Memoirs such as The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, The Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt bring to life political and historical events in ways that no other narrative can achieve, engaging the critical faculties of students of literature and providing exemplary models to student writers. In our classes, many students view writing as tedious and literature as dull. Memoirs can change that. These texts offer vividly drawn personalized points of view that collide with the world outside, a world with which students may be familiar and can identify or one about which they are curious and want to know more. Memoirs have the power to transform your literature and writing classes, infusing them with energy, because students are reading and writing with passion.
The memoir is so versatile that, just by changing the reading list, we can focus our classes in a myriad of ways. Memoir can be used as textbooks for writing the personal narrative, first and second year composition, and for courses examining Latinx/women/African-American literature or any world literature. Texts that come to mind include Moments of Being by the British writer Virginia Woolf, Hunger of Memory by Chicano journalist Richard Rodriguez, and Out of Place by the Palestinian Edward Said. The memoir as a model of good writing exemplifies the elements of fiction from which every memoirist draws to tell his or her story.
Reading, Writing, Literacy, and Learning
English instructor, Communications, Nova University
I am a college English instructor and author of the book Leaving Little Havana: A Memoir of Miami's Cuban Ghetto published by Beating Windward Press (2014). The book received the 2015 International Latino Book Award: first place for the most inspirational nonfiction narrative. I have published short stories and essays in publications such as Latina Magazine, Vista Magazine and Accent Miami. I started my career as a journalist and have worked for The Stockton Record, The San Francisco Chronicle and television stations in South Florida.