Only a few weeks ago, I was talking with my sister-in-law Abby about writing and reading. I made the discovery that I have never really tried my hand at writing fiction, but I loved to read fiction. I also love to read non-fiction. And when I wrote, it was much easier to write about something familiar, some issue or some feeling, rather than to imagine, which I presumed was why I never felt a kick from within urging me to attempt to compose a fictitious story.
My reply has almost always been ambiguous when asked my favorite book or my favorite genre, which actually comes about rather often as a teacher. Sometimes, I flat out make something up. Historical fiction, I say to some students. That’s not true though. I tell some students I like mystery or adventure because I want desperately for them to pick up a book and discover for themselves. Realistic fiction, I have commented many times, is very fun to read. This reply has been the closest I have come to truth in my response until last week, after wandering into the audio book section of the library.
I was browsing the different shelves, arranged alphabetically, searching for a title I would enjoy for the one way thirty-minute commutes I now make to teach summer school in Columbia Heights. I saw a few which seemed interesting, but not captivating, and a few that I knew I would probably not enjoy at all. In the final row of the section, I found a selection I had seen before. Both the author and the title were familiar to me- The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.
I had never read it, but I had learned about Joan Didion in one of my essay assignments from AP English Language, junior year of high school. I read the back of the square, plastic box, surprised to discover a true story, which would include heartache and reflection on her own career as a writer. Her book was the only item I checked out on my library card that day. And by the end of the five-day workweek, I would have heard the words of the text spoken to me in their entirety. I would have heard the words so heavily on Ms. Didion’s heart. She introduced me to memoir.
How, I wonder had I never thought to explore the genre of memoir yet? Memoir is the perfect vehicle to ride around in for my passion for genuine stories. I realize the humor as I write this the luxury of hearing another’s story while actually riding around in my car. My husband called it introvert time for me yesterday. To listen to an audio book is reenergizing. It’s eavesdropping into a conversation with an invitation in hand. This introduction to the genre of memoir allows me now to boldly say that it is likely my most loved genre. I greatly appreciate these chronicles of truth. Life overflows with words and scenes experienced by others. It’s a blessing it is to immerse myself in those stories, if only for a while.
I still do not know if I feel the kick to attempt fiction, but an old dream has returned to me: I want to write a memoir.
My own memoir.