Five lessons you can get from reading memoirs

You are probably aware of memoir’s dark reputation in literature. For a long time–stretching to today–the mind of some readers and non-readers has been tainted by stereotypical beliefs such as:

“Memoirs are written by narcissists.”
“Memoirs tell really sad, ugly, traumatizing stories.”
“There are obscene and illegal truths exposed in memoirs.”

Although the ditto beliefs may be true for some memoirs, such perspective hinders readers from appreciating the unique beauty of the literary form–more so, from pulling out a really-good and light-read memoir in a bookshelf.

In fact, some fiction novelists whose works these people might be reading have sold out millions of copies of their first memoir–Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie, and Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. There also exist contemporary memoirs like Educated by Tara Westover, Becoming by Michelle Obama, and Wild by Cheryl Strayed that are excellent-reads and do not tell obscene, illegal truths, or traumatizing stories unlike what memoirs are stereotyped for.

Actually, there is an awful lot of lessons that you can get from reading memoirs which you’ll most likely observe when you look at them collectively—and which you don’t want to miss. Here are just five of those:

  1. You are not alone. Memoirs make you realize that life didn’t specifically pick you for that hardship. Chances are somebody–who is as real as a memoirist–has gone through a similar struggle, felt the same way as you do, and thought like you do. That’s the comfort that only true-to-life stories can give.
  2. Your thoughts and feelings are important. Memoirs are not just a telling of facts, but also a narration of an event colored by the author’s thoughts, feelings, and reflections. It’s the “being” of the memoirist that gives meaning, thrill, and impact to the story. This teaches the reader to pay attention to his/her own thoughts and feelings since they are, after all, important in living.
  3. Life takes care of facts, you take care of meaning. A memoir can be considered as a written quest for truth and significance in somebody’s past. The author does not merely leave that portion of his/her past to oblivion but searches for the purpose of it in the greater scheme of things. It makes the reader remember to consciously find meaning in the daily events of his/her life.
  4. You can only tell your story based on how you view it. Memoirs tell the author’s emotional facts or what he/she perceives as true. This is why it takes bravery, humility, and honesty to write a good memoir because it is revelatory. Readers usually feel very familiar with the author after perusing his/her story since they were, in a way, submerged inside the author’s mind and heart throughout the book. Memoirs remind us that everything’s just based on perspective.
  5. We are all connected. Memoirs prove that humans are different yet the same, apart yet united, alone yet together. Life, love, loss, hope, dreams, and fears pull us into a parallel journey. We can relate to one another in one, two, or more ways regardless of our differences in nation, race, and heredity. Our written stories show us that.

If you don’t read memoirs, you might want to give it a try. We are all a walking library–a living summation of all our written, unwritten, and still-being-written stories, the resulting persona that comes out of the amalgamation of our past, ongoing present, and awaiting future. Why not read a book from another person’s library and learn from it? Read memoirs. You have, after all, a memoirist in you.

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