No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.
Our hummingbird hatchlings, 13 days old
Oy. Two more memoirs have been exposed as elaborate fictions, both of them this week. Unbelievable.
I can’t begin to understand why these writers positioned their invented stories as fact. Why not present it as a child’s fantasy? Why not write it as a novel? And, for that matter, why introduce a memoir as “intensified reality,” when it’s more appropriately placed in a different genre altogether? Whatever their individual justifications, I’m sad about their decisions. I worry that they might negatively impact those of us who enjoy memoir, readers and writers alike.
It’s true that each of us views the world through a unique lens, that our perspectives are therefore limited. But when memoirists purposefully blur the line between reality and imagination, they risk compromising the truth about who they are. I don’t want to come across all holier-than-thou, but I do think it’s essential to keep this in mind. Sure, I want to sell my memoir, CAN I GET A WITNESS? I’d like to think that my personal story will someday have big-tent appeal. But my integrity? It’s not for sale — not ever, and not at any price.
Memoirist Rachel Manija Brown says, “Fiction which is not emotionally honest is artistically bankrupt. Memoir which is not factually honest is morally bankrupt. It is a writer’s moral and artistic obligation to tell the truth in the manner that is appropriate to the story they wish to tell.” What else can I add but amen?