It is my pleasure to share a guest post by author Amber Lea Starfire who ponders...
Why We Read Memoir
Amber Lea Starfire
Amber Lea Starfire
Memoir is one of the fastest growing genres in the publishing industry. What is it about memoir that fascinates and draws us to it in a way that fiction, while entertaining and enlightening, does not? Why do we love reading such intimate stories of challenge, struggle, and triumph? Is it, as some would claim, a tabloid-style voyeuristic curiosity? Is it that we want to live others’ lives vicariously? There’s some truth to those ideas — we humans are terribly curious creatures, after all, endlessly fascinated by tragedy and death. This is the stuff that sells newspapers. But I think the power of Memoir’s attraction is more than that.
Memoir is intimate. The more time we spend online and away from face-to-face interactions, the more we also crave deep human relationships that are meaningful and authentic. And because Memoir is based on real-life experiences, real challenges and faults and triumphs, this genre gives us the sense of intimacy we crave.
Memoir inspires us through others’ stories of loss and recovery. When we read stories of grief and survival through illness and the loss of those who meant the most to others, we gain comfort and the courage to survive our own life journeys of loss and grief. We turn to memoir to understand what the main character — the author — has learned about life through his or her experiences.
Memoir give us insight into cultures and lifestyles we wouldn’t otherwise encounter. The huge success of Noah Trevor’s, Born a Crime, and Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance attest to our fascination with cultures and subcultures. If you identify as white, a memoir like Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates help you understand what it’s like to be black in America. And if you identify as black, you may feel that Coates’s portrayal sheds some light on your own life experiences.
Or maybe we're interested in the lives of the rich and famous — actors or politicians. So we gravitate toward memoirs by Carrie Fisher, Lauren Graham, Barack Obama, or Al Franken.
Memoir helps us remember we are not alone. We weren’t the only ones who grew up with dark family secrets. We gain courage through the authors’ courage to confront secrets and overcome shame in order to find healing and break destructive generational cycles. For this, we read memoirs such as The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, about living in a uniquely dysfunctional family; Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller about the shame of growing up in a family of hoarders, and Etched in Sand, Regina Calcaterra’s story of rising above a life of abuse and homelessness.
Through memoir, we recognize ourselves — no matter how different their lives are from ours — when we read memoirs like This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff, Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston, The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr, or Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs.
And we love quests — any kinds of quests: for freedom, for love, even for eating right. I’m thinking of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, or Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Or quests for a new kind of spirituality, such as Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd.
And then there are the quirky quests we read for pure fun and entertainment, such as The Know-it-All: One Man’s Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs, or Dishwasher: One Man’s Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States.
To sum it up, memoir is a unique form — endlessly surprising, tragic, inspiring, funny, insightful, and courageous. True stories that help us understand ourselves, our cultures, and humanity in general. We reach inside each of these stories for a little bit of ourselves and, when we find what we’re looking for, come out more open, educated, curious, comforted, compassionate, motivated, and perhaps a little braver.
Amber Lea Starfire
In 1973, Linda was a flute player and music major at a California community college, until she met and fell madly in love with a charismatic piano player, plunging into his world of music-making and drug-fueled parties. When, just three weeks after their wedding, he reveals that he's been "born again," Linda makes the spontaneous decision to follow him into his new religion and, unwittingly, into a life of communal living, male domination, and magical thinking.
With unflinching candor, Amber Starfire chronicles her journey as Linda Carr into the evangelical church culture, where she gives up everything for her husband and their music ministry. But in the process, she loses her most valuable assets: her identity and sense of self-worth. It is only when Linda returns to live with her birth family and faces her complicated relationship with her mother that she finds new purpose and the courage to begin to extricating herself from the limiting beliefs of her past.
Accidental Jesus Freak is the story of one woman, one marriage, and one kind of fundamentalism, but it is also the story of the healing that is possible when we are true to ourselves. Both a cautionary tale and celebration of personal empowerment, Accidental Jesus Freak is a powerful reminder for anyone who seeks to live a life authentic to who they truly are.
I exited the doors of Youth With a Mission’s city headquarters for the last time and crossed the street to wait for the tram that would take me to Amsterdam’s Central Station. From there, I would catch the ferry to return to our apartment in North Amsterdam. As I waited, I gazed across the street at the mission and the row of tall brick buildings it sat next to. Cars and trucks and bicyclists jockeyed for space in a chaotic rush-hour dance accompanied by the beeping of horns, the dinging of bicycle bells, and friendly people shouting to one another. Women carried home bags stuffed with bread and bright bouquets of flowers for their dinner tables. I inhaled the smells of steel and diesel, familiar and comforting after nearly a year of living and working in the city. Whiffs of cigarette smoke from passersby mixed with the moist, slightly salty air of the nearby canal. I never thought I could love a city this much.
It was the last time I would hear the chaotic city sounds, the bicycle bells, the clanging of the trams. It was the last time I would see these people in this place on earth. The thought made my head swim.
I looked again at the buildings across the street. It was hard for me to comprehend how Youth With a Mission had been the center of my hopes and dreams less than a year ago.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Amber Lea Starfire MA, MFA, is an author, editor, and creative writing coach whose passion is helping others tell their stories. She has published two memoirs: Accidental JesusFreak: One Woman’s Journey from Fundamentalism to Freedom (2017) and Not the MotherI Remember: A Memoir — finalist for both the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the 2013-2014 Sarton Women’s Literary Awards. She has also published several books of non-fiction, including Journaling the Chakras: Eight Weeks toSelf-Discovery, and Week by Week: A Year’s Worth of Journaling Prompts &Meditations. Amber is co-editor of the award-winning anthology, Times They WereA-Changing: Women Remember the '60s & '70s. Her creative nonfiction and poetry have appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals.
Website and Social Media Links:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The tour dates can be found here