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Dec 18

Is It a Memoir or an Autobiography? Good question! by Charlotte Helgeson

Posted on December 18, 2020 at 1:04 PM by Genesis Gaule

Well, is there a difference?  Most certainly.  

An autobiography will have facts that are provable. All the dates and details will have matching paperwork like birth certificates, graduations, and arrest records--not mine. Of course, there could be a mistake made by a human or machine on any of these records so at least a second source would be included as part of good research. In a reputable life story, there will be a bibliography at the end of the book that cites all the sources used.  Many times, there are pages and pages that make up a bibliography for a well-known person, maybe only a few sources for a less known person.  

The majority of biographies, including autobiographies at the library are found in 921 with the subject's name, such as 


Yes, if anyone wrote about me or I wrote my own provable story, it would be found there. 

Sometimes, we put a biography in the subject area that made that person popular. You might find an athlete's biography mixed in with materials about her sport. We do this if that is the focus of their fame and it will be the place where their readers will most likely find them.

I enjoy reading a good biography, but more often than not, I prefer a memoir. Learning why someone does something is fascinating to me. I'm not talking about logistics and recordable details. I'm talking about their stories. The way they remember it even if others don't remember it the same way. One of my teachers said that a memoir is an autobiography told through an emotional filter.  

The emotional filter simply means that if you were having a good day, the memory would be good. If your brother was having a bad day, that same event might be a bad memory for him.

Have you ever disagreed with a sibling about an event in your life? Your memory versus your sister's memory is what makes up a memoir. 

A person's memories are hard to rewrite. Even with a fact on paper, our memory tries to supersede it. Memoirs give us the happy and the sad all mixed up just like they happen in everyday life.

Memoirs I've enjoyed:

Travel Light, Move Fast by Alexandria Fuller



To Hair and Back by Rhonda Eason


We Were Rich and We Didn't Know It by Tom Phelan

A Memoir of My Irish Boyhood
823.914 LP PHELAN


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