Many writers understand that memoir writing needs to focus on a particular subject (not the writer), a topic that provides a context for the writer’s reflections, a sort of armature to contain the narrative.
Readers see the subject—a place, a meal, an event, for example—through the writer’s eyes and experiences. The subject grounds the story and makes it whole; the reader experiences the subject through the writer’s particular perspective.
Some of the most popular narrative nonfiction today features food and place. Since we all eat and many of us love to travel, we devour these tales. Stories of food adventures particular to a specific place can be compelling. One of the most compelling memoirs published recently is Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. (Be sure to get the paperback edition as it includes a fairly pertinent epilogue.) Hamilton’s subject—food—drives her story and makes it relevant.
I’d say, read the book for its absolutely honest, gripping story and, if you’re a memoirist or aspire to be, notice as well what Hamilton includes and what she leaves out.That editing of content is regularly challenging for writers. Recommended to me by a fellow student and now colleague, Linda Prospero, Blood, Bones & Butter is set in NYC and Italy, two wondrous places newly evoked here. It’s Hamilton’s story of her need to feed others while seeking to satisfy hungers of her own.
Note: One of my goals in this blog is encourage a conversation about narrative nonfiction writing. I’d like to hear your ideas, questions, responses to my posts—below or via email. Though I’m not particularly adept at doing so myself, please feel free to send my blog posts out to others who might be interested via your own email or Facebook & Twitter on the links below the post.