Truth or Lie: Fiction vs. MemoirHow Memoir Writers Can Approach

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Truth or Lie: Fiction vs. MemoirHow Memoir Writers Can Approach Truth and Healing

The recent flap about James Freys A Million Little Pieces has hit the media with a big bang, bringing the age-old debate about what is acceptable when writing memoir–a real story. Every time a memoir is released that gains media attention this debate is raised. Mary Karr, The Liars Club, Jennifer Lauck, Blackbird, and Vivian Gornick, Fierce Attachments, all defended their memoirs in various medias, and all said that some recreations of actual reality had to occur in order to write the story and make it interesting.

As a memoir teacher, I find that people are very worried about the ethical issues involved in memoir writing. For example, the writers ask such questions as, what if I dont remember the exact conversation when my mother died, or I dont know what clothes I was wearing the day my father went away forever. I am always moved by these innocent, caring questions, because the writer is trying very hard to be truthful and accurate, and not leave any room to be accused of dishonesty.

In my memoir Don’t Call Me Mother I researched the time the train arrived in...

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