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ERIC Number: EJ879528
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Mar
Pages: 8
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 23
ISSN: ISSN-0013-8274
Contemporary Memoir: A 21st-Century Genre Ideal for Teens
Kirby, Dawn Latta; Kirby, Dan
English Journal, v99 n4 p22-29 Mar 2010
For the past 20 years, the authors have been reading and teaching literary memoir to students of all ages. In the mid-1980s, they began looking for ways to incorporate more nonfiction into their literature classes, hoping to find a fresh genre unflattened by instruction. They wanted to explore with students a genre that literary critics had not already overanalyzed and for which they had not created formulaic heuristics for student analysis. More than anything else, the authors wanted to find literary works that connected directly with students' lived experiences. During their search, they discovered Russell Baker's "Growing Up," Patricia Hampl's "Memory and Imagination," and William Zinsser's "Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir." These readings and many others expanded the scope of nonfiction texts for the authors and their students. They began to understand that they were witness to a genre in the making, that of contemporary memoir (CM). This genre has topped the "New York Times" bestseller list for a number of years and has become increasingly popular among professional writers who often helpfully subtitle their books "A Memoir." Looking for texts that exist outside their instructional walls and that lead students to improve their abilities in sophisticated reading, writing, critical thinking, and inquiry strategies, the authors found CM to be a genre ideally suited for teens of the 21st century. In this article, the authors describe an emerging subgenre of literary nonfiction and suggest ways to help students write their own mini-memoirs. (Contains 1 note.)
National Council of Teachers of English. 1111 West Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096. Tel: 877-369-6283; Tel: 217-328-3870; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: Students; Teachers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A