I'm delighted to offer blog space to Joanne Lozar Glenn, a member of my beloved prompt group, who has come out with a fantastic new book that expands the boundaries of memoir beyond the written word.... (If you're wondering if this book might make a good gift for the unconventional memoirist in your life, the answer is YES: it's beautifully produced with lots of lovely full-color photographs and welcoming, reader-friendly design!)
Memoir Your Way: Making Memoir More Inclusive
By Joanne Lozar Glenn
One fall afternoon a few years ago, several colleagues and I were enjoying brunch and sharing stories related to our work with other writers. We soon realized that each of us was creating memoirs in interesting and unconventional forms: cookbooks, scrapbooks, quilts, and more—forms that haven’t traditionally been considered part of the genre. It was an “aha” moment.
Memoir wasn’t just for writers. Memoir could be for everyone.
That moment grew into a book—Memoir Your Way: Tell Your Story Through Writing, Recipes, Quilts, Graphic Novels, and More (Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2016)—that we hope inspires “history-keepers” to view and create memoir in ways they’d never thought of before.
As memoir creators, teachers, and crafters, we see these history-keepers in our classrooms every day. They are mothers and daughters hoping to preserve family traditions, recipes, and the stories they and their children tell. They are immigrants seeking to bridge their old and new lives and veterans eager to record their war experiences. They are older people revisiting the adventures of their youth, and younger people working it all out as they mine their experience. Our book suggests alternative “containers” these story-keepers can adapt to their purpose.
Extending the written memoir form to cookbooks, comics, quilts, and other multimedia storytelling formats includes rather than excludes would-be memoirists who are not writers. It encourages them to preserve their histories while still adhering to the key principles of memoir: memoir is a slice of life remembered and reflected upon, and it is always two stories—the memory, and the meaning we make of it.
As memoir writers know, crafting a memoir can be surprisingly satisfying. By bringing our memories into the world in a concrete form, we can step back and see our experiences in a different, and often healing, light. Why restrict this satisfaction to those who have a talent for writing? The last sketch, the last stitch, the last drop of glue can open the door to a whole new way of seeing and even being.
Beyond that, this: Memories fade, and sometimes history is rewritten. If those memories are not preserved, they’re lost forever.
When we turn memories into memoir, we build a bridge between the past and the future. What better way to do that than to encourage innovative, less text-centric ways of saying, “I was here. I mattered.”?