View Full Version : Memoir or Autobiography?

01-26-2007, 08:47 PM
As far as I understand it, a memoir is a personal recollection or reflection on one's life, rather than a more factual and chronological history.

However it is often said that a memoir is supposed to deal only with a specific time period or event in a person's life, so I'm confused as to whether my book about my life from the age of 5 to age 30 can still be considered a memoir?

It does cover some basic themes that are all bound together so does that alone make it a memoir?

I know it may be a matter of semantics but I want to be clear on how to most accurately promote this to prospective literary agents and publishers.

01-26-2007, 11:23 PM
Why would someone want to read your life story from 5 to 30?

For example, if you were crippled by polio at five, and outgrew a wheelchair at 29, that would tie it together.

A memoir is about a condition (born with a rare heart defect but now you have a new heart) or problem you have (falsely imprisoned in Mexico) , or a thing you did (walk across the Rockies)

You have to seriously ask yourself why someone would want to read your story. The answer should tell you the direction and the time period to cover. For example, if you went to Mexico on vacation and spent five years in prison because you were incorrectly identified, your childhood would probably not be relevant.

Hope those examples help.

I am by no means an expert but I have written a soon-to-be published memoir about growing up with Asperger's syndrome.

01-27-2007, 12:47 AM
Frank McCourt's books (Angela's Ashes, 'Tis, and Teacher Man) are considered memoir, and they span from his early childhood to his older years.

My understanding is that a memoir is about you (perhaps a particular event, like Alice Sebold's Lucky or your life as in McCourt's case), and deals with the more emotional side of the story rather than the factual side.

Yes, in both you're telling the truth, but memoir isn't as...dry...as autobiography.

Does that make sense?

01-27-2007, 10:13 AM
Thank you Nicole, that makes sense.

Johnrobinson: Thank you also for your comments. There is a common thread that binds all of the chapters of the book together, repeating and related themes in my life, which has been very unconventional and unique to say the least. My story isn't based on one particular event or monumental life experience but rather a semi-humorous look at my life so far and the multitude of personal experiences that have shaped who I am today.

01-27-2007, 10:18 AM
Thank you Nicole, that makes sense.

I'm glad I could help!