I never thought I’d like reading stories about other people’s lives. Fiction was fine, but reality seemed boring and uneventful. When I was younger, my mom read The Little House on the Prairie series to me, but that was about as close as I got to reading a book about a real person. It wasn’t until later that I realized the beauty of someone else’s story.
The first memoir I read on my own was written by a teacher I used to have. The book was called Signs of Life, and for a while everyone in my school was reading it. I remember getting calls from other students asking me what chapter I was on or whether or not I had finished yet. I attended readings with friends at the local Borders (*wipes tear away*). We talked about how impressive it was to know an author, to know a real person who had successfully published a book. I thought it was special to be let in on a story like that, but I assumed my real admiration for the book was due to the fact that I knew the author.
Then, another teacher of mine proved me wrong. He suggested that I read The Year of Magical Thinking and Bone Black: Memoirs of Girlhood. I was hesitant to take on a memoir written by someone I didn’t know, but two memoirs? Two stranger’s lives? That was downright scary. I didn’t care about those authors. I didn’t want to know their stories. What could have happened in their lives to warrant my attention? Well, after finishing both of those memoirs, I realized my answer. What could have happened in their lives? A lot. Why should I care about their stories? They’re great stories.
Since then, I’ve read many books about other people’s lives. I find myself going to the bookstore and perusing aisles I never thought I’d wander into. I still think it can be hard to be interested in a complete stranger’s life, but I take baby steps. I read books that contain an element of memoir, personal narrative, nonfiction, or autobiography. Sometimes it can be hard to know where these books fall, but if I’m not sure, I just try to read them and not to worry about it. Many books walk a fine line, but that doesn’t mean one is necessarily better than another.
So, some days I’ll pick up a book that can’t be defined very well. Other days I’ll try something that can. I’ve read David Sedaris’s Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim to experience a bit of his life. Currently, I’m reading Modern Romance, and its combination of social science, humor, and nonfiction makes it really accessible and fun to read. I read books by authors who, for whatever reason, I can pretend I know a little. I read Amy Poehler’s, Yes Please, because I had watched Parks and Recreation for years. I read one of my favorite YouTube star Tyler Oakley’s memoir, Binge, because I’d seen him online and it was cool he was from Michigan. These little connections helped me care more, but I’m realizing I don’t need them as much as I used to. Maybe not now, but soon I’ll feel confident enough to read I Am Malala, Unbroken, or some other critically acclaimed memoir or personal narrative that has been hovering at the top of my Goodreads list for months.
I’m excited, because I know one thing very important: everyone has a story.
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This is neat