Balancing precariously between history and literature, memoir writers have finally found their place on the bookshelf. But increased notoriety brings intense scrutiny: memoirists are expected to create a narrative worthy of fiction while also staying true to the facts. Historians, too, handle tricky issues of writing from “real life,” when imagination must fill gaps in the historical record.
Patricia Hampl and Elaine Tyler May have gathered fourteen original essays from award-winning memoirists and historians. Whether the record emerges from archival sources or from personal memory, these writers show how to make the leap to telling a good story, while also telling us true.
Contributors: Andre Aciman, Matt Becker, June Cross, Carlos Eire, Helen Epstein, Samuel G Freedman, Patricia Hampl, Fenton Johnson, Alice Kaplan, Annette Kobak, Michael MacDonald, Elaine Tyler May, Cheri Register, D. J. Waldie
“The memoir is based on a deceptively simple foundation: Tell what you know. As we learn from these thought-provoking essays, both the telling and the knowing turn out to be far more complicated–and far more interesting–than one might suspect.” Anne Fadiman, author of Ex Libris and At Large and At Small
“Tell Me True is a fresh and lively exploration of that vexed territory where memoir and history meet, argue, meld and blur, each enriching and complicating the other.” Mark Doty, author of Dog Years: A Memoir
“These lively, exceptionally well-written essays provide an insider’s view of the art of memoir, engaging the big questions of time and meaning, self and community, that are posed by any life. As they explore the intersection of personal history with the larger story we call history, these writers celebrate memoir’s power to testify to the truth of our experience.” Paul John Eakin, author of Living Autobiographically: How We Create Identity in Narrative
Tell Me True: Memoir, History, and Writing a Life (Co-edited with Elaine Tyler May)