Memoir and Voice and Why You Need to Sharpen Up

This post by Jane Mauret originally appeared on her About A Book blog on 5/10/14.

Whilst Frank McCourt [Angela’s Ashes] and Augusten Burroughs [Running With Scissors; A Wolf at the Table] survived accusations of inaccuracies in their memoirs, James Frey’s highly successful A Million Little Pieces, 2002 [featured on Oprah’s Book Club] did not help the genre when it was later revealed he made up 70 per cent.

However, the truly worst case was Sybil [1973], about a woman’s dissociative identity disorder and the most harrowing book I have ever read [aside from Dave Pelzer’s A Boy Called It, 1995]. In 2012 Debbie Nathan’s Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case demonstrated that Sybil was a money-making venture cooked up by the author, Flora Rheta Schreiber, Sybil [Shirley Mason] and her therapist, Dr Cornelia Wilbur.

So this history may have contributed to the sense right now that dysfunctional childhood memoir has had its day. However, some books have overcome this due to the voice the authors utilise. This was achieved as far back as 1985 with Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges are not the Only Fruit and more latterly by Haven Kimmel’s A Girl Named Zippy [2002] and Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle [2005].

The message is – even a total unknown can make headway with agents and publishers if they write with a captivating voice.

 

Click here to read the full post on About A Book.

 

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