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A Snapshot of Your Life: Memoir Writing

Dora Ross., Digital ID 1232847, New York Public LibraryMemoirs are the stuff of memory, or more specifically, according to Webster's Dictionary, a narrative composed from personal experience. In other words, a memoir is written from a person's recollection of a life experience. It might not all be exactly as it happened but, rather, how the author perceived it to happen. Do you remember the controversial “autobiography" A Million Little Pieces by James Frey? Mr. Frey presented it as an autobiography which is a factual account of a person's own life. It was later determined after lawsuits and an embarrassed Oprah Winfrey, who highlighted his work on her show, that in fact this book was a partly fictionalized memoir. In fact, memoirs are all about the writer's perceptions, emotions and feelings about events, some of which might never have happened exactly in the way that they are chronicled.

Since March 7th about fifteen of the Morris Park Branch Library's adult patrons have been chronicling their life experiences through the auspices of Lifetime Arts. Each week, our participants gather to remember, reflect and write. The series which culminates on April 25th is taught by Frank Ingrasciotta, writer and playwright, author of Blood Type: Ragu and In Search of Roots and Branches. Although this series is already in progress, adults 55+ may enjoy one of the New York Public Library's other Creative Aging courses which are listed on our website and in the Creative Aging brochure available in most branches of the New York Public Library.

In addition, The New York Public Library features many wonderful published memoirs. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Twisted Head: An Italian American Memoir by Carl Capotorto – a reflection of his life growing up in the Bronx of the 1970s.
  • Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love and War by Annia Ciezadlo – From Baghdad to Beirut Annia, a new bride, learns that food and friendship bind us together even in times of war.
  • The Tulip and the Pope by Deborah Larsen is a memoir of leaving life behind for the sheltered walls of the convent. This memoir is set in the 1960s when the author makes the decision to become a nun. At first she loves her new life, but at some point she realizes that she misses the tulips of her childhood and everything else she has left behind.
  • The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez is a memoir which recounts this straight-A high school senior's plan to fake a pregnancy in order to see if people's opinions of her would change. (Read more about Gaby's appearance at TeenLIVE)
  • Model by Cheryl Diamond - What would you do to become a model? Cheryl asks herself this very question in this riveting memoir about her quest to be a top model. At age 14, the author left her home, came to New York and lived in a run-down apartment chasing this dream.
  • Bad Boy by Walter Dean Myers - this book gives us a picture of what it was like to grow up in Harlem during the 1940s and 1950s. Walter was an avid reader who hoped to one day write his own books. Read about the class struggles and obstacles that this respected young adult author endured to realize his dream.
  • Kitchen Privileges: A Memoir by Mary Higgins Clark recounts this famous mystery writers early life growing up in the Bronx. Drawing from her Irish heritage she began to write stories at an early age and never abandoned her dream of becoming a writer.
  • Prairie Tale by Melissa Gilbert is the interesting life ruminations by the child star of Little House on the Prairie. Apprently, Melissa and her co-star Melissa Sue Anderson did not carry the loving relationship they portrayed onscreen to the offscreen hours.
  • The Way I See It: A Look Back at My Life on Little House by Melissa Anderson - Counterbalance your reading with Melissa Sue's side of the Little House years.
  • A Natural Woman: A Memoir by Carole King - This book, just published, is an intimate look at the life of legendary singer and songwriter, Carole King who is soon to turn seventy years old.

All of these examples of the memoir genre can be obtained with a valid library card, and if you are interested in a memoir class and you've missed the current program, you might think about joining the Digital Memoirs class which starts on June 5 here at the Morris Park Branch. For further information, contact Mrs. Grace Tellez Cardona at 718-931-0636.

In addition, Lifetime Arts sponsors many other free classes for adults 55+ in other disciplines such as music, art and photography. To view a catalog of programs visit our website at or the Lifetime Arts website at


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