Memoir Basics 3: Adding feelings, judgments, and explanations


Details that make a difference

Two school kids saying hi to each other

In memoirs, authors focus on a particular period in their lives when certain people, events and places (who, what, where) were really important or memorable. But how is this different from a straightforward recount? 

Here’s a snippet that reads like a recount. But if you click on the expanders, the hidden detail makes it read a lot more like a memoir. Why? What makes the difference?

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When I was in the fourth grade, a girl came up to me in the schoolyard during recess and said, “You have the prettiest hair. Let’s be friends.” I said, “Okay.” Heck, I was glad someone wanted to be my friend. Her name was Frances. I’ll never forget Frances for as long as I live. She was thin, with light brown hair and blue eyes. She was a quiet gentle person. I was actually forbidden to play with her because she was a gentile, but I’d sneak over to her house anyway and sneak her over to mine. Actually I didn’t have to sneak into Frances’s house because I was always welcome there.

The Color of WaterJames McBrideSource
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Memoir vs recount

Let’s look at this snippet in a little more detail.

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