On the Liberating Power of Memoir

September 28, 2011 § 2 Comments


From Brevity’s Managing Editor Sarah Einstein:

Lindsay Miller, in her recent essay, “The Cultural and Political Power of the Personal Memoir,” writes about the way in which reading memoir connects us to people who are, well, not us, and how writing memoir can be an act of rebellion. Though we might quibble with her assertion that memoirs by women are, by definition, more rebellious or liberating than memoirs by men—both genders, after all, face repression, shame, fear, restrictions, and all of the other problems memoirs often address—we fully agree with what she says about the power of the genre:

These books have the power to undo just a little bit of the cultural conditioning that has us assuming we know people based on their gender, their ethnicity, where they’re from, or how they dress. Texts like these create a space for greater nuance, for women making bold and unconventional choices, finding paths to genuine happiness even through the restrictions in their way. They remind us that no obstacle is insurmountable, that even under the most brutal oppression, people fall in love, build families, create art.

Read Miller’s full essay at The Atlantic.

§ 2 Responses to On the Liberating Power of Memoir

  • This is definitely one to keep and pass around! I love the way Miller articulates the immense value of cnf has to expand worldviews and deepen the human experience. A terrific essay to give students!

  • jerrywaxler says:

    Oh, don’t get me started quibbling about *that* – but there is no quibble. Her assertion that it expands women’s horizons is true, just as it is true for men. In Azar Nafisi’s stunning memoir, Reading Lolita, she expands the conversation about gender, culture, politics, and even the role of literature in our understanding of life. Memoirs enhance our vocabulary about the entire human drama, by letting us see each other and ourselves through the prism of thousands of minds.

    Jerry
    Memory Writers Network

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