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Histories of Our Own

Amy Leibowitz historical fiction memoir writing

This month, we've been focusing on historical fiction. Today, I'm talking about a different kind of history: our own.

Most people probably have an idea of what "historical" means. The word often conjures images of times long past. We might now think of the mid-20th century as history, since it's more than fifty years gone. We might even think of the 1970s, 80s, or 90s as history because they're part of the last century. We may think of history in terms of large-scale events such as wars or national crises.

Note what all those have in common. They're all about a time period or event, something that isn't necessarily personal. But what about our own histories? We all have them.

Memoirs are a way to condense our lives into that same type of historical narrative. They may be about our experiences, but they also capture an era through our eyes. They can be fictionalized or not, depending on the author's way of storytelling. The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder are fictionalized memoir. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, by Roxane Gay, is not.

There are different terms we might use when talking about telling our own stories. Autobiography, memoir, fictionalized memoir, semi-autobiographical. There are many ways to write about our lives and experiences. If you're thinking about writing an autobiography or memoir, here is a good resource to get you started. There are a number of helpful links in the article.

Maybe writing about yourself, directly or indirectly, isn't your thing. You might be more interested in writing about the time period in which you grew up or came of age. Or maybe you prefer writing about similar or parallel experiences to yours, capturing primarily the emotions rather than the events. There are infinite avenues of expressing ourselves through writing, in ways that help readers understand where we've come from and how far we have still to go.

If you enjoy reading about real people and their real lives, here are some lists of great memoirs to get you started:

Best Memoirs of All Time

Amazon Best Sellers: Memoir

Goodreads Memoir Lists

10 Famous Memoirs Everyone Should Read Once

100 Must-Read Memoirs

17 Memoirs by Women You Should Add to Your Reading List

Are there memoirs you recommend? Let us know. Happy reading!

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