I loved this essay in the Design Magazine from the NYT last Sunday. (The fury I feel when looking at these ads — oh great, another beautiful home overlooking a gorgeous fjord that I’ll never live in; oh great, another set of consumer goods I can’t begin to afford — is offset by the quality of the essays that the the ads pay for.)
Anyway, these paragraphs will come back next year when we do the Lives essays:
Now that self-authorship is a form of digital hobby, we’re savvy to the fact that our versions of events tend to be freighted with self-interest (“my truth,” “my journey”), that there’s a power dynamic at play in who owns the narrative and that our experiences don’t generally have a clear takeaway unless we frame them just so. “Memory itself is a form of architecture,” said the artist Louise Bourgeois, whose autobiographical sculpture emerged late last century in all kinds of shapes, most iconically that of a 30-foot-tall cast-bronze spider. There’s an art to memory, and our personal stories become symbolic over time, the juicy onions and ghostly, maternal arachnids emblematic of a more complex whole.
For many of us, writing is a solace, a method of self-sorting, and the ability to share a point of view without being shut down or condescended to has even more weight for those who haven’t always been let into the conversation. This is why memoirs by women, immigrants and minorities of all kinds are often about the effort of becoming a coherent self within larger forces — forces that are inevitably classed, gendered and raced. For those whose perspectives are missing in the canons and histories we learned in school — who have been long ensnared in the cultural narratives of those more powerful — the memoir has served as a site of redress, a space in which to turn the tables, to make their experiences visible and their stories heard: a passage not only into literature but into a larger acceptance.
O’Grady, Megan. “These Literary Memoirs Take a Different Tack.” The New York Times, September 29, 2021, sec. T Magazine. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/29/t-magazine/memoirs-books-nonfiction-identity.html.