For some writers, writing just happens. We exhale and words seep unto blank pages. To some, this may sound like a poetic process to some but many writers grapple with making sense of what has been produced.
I spent much of the last week diving into pre-existing research on the process of memoir writing and issues of identity. Two books I found especially informative were:
Neither Settler Nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities. By Mahmood Mamdani
The Art of Memoir by Marry Karr
In The Art of Memoir, Marry Karr states “The author of a lasting memoir manages to power past the initial defenses, digging part the false self to where the truer one waits to the more complicated story” (Karr, 38) This is something I struggle with deeply; Freeing myself of a presumed burden I carry.
Similarly, Mamdani presents many provoking arguments on issues of identify. He identifies key political eras that directly contribute not only to the displacement of so many, but their permanent minority status all over the world. The constant ” reimaging and redefining of the political community ” that occurs throughout the decolonization process but fails to address “the ideology of political modernity internalized under colonialism.” (Mamdani 34)
Mamdani addresses deep seeded issues of “citizenship” and “rights for whom” as a means of recognizing the political identity assumed under colonization as “not natural”. He invokes the readers mind to critically reflect on the invention of political identities as a tool to stratify and divide.
While Mamdani’s work seems unrelated to the work of memoir, it in fact helps clarify ” the truer self” mentioned in Karr’s work.
The process of memoir is deeply rooted in revealing what hides beneath the lived experience: The real you. As George Saunders beautifully writes,” We apply certain kinds of pressure to you, under which you are forced to flee to your highest ground…but hopefully, under that pressure, you leave behind all the false you’s- the imitative You, the too clever You, the Avoiding You- and settle into that ( sometimes, at first, disappointing) beast, Real You…Real you is all you have, and all the other paths are false. And in the best case, Real You is so happy to finally be recognized, it rewards you with Originality ” (Saunders 2013)
Karr, Marry. The Art of Memoir. HarperCollins , 2015.
Mamdani, Mahmood. Neither Settler Nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2020.
George Saunders. ” Failures of Kindness” MFA Graduation speech, Syracuse University, 2013