds from the sale of an anthology I Speak From My Palms: The In Visible Memoirs Project Anthology help support the In Visible Memoirs Project, a project of no-cost, community-based writing workshops in communities underrepresented in literary publishing and programs.
How can we achieve both uniqueness and universality? Another challenge: dealing with characters who really exist. How can we maintain our real-life relationships without compromising the stories we need to tell? Memoirists Sarah Saffian, Alexandra Styron, and Kathryn Harrison discuss these issues, in pursuit of a form of expression that we can support as both authors and daughters. What was missing and forgotten was less often crucial or even trivial details of events than the events themselves, gone in their entirety.
They alert us, calm us, reach toward us. They say implicitly, Yes, I have hoped, and yes, I have wanted, and I know that you have, too. Can a memoirist write with total honesty if she is worried about what her son might think? Christina Patterson, The Independent, Sharon Olds' account of her marital break-up made her a deserved TS Eliot winner.
But that doesn't mean confessional poetry is easy to pull off. Confessional poetry, says critic Mack Rosenthal, is poetry that "goes beyond customary bounds of reticence or personal embarrassment. Or how not to write a grief memoir, in her view. Should Joyce Carol Oates have revealed her second marriage?
Tempest in a teapot? David L. Ulin, Jacket Copy blog, L. Two of the writers withheld important facts and wound up producing inferior books; the writer who held nothing back produced a masterpiece. Joan Didion "understands that if you want to write about yourself, you have to give them something. Actually, Didion understands a far larger and deeper and darker truth. She understands that if you want to write about your grief, you have to give them everything.
My favorite: Ernest Hemingway's "For Sale: baby shoes, never worn. Elsewhere, he writes "One of the saddest sentences I know is I wish I had asked my mother about that. I wish I had asked my father about that. Writers are the custodians of memory so it's extremely important to get to people, interview your parents, your grandparents. Don't worry what anybody else thinks. The important thing is to be a recorder of the past. But it's very important work, I think, writing family history, whether anyone ever sees it or not.
Stiles, Yahoo! Scott Raab's article for Esquire, based on an interview with the novelist in the town that provided the setting for so much of his fiction, is a Notable Narrative, as featured on Nieman Storyboard: Esquire goes home with Philip Roth Plot Twist : Philip Carlo, true crime writer with Lou Gehrig's disease, is working on his memoir. His deadline: his own death.
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And therein, to me, lies the privilege and also the challenge of teaching how to write memoir. Anybody and everybody are writing memoirs these days. Before you join the crowd, suggests Genzlinger, in reviewing four memoirs. Don't write for sympathy. Don't be a copy cat. And consider making yourself the "least important character" in the story. It makes its interest in readers explicit, offering not just a series of life events, but a deliberate suggestion of what it is to be a human being — to experience confusion, despair, hope, joy, and all that happens in between.
Secrets of Memoir panel. Six-word memoirs hosted by Smith, a personal stories magazine. One life. Six words. What's yours?
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Six word memoirs on love and heartbreak. Everyone has a story to tell. The Slate Diaries. A collection of some of the "diaries" published by Slate the online literary magazines. Speak Memory. Oliver Sachs's fascinating long essay in the New York Review of Books on the nature of memory-- how we remember, misremember, and construct memories -- and borrow from what we read!
She learned that obsessive precision is not the greatest quality in a would-be memoirist. When Sting did this, his creativity was reborn. Songs exploded from his head. More should do so because artists write about what matters to artists, so it is helpful to new artists. A Story Circle is a group of women who come together on a regular basis to write, read, share, and celebrate the stories of their lives.
Clearly the method can be adapted to other types of groups. I was ecstatic when I sold a book about my sordid first marriage. I would only be pretending to be at peace with my past and ready to share its lessons with the world. I thought becoming a writer was a Cinderella, all-or-nothing type deal. But it turns out to be more of a Velveteen Rabbit situation. The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead , David Shields' excellent autobiography of his body, is a fascinating little book about life and death and about what's happening to your body enroute from one to the other.
Don't read it if you don't want to hear the bad news, but it does help explain things like why you have to make more trips to the bathroom as you age. Rules for the much-maligned form. In brief but read the article! Part 1 by Matilda Butler, Women's Memoirs blog, about truth being affected by relative age and wisdom ; Part 2 about differences in vantage points and information ; and Part 3 about the difference between two people's emotional truths. Writers wrote them, of course, but rarely did they become known for the memoir alone JR Ackerley and Laurie Lee may be two exceptions.
Publishers and readers thought instead of "autobiographies", in which intimate personal disclosure took a back seat to records of achievement. The boundary between the two forms is blurred and bridgeable: VS Pritchett's wonderful account of his early life, A Cab at the Door, was described as "autobiography" when it first appeared in , whereas now it would have "memoir" written all over it. Gore Vidal explained the difference in this way: "A memoir is how one remembers one's own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked.
More important, by stressing subjective, unverified memory it permits the memoirist to misremember and, unconsciously or otherwise, to embroider and invent — an indulgence, it has to be said, that Athill has never been interested to take. It was liberating to write so truthfully.
It was also effective. My teacher finally smiled at me, and he said my words held wisdom. Traversing the Mystery of Memory by Richard A. Friedman NY Times, About the accuracy of nostalgia and how the brain records memories. Friedman concludes: "if anything marks us as human, it's more our bent for making sense of things than for discovering the essential truth about them. For example: "The single biggest change in recent years has been the dramatic drop in advances for most biographies.
While this may seem shortsighted in the long run, it makes financial sense when considering the declining state of books. Biographies, like most forms of nonfiction, have a hard time earning back the kind of money necessary to research and write them. The story part book, part film, part family photo album of Pine Point, a mining town that existed only long enough to give a generation or two some memories--and was then erased from the map. Scroll to bottom and click on Visit Website. He's writing about fiction but offers helpful insights how memory is affected by details from reality.
Critics take grim satisfaction in tearing the genre to pieces. How quickly they forget Nabokov and Karr and Wolff. While some require the freedom of fiction, what if some stories need the pressure of truth — not because a writer perceives reality or confession as more interesting or so different from fiction, but because there is a unique dialogue that happens only in memoir between the present and the past.
Writing and publishing a memoir requires us to reveal and share your authentic self. A memoirist must attempt to avoid predetermined stories and challenge these popular narratives by plunging the subjects into a testing moment It is important for the memoirist to distinguish between what is lively detail and what is digression. But the record itself still matters; we do need to know who we are. What were the challenges of working with their subjects and their families? How did they get access to archives and research materials?
How did they find publishers? These experienced writers share stories and tips that will enlighten both jazz biography readers and would-be biography authors. This webinar is part of a monthly series produced by the Jazz Journalists Association. David Foster Wallace was inspired to write about a breakup. So are a lot of memoirists. It's not always worth it. Both ingredients—memory and story—are equally vital. Like a journal, a memoir is a passionate account of your experiences—but like a novel it has narrative structure. A journal may be eloquent, and you may choose to share it with selected others, but it is essentially a conversation with yourself.
A memoir is inherently a conversation with others. Voice, persona, and point of view in memoir "Just as in everyday life we laugh and cry, show anger and sadness, so, too, for personal essayists and memoirists, one voice is rarely enough. Memoirists, for example need different voices in order to reveal the complexity of a life. You may need to twine a child voice with an adult voice; a lyric voice with a comic voice; a sober voice with an out-of-control voice.
How she loved, feared, yearned. This embodies the mysterious nature of memory, upon which memoir and much of adult life rests. And how to find a suitable prose style for it. You start with an interesting voice; the rest follows. If the voice is strong enough, the reader will go anywhere with you. They are very surface-oriented. In memoir, the only through-line is character represented by voice. In memoir, you are that main character.
It has to engage your emotions in some way. You need two things for the text to move forward. And so my review will be less about this book's extraordinary perspective on the Holocaust more broadly and specifically about the predicament and response of the Jewish community in Britain. Other reviews have addressed that achievement very effectively. What I want to comment on and celebrate, as a student of biography, is Haber's remarkable control of the narrative voice she uses in this painfully moving book.
I would argue the most difficult task of all for a memoirist is reaching back in her memory and giving the reader the perspective she had then, early in her life, rather than the meaning she now imparts to it as an adult. Haber might have chosen to pronounce truths about that stage in her life as she now understands them. But instead she finds a way as a writer to put us back there with a little girl who has no idea what is happening to her, not only within the greater drama of Britain at war and London under attack, but even more intensely the mysteries of her own predicament as a child imperfectly loved, occasionally abandoned, and consistently refused warnings or explanations.
So we wander and wonder with her, we never know why certain things were done, only that they were done. We can manage anything, even in a world at war, even as a child, if adults around us understand what we are emotionally owed, what we need to get through. There were some such adults in this child's life, but not enough, and not always. So read this book because of the history it conveys, but mostly read it to understand what it is to be a child. By the end, I was finishing years of study of nonfiction form, hours of writing workshops with invested peers and mentors in the same field.
So when my point of view as the narrator changes, it is through an integral change of the persona itself. I was more aware of myself, and more in tune with my surroundings, by the end of the writing process, so I resisted changing earlier bits to make myself look smarter. I just left in my initial excitements and lack of knowledge. Into those surrogates will be poured all that the writer cannot address directly -- inappropriate longings, s defensive embarrassments, anti-social desires -- but must address to achieve felt reality.