Thursday, 15 September 2011


In answer to the Alternative Read blog question: Would you be honest enough to write your personal thoughts, feelings and actions in a memoir?

Memoirs, unlike an autobiography, are not necessarily a person's life story, but snapshots of selected aspects. They usually carry a theme or common threads which are woven through it and which carry a message, perhaps for the greater good.

Ideally, they should be as true to life as possible, but the vagaries of memory, as we all know, can play tricks. Does it matter if they are not totally accurate? No, I don't believe so. It is the communication of the core theme that is most important.

We generally associate memoir writing with people of advanced years, yet they are not age dependent. A person of any age, particularly if they have a powerful message to convey, can write their memoirs. For example, a child who has lived through abuse, a young person who has conquered drug/alcohol addiction, someone living and coping with a disability.

Writing about one's innermost thoughts and feelings, however, although a purgative, may also be extremely painful. So why do people do it?

In the case of victims, it may be altruistic, a desire to help others in similar situations, but many memoirs, as we know, focus on celebrities whose stories might carry little depth. So why do they sell?

Our obsession with looking into other people's lives is a type of voyeurism; some argue it is due to the fragmentation of cohesive family interactions, a substitute for the lack of a 'real' life of our own. Nor is this obsession limited to memoirs. Magazines pay dividends for people's anecdotal stories - and the more shocking, the better. TV soaps, confessional chat shows and fly-on-the-wall shows like Big Brother all exploit our seemingly insatiable curiosity about other people's lives.

But I digress. Back to the question, would I spill out my personal thoughts, feelings and actions in a memoir? The short answer is not for publication purposes - I am too private a person for that. However, I may well write my memoirs at some future stage for the eyes of family and friends.

Why? I am inspired by my late father who, in the later years of his life, incapacitated by strokes, spent much of his time revisiting his youth and writing his own memoirs. In them, he does not spill out feelings explicitly, but the story of a working class lad who defies all the odds through sheer determination and hard work carries a subliminal message of hope that if we believe in ourselves we can succeed. The result is a treasured legacy of stories which form a wonderful source of comfort, joy and pride to the family. Moreover, memoirs of this nature can be passed down to future generations so that our grandchildren and their children can gain an understanding from whence they came.


  1. That would make a beautiful memoir! I think people outside of your family would find it inspirational as well. He sounds like a wonderful person.

  2. loved your post. Doing it for family is so inspirational