What is a Memoir?

What is a Memoir?


The participant will

  • understand the differences among memoir, autobiography, and biography. 
  • gain a better understanding why they have chosen to start writing a memoir

Learn the differences and special characteristics of memoir, autobiography, and biography. Determine why you have chosen to write a memoir.

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Source: Karen Hamilton Silvestri


* When it comes to autobiography and memoir, memory is subjective even to itself. What one views as fact at age 20 is largely different from what one views as fact at age 50.

Source: Karen Hamilton Silvestri

Characteristics of the Memoir Form

Source: Karen Hamilton Silvestri


We all think that we are not famous enough to write our memoirs but this is a misconception! What would you do if you came upon a manuscript written by your great grandmother in the late 1800's?? Wouldn't you be thrilled beyond words to hear what life was like then? Wouldn't you be excited to find that people then loved, lost, and lived much as you do today?? How did they handle it? How did everyday life make them feel??

Why should we write our memoirs? To remember and honor our lives. To bring our family members together. To bring new insight to our lives. To provide future generations a look at life as we knew it. To facilitate a healing experience within our lives. To connect us to history.

"People today are rootless and aching for connections to the past", says Lettice Stuart, a Texas personal historian who records the memoirs of everyday people. The process of documenting their lives often brings family members together and, as their life tale unfolds they will find themselves gaining new insights into events that took place, perhaps even bringing about healing to the past.

It is the act of writing, not the words themselves that produce a healing in the writer. Therefore, one need not be a scholar or novelist to reap the benefits of lifewriting.

Source: Karen Hamilton Silvestri

Assignment 1

Think about why you have decided to write a memoir. For your first assignment, sit quietly and make a list of some of the reasons you have for wanting to take this journey. Keep this list in a notebook that you can come back to from time to time. 

Feel free to share your reasons in the comment section below.

Source: Karen Hamilton Silvestri