I couldn’t have said it better myself, so I’m not really going to try.
I encourage you to read this insightful piece, “The Memoir of Discovery (Not Recovery)” by Debra Monroe about the publishing industry’s fixation on what she calls “trauma” memoir — the idea that a memoir is only worth writing or publishing if there’s some major trauma that drives the story.
This is not to say that traumatic stories are not worth telling. But they should be part of the memoir spectrum, not overtake the genre.
Thankfully, we have small presses and university presses that are willing to publish beautifully rendered memoirs that offer reflection, discovery, and a slice of life.
It wasn’t until Monroe’s piece that I realized I have always gravitated to those “smaller,” quieter stories. It’s probably because I most closely identify with those stories, having lived a relatively trauma-free life.
My favorite discovery, not recovery, memoirs:
- Blue Arabesque by Patricia Hampl (I so want to write a book exactly like this)
- The Summer of Ordinary Ways by Nicole Helget
- The Witness of Combines by Kent Meyers
- Memory of Trees by Gayla Marty
What are your favorite discovery memoirs? How about trauma memoirs? I loved The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls but because it was written with such humor and grace, she didn’t wallow in the fact she had a rough life growing up.