All About Me?
The state of the modern memoir.
Welcome to Memoir Week at Slate. Over the next three days, our critics will be weighing in on new memoirs. What has been most striking to us at Slate is how many memoirs these days are anything but coming-of-age stories; instead, they tackle issues and subjects larger than the self. Elizabeth Rubin and Mike Vazquez dissect the story of Ishmael Beah, who became a child soldier in Sierra Leone at the age of 12. Ann Hulbert looks at two memoirs about autism and asks why autism has become a metaphor for our times. Stephen Metcalf studies the scarlet history of the biography. Jess Row returns to Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior to see how this seminal memoir holds up. And Meghan O'Rourke and Dan Chiasson discuss the role of autobiography in poetry 40 years after Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath helped start a vogue in confessional poetry.
We'll also offer a series of short essays by memoirists on the experience of publishing a book about their lives. Sean Wilsey reflects on his stepmother's threat of a lawsuit following the publication of his memoir, Oh the Glory of It All. Mary Karr recollects telling her friends she was writing about them in The Liar's Club and Cherry. Alison Bechdel meditates on how memoirs hurt your family. Plus: Frank McCourt on being the most hated man in Ireland; Rich Cohen on his family's feud over the Sweet'N Low fortune; and much, much more. Enjoy.
"A Brief History of Memoir-Bashing: It's almost as old as the memoir itself," by Ben Yagoda. Posted March 30, 2007.
"For Whom the Memoir Tolls: How to write about the dead," by Allen Shawn. Posted March 29, 2007.
"Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone," by Elizabeth Rubin and Mike Vazquez. Posted March 29, 2007.
"Collateral Damage: How I told a former lover I had written about him," by Edmund White. Posted March 29, 2007.
"Just Screw It: Writing about my family's feud over the Sweet'n Low fortune," by Rich Cohen. Posted March 29, 2007.
"Momma's Boy: How I wrote a memoir about the mother I once hated," by John Dickerson. Posted March 28, 2007.
"Inside Autism: What two memoirs can tell us about the disease du jour," by Ann Hulbert. Posted March 28, 2007.
"Ivory-Tower Ambassador: The studying, and selling, of America," by Christopher Benfey. Posted March 28, 2007.
"In a Land Far, Far Away: How I wrote a memoir about my father," by Danielle Trussoni. Posted March 28, 2007.
"Publish, Then Flee: How to tell your family you're writing about them," by Sean Wilsey. Posted March 28, 2007.
"Road to Nowhere: My life as a victim of Hurricane Katrina and the ineffectual Road Home program," by Blake Bailey. Posted March 27, 2007.
"When Irish Tongues Are Talking: How I told my colleagues, family, and former countrymen I was writing about them," by Frank McCourt. Post March 27, 2007.
"The Woman Warrior at 30: Maxine Hong Kingston's secrets and lies," by Jess Row. Posted March 27, 2007.
"My, Myself, and I: The role of autobiography in contemporary poetry," by Dan Chiasson and Meghan O'Rourke. Posted March 27, 2007.
"What the Little Old Ladies Feel: How I told my mother about my memoir," by Alison Bechdel. Posted March 27, 2007.
"The Liars' Club: How I told my friends I was writing about my childhood—and what they said in return," by Mary Karr. Posted March 27, 2007.
Illustration by Jason Raish.