Memoir is my favorite class to teach, beginning with the unforgettable 1992 MFA Memoir class at University of Washington where we all worked our tales off. Pun intended.
I taught Memory into Memoir, for over ten years. Books have emerged from these classes (more books are yet to come, and you will certainly read of them in these pages!). I structured my courses into three-term events. When the spring term finished, writers committed to the memoir often wanted to go on meeting, not in the classroom, but in homes.
When I first toyed with the idea of writing a novel about a memoir class, I thought I would write faux memoirs by different, first-person authors. But as my experience in memoir groups expanded, I began to see that off the page lives intertwined. People came together in the present in ways that were vibrant, enriching, that created lasting friendships. In other words, the act of reading and writing about their disparate pasts connected people in the present.
Certainly this has been my own experience with the memoir. And though all the characters and all the memoirs in this book are total fiction, in that regard, this is an autobiographical novel. My current memoir group has been meeting regularly for several years. Together we have shared family crises; we have celebrated joys and wept together, created a core of friendship and connection that, truly, is the very staff of life.
Does this power to connect emanate from the memoir itself, from the genre itself? As we watch one another shape and re-shape the past, as we share the narrative past, it resonates, and creates intimacy beyond the page. We come to know what has shaped one another, the actors and incidents, the follies and failures and triumphs of life. Is this the real meaning of the phrase, “the past is prologue….” And after all, how would you define your best friends? The people, clearly, who know your past.