Can Young People Write Memoir?
May 20, 2015 § 11 Comments
Leslie Jamison offers up her usual incisive brilliance in a NY Times book review discussion titled “Should There Be a Minimum Age for Writing a Memoir?” Here’s a bit, followed by the link:
I probably shouldn’t venture any further into my defense of young memoir before acknowledging that I’m a young writer who has written about my life. I’ve got skin in the game. And my skin flinches, in particular, at the second part of Yardley’s argument: the notion that even those who have had experiences worth narrating will be “too young to know what to make of them,” which feels like a willfully reductive evasion of a more complicated truth.
I do see where the critique comes from. In its sophisticated form, it’s a call for drafting and revision, for the ways we can productively re-examine our own stories and dig underneath our familiar narratives of self to find the more surprising layers beneath. The work of this excavation can often happen more easily with distance. But it seems futile to project categorical algorithms onto when this excavation can happen — how long it will take, how many birthdays it requires.
Of course someone will look back at his first broken heart with a different perspective at the age of 40, or 60, or 80. But that doesn’t mean that these perspectives are better, or that our self-understanding travels toward some telos of perfect consummation with every passing year…
Benjamin Moser’s take, following Jamison’s, is well worth reading too: