I love reading non-fiction, especially memoir, and especially memoir that just spills it and in really lyrical language, too. Perhaps it reminds me of the moment when my first MFA advisor, Jamie Manrique, told me that he thought I needed to dtich poetry and write non-fiction.
“I’ve heard you tell a story and you are good at it,” he said, squinting at me.
“I can’t write non-fiction,” the terrorized twenty-something in me replied.
“Why not? I know you have something to say,” he responded.
“Well, yeah, but it would piss my mom off,” i answered.
He looked at me, unfazed. “”You need to write like your mother is dead,” he said. I recognized those words. Maybe Alice Walker had said them in some memoir I had read of hers?
“Yeah, but my mom’s not dead and she’s a strong-willed Puerto Rican woman,” I answered.
Ultimately, Manrique lead me to prose like a horse to water and the pieces of my work that I most love are the ones that I have written when I have forgotten who might read it and just said what needed to be said. There’s something to the beauty and urgency and realness of memoir– the reminder that all of our otherness captured in writing just offers readers the company they thirst for, the perspective that feeds their hunger. They remind us that we live, really, not so that we can be solitary creatures in our purpose but so that we can share.
So, given that I love memoir, imagine my delight when I came across this clever list on the Entertainment Weekly web-site that tells you what book lets you go along on the adventure of “eating every thing possible in China” or “being a hip hop dancer”. Check it out and choose a book to read on a topic you never thought you’d pick and see what happens.