My answer to that question is no. I don’t understand why someone would find my life particularly interesting. I was alive when a lot of interesting things happened, space landing, color TV, Kennedy shot, Berlin Wall built and torn down, to name a few. But so were millions of people. I emigrated. I had a ‘normal’ childhood – I measure normal by the ‘overprotective parents and the battle of the eldest child for freedom’ standard.
What makes the difference between “I was there” and a great memoir?
I think it has to do with more than being a passive attendee. I think great memoirs are about participating. Politicians and actors and other entertainers (you must find politics entertaining or else you just might cry) have stories to tell about how they changed the world. How they overcame the odds. How they would do things differently. Some are great stories, some are not worth the time you put in reading them.
There is something about a survivor memoir that gets interest. Surviving sexual, physical or emotional abuse tells the world you have something different. So many people don’t survive, they collapse under the awful weight of the past and live with a burden no one can help carry.
A survivor memoir can help other people survive. Adults who were abused and found a way to live a full and happy life have something to teach. They found a way to heal the damage. They have a happy ending.
Overcoming addiction memoirs
Like the survivor memoirs people who have overcome addiction have a story that can help people still stuck there. Their stories take us to hell and back, always an exciting trip when it’s happening to someone else. The most interesting (to me anyway) are the ones that reveal a talent or passion that was being eaten by the addiction.
I was more than just there historical memoirs
So, like I mentioned above, I was alive for a lot of the key milestones of recent history. Was I there? I don’t think so. I experienced them as a spectator. But the number of people who were there gets smaller and smaller as time passes. Fifty years ago the Guggenheim opened in New York, Castro defeated Batista, and the Dalai Lama fled China. If you were a participant, or those events changed your life, your story could be interesting.
So, what’s your answer? Is your memoir going to hit the best seller lists?