The local newspaper had a tasty article about cookie balls. It tells the story of a teacher who received round sweet treats from a student. She couldn’t figure out what they were, but she knew the treats weren’t cake balls.
The article explains that the centers of cake balls include a mix of cake crumbs and icing. The cookie balls blend cream cheese and ground sandwich cookies (Oreos and Nutter Butter, for example). A clear cut definition, wouldn’t you say? Unlike cookie and cake balls, the boundaries between memoirs and autobiographies blur.
I could quote the definition of memoir from many dictionaries, but instead I will share Writer’s Digest‘s definition. WD editor Brian A. Klems explains the difference between memoir and autobiography.
An autobiography focuses on the chronology of the writer’s entire life while a memoir covers one specific aspect of the writer’s life.
Christina Katz commented that she needs to read more because so many great memoirs await. (She must’ve read my mind because after I drafted this post, she published a list of memoir recommendations.) So I started thinking about the memoirs I’ve read and couldn’t recall a single one until I checked my books read list [pdf] (thank goodness for the list and Goodreads). In reviewing the first part of the looonnnngggg list, most were essays, autobiographies or neither. Like WD says, Amazon does put memoirs and biographies together.
I can’t think of a memoir that focuses on one aspect of a person’s life. Oh, wait! What about Henry Kisor’s What’s That Pig Outdoors?: A Memoir of Deafness? The book focuses on Kisor’s experiences as a person who is deaf. But he shares a variety of stages in his life. So does that count as a memoir? Autobiography?
Christina’s list includes Stephen King’s On Writing, which I’ve started reading. Like Kisor, the book revolves around one topic (can you guess?) throughout his life. So does that mean Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott qualifies as a memoir?
Sounds like I need an memoir education beyond the fabulous guest post from Linda Joy Myers. Bet many others want to know the same thing.
What are your favorite memoirs? Why? What do you think of the distinction between memoir and autobiography?
klatsch n. “A casual social gathering, usually for conversation.” Source: The Free Dictionary AKA A meryl.net blog post centered on a discussion topic.