This is from a talk I gave at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture in October 2010. It’s about why memoir is good. 🙂 For writers, readers, and the entire world.
I started writing memoir in the early 90s, when I was a journalist at the Village Voice. And almost inevitably, when I was at a party or the gym or a political meeting and said what I was doing, someone would ask, “Aren’t you a little young for that?” I was 28 when I began. And I would take a deep breath and answer, “No.”
Before the late 1980s, people generally used the word “memoir” to mean a fat and comprehensive book written by someone at the end of their lives, almost always someone very famous, like a president or a movie star or a Titan of Industry.
Of course, people who weren’t as prominent as that had been writing personal accounts of their lives for hundreds of years, thousands if you count poetry. They just hadn’t been calling them memoirs. Continue reading
This is an excerpt from my memoir Growing Up Golem, published by Riverdale Avenue Books and available from Barnes & Noble, Powells, Amazon, and your favorite independent bookstore:
My mother loved to make things. One day, when I was thirty-two years old, my mother created a giant, half-lifesize doll that looked just like me. (This is absolutely true.) It had yarn hair the same color and kink as mine, and real corduroy pants just like the ones I wear. My mother called it the Dyke Donna doll. (Mom was very pro-gay and lesbian, so she always felt very happy using words like “dyke.”) The doll wore a stripey red shirt like a circus performer, along with real, removable, bright red booties made of felt, and extravagantly long curling eyelashes that my mother drew in by hand, quite lovingly. It had big red apple blush-marks on its cheeks, like Pinocchio as I have always seen him drawn. It stood a discomfiting three feet tall (I myself am only five feet two). My mother gave it to me as her gift, to keep in my tiny apartment. I had to keep it under my bed because I couldn’t bear to see it sitting in my chair. But I felt like I was hiding a child away there, without food or anyone to talk to.
Starting in her early 20s, my mother had made a whole series of dolls and wooden soldiers and little straw figurines and puppets, and I believe that one of them was me. A few years after the Dyke Donna doll appeared, my arms broke. (This, also, is true.) I don’t mean that my arm bones broke – I’ve never had a broken bone – but that my arms’ capacity as limbs, their functionality and coherence, suddenly ended. Continue reading