In 2019 my partner, who happens to be an English professor, wrote a memoir for her sabbatical. Aside from being an absolutely great read, by turns witty and profound and even shocking, the piece concluded with what we in the profession call apparatus, or how-to’s and questions and whatnot designed to help students as they produce their own writings for a first-year college composition course.
As I say, though, it was an entertaining and enlightening read. Hmm, thought I, maybe I should attempt such a product, too...
On the one hand, of course, no one would ever, ever want to read the memoir of someone who isn’t famous. Period. In fact, your own adult kids, even if you gave them their own copies, only just maybe, mayyyyybe ever might want to read the thing. Maybe.
On the other hand, although the writing likely begins slowly and hesitantly, even a bit embarrassedly—and although the aspirant always must keep in mind that whereas an autobiography covers one’s whole life, a memoir is focused around some topic—the project can be a wonderful learning experience. Long-forgotten memories well up, for example, and previously unseen connections suddenly become apparent.
So I took a whack, and after a number of months I finished. In Tiger Hunts, Thunder Bay, and Treasure Chests I investigate the fatherless path to my own turn at fatherhood. The book spans two continents on opposite sides of the world, tracing threads through seven generations of my family, and is interspersed with over 50 pages of family photographs covering nearly 140 years.
Perhaps my kids eventually will read the copies I have for them, or perhaps not. But first I wrote it for myself, and in that I succeeded.