Three of my favorite memoirs that I have read in recent weeks have a something in common, besides being beautifully wrought: they don’t follow the genre’s typical format.
In Safekeeping, Abigail Thomas brings immense depth and texture to pages where white space often dominates. Some chapters are only a few sentences long, yet we feel we are right there with her as she becomes a single mother in her mid-twenties, a widow much later after her beloved second husband dies, and as she experiences the wonders of everyday life.
Thomas proves that short, blog-like prose can pack a powerful punch.
In Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi shows that sweeping and universal themes can be profoundly communicated in the form of a graphic novel. We get so swept up in her childhood in Tehran under the Shah, and then the Islamic Revolution and war with Iraq, that we forget we are immersed in images rather than text. (And she does a remarkable job of showing us life not just through her eyes—but also through a hijab.)
Satrapi proves that simple, black-and-white drawings can render as complete and colorful a world as text.
And, finally, in H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald shows that a life’s chronology (in this case, dealing with grief) can be shown not merely as a straight line, but through narratives that move back and forth in time, from past to present and back again, yet are woven together masterfully to tell a coherent story.
Macdonald proves that memoir does not have to be held prisoner to the linearity of the life as it is lived.
These memoirs can help you understand how your own story might transcend the mundane.