Write Your Memoirs!

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My memoirs? Who would be interested in my memoirs?

A future historian or novelist, that’s who.

I am fortunate to have two unpublished memoirs, written by contemporaries of my grandmother Ella, the main character of my next novel. These documents are invaluable. They describe the memoirist’s dwellings, the food she ate, the schooling she received, her life goals, and on and on. These are details that I cannot find in history books, not even in cultural histories.

So give a hand to a struggling writer or scholar who, 50 years or 150 years in the future, will find your life story fascinating.

Maybe you don’t want to help a future historian. Don’t step away from that keyboard quite yet.

Your family will love your memoirs, even if you just write down all the stories you love to tell. In writing these tales you are sharing your voice, your hopes, your disappointments, sharing a gift only you can give.

My father, who died 15 years ago, wrote his memoirs. Now and again I will take his book off the shelf and read a passage or two. It warms my soul, makes me feel close to him, even though he is no longer here.

When I first read my father’s memoir, I discovered things he had never told me. Some incidents he omitted just because he never thought to tell me. But he also never disclosed some episodes that were too painful: He never told me his best high school friend, the man who would become his brother-in-law, was murdered in the Nazi camps.

My father’s memoirs give me a more precise picture of who he was, a path to understand him more fully.

Still not convinced that you should write your memoirs?

Then consider yourself. Consider the things you will discover when you write your memoirs.

When I started work on my novel, Becoming Mia, I was convinced that my hometown, Berkeley, California, was progressive. After some research I discovered that the Berkeley schools were segregated, that real estate was red-lined, that, though there were no laws against serving blacks in certain restaurants, such bans were “understood.” By writing Mia, I got a clearer picture of the environment I grew up in.

And I understood myself better. I understood why I felt the way I did 50 years ago. I loosed my grasp on some of the “truths” I have held most of  my life. I became more understanding of where I have been and what I have done. I became comfortable with myself.

So, for future generations, for your family, and for yourself, start writing your memoirs!

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