Tuesday, November 4, 2014

NaBloPoMo: Reading Others' Mini-Autobiographies

One of our tasks this first week of my class was reading and responding to each others' mini-autobiographical sketches, reflecting on them in a separate discussion board forum, and incorporating our responses to this week's reading.

What was primarily interesting to me in reading my classmates' autobiographies was what my classmates chose to include. I've grown tired of the introductions in which folks unilateraly begin with the number, ages, genders, and names of their children. While children are certainly integral to their parents' lives, I'm interested in hearing other aspects of people's lives - where people work, yes, but even beyond that: who do they like to read, where they've lived or traveled to, or where they'd like to live or travel to. (My reactions are at least as much the result in a place where one is almost always asked immediately about the size of one's family, and if one does not have a family, one gets dropped like a hot potato.) I appreciate knowing that others define themselves in a multifaceted way, that there isn't just one aspect that is The Most Important to the Exclusion of Everything Else, and that others can be introspective.

Thomas' point, in Thinking About Memoir, that writing was the way in which she grounded herself, a practice that allows her to make sense of her life and find meanings resonated with me, since I find myself writing for similar purposes. I love reading, but I have no interest in creative writing myself; yet writing itself serves another purpose in that it allows me to clear my mind and allows me to work my way through whatever issue at hand (not necessarily a big issue). I had dismissed the "writing to learn" concepts I learned as an undergrad (perhaps "dismiss" is too strong a word; I simply didn't grok how they worked, exactly), but I see now how writing can be key to facilitating an understanding and clarity.

That said, perhaps that's why so many people that Roorbach references in Writing Life Stories were so keen to write their memoirs; perhaps they didn't see that writing would allow them (or had the potential to) use writing their memirs as an exercise in gaining an awareness of their lives. (Perhaps not.) It hadn't been clear to me that the would-be memoirists had deep reasons for writing their memoir, other than to share their experiences with others (reason enough). This does make me question what makes memoirs interesting for others.

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