Not long ago I read a review by Claire Burrows about a memoir at Feminist Review and her closing questions about memoirs and women's writing resonated with me. Today her questions will serve as our query:
What is the role of memoirs? Is it important as women to tell our stories? And why, as women, is it important that we read each others' stories?
My immediate answer was because we need to be heard. Ms. Burrows' questions instinctively made me think of Audre Lorde who had plenty to say about women and our work. She wrote, "And where the words of women are crying to be heard, we must each of us recognize our responsibility to seek those words out, to read them and share them and examine them in their pertinence to our lives." (From "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action")
As often as I quote Lorde you'd think I've read her extensively but I haven't. Everything I have read by her however has been potent and transformative. I think a memoir by a woman has the potential to move us to new places or heal old ones. Reading women's work gives us a mirror and/or a door to our lives and how we see ourselves in our world. I don't think every memoir is written to change us but I strongly believe in the feminine voice, and I believe hearing our voices is empowering. I enjoy women's memoirs because in a few like I know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, The Skin Between Us by Kym Regusa and The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin, I hear parts of my story and when a woman experiences healing and her own power, I do, too.
What are your thoughts about memoirs? Do you enjoy them? Please expound.