When Linda Joy Myers asked me to talk about gender in memoirs in the free round table discussion I tried to imagine what I would say. When I think of genders, I visualize the yin yang symbol in which opposites seem to swim around each other in perpetual motion. Like two halves of a whole, trying to focus on one half inevitably leads back to the other.
As soon as I started thinking about it, I noticed that by an accident of synchronicity, I had just posted two blogs representing extremes of these halves. In one post: http://memorywritersnetwork.com/blog/ten-lessons-bellaviacombat-memoir-pt1 I review the violent story of a combat soldier in Iraq. The other talks about an exquisite story of Iranian women trapped in the cross-fire of a misogynist culture http://memorywritersnetwork.com/blog/memoirs-literature-nafisi.
To find out what else I have to say about gender, I went back through my posts and found several that have particular relevance. One of my earliest is from 2008 http://memorywritersnetwork.com/blog/keep-your-memoir-in-touch-with-changing-gender-roles when it first dawned on me that I was reading books by women. I couldn’t think of a single female protagonist in any book I read during high school. Now, as a memoir reader, my suspension of disbelief has finally led me to experience life on the other side. Fascinating!
In another blog in 2010, http://memorywritersnetwork.com/blog/boys-to-men I explore the challenges of making the transition from boy to man by discussing how various male authors have made that journey. I learned a little about this developmental challenge in school and found that, like many subjects in psychology, studying it raised more questions than answers. Now, in memoirs, I am able to accompany young men on their unique version of this complex transition.
To find an even broader range of examples about the spectrum of gender in memoirs, I continue to scan my shelves. Every memoir that involves either a man or a woman is a candidate. I’ll highlight my findings in a blog post, so we can talk about them further at the August roundtable.
Jerry Waxler, M.S., is an experienced memoir workshop leader and a member of the advisory board for the National Association of Memoir Writers. He is a writing coach and therapist, and the author of Write Your Memoir in Four Weeks and Four Elements for Writers, and the creator of the Memory Writers Network blog, which features hundreds of essays, book reviews, interviews, and writing prompts about reading and writing memoirs.