Tell Me True: Memoir, History, and Writing a Life

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9780873516303: Tell Me True: Memoir, History, and Writing a Life

"The memoir has been, on the one hand, a startling success story in American publishing in the past quarter century. But it has also been literature's changeling, the bad apple, ever suspect, slightly illegitimate, a brassy parvenu talking too much about itself." - Patricia Hampl, "You're History"

Balancing precariously between history and literature, memoir writers have finally found their place on the bookshelf. But increased notoriety brings intense scrutiny: memoirists are expected to create a narrative worthy of fiction while also staying true to the facts. Historians, too, handle tricky issues of writing from "real life," when imagination must fill gaps in the historical record.

In this landmark collection, Patricia Hampl and Elaine Tyler May have gathered fourteen original essays from award-winning memoirists and historians. Whether the record emerges from archival sources or from personal memory, these writers show how to make the leap to telling a good story, while also telling us true.

Contributors: Andre Aciman, Matt Becker, June Cross, Carlos Eire, Helen Epstein, Samuel G Freedman, Patricia Hampl, Fenton Johnson, Alice Kaplan, Annette Kobak, Michael MacDonald, Elaine Tyler May, Cheri Register, D. J. Waldie

Patricia Hampl is the author of three memoirs, including most recently The Florist's Daughter. Elaine Tyler May has written several books on twentieth-century American history. Both are Regents Professors at the University of Minnesota.

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From the Publisher:

"The memoir is based on a deceptively simple foundation: Tell what you know. As we learn from these thought-provoking essays, both the telling and the knowing turn out to be far more complicated--and far more interesting--than one might suspect." Anne Fadiman, author of Ex Libris and At Large and At Small

"Tell Me True is a fresh and lively exploration of that vexed territory where memoir and history meet, argue, meld and blur, each enriching and complicating the other." Mark Doty, author of Dog Years: A Memoir

"These lively, exceptionally well-written essays provide an insider's view of the art of memoir, engaging the big questions of time and meaning, self and community, that are posed by any life. As they explore the intersection of personal history with the larger story we call history, these writers celebrate memoir's power to testify to the truth of our experience." Paul John Eakin, author of Living Autobiographically: How We Create Identity in Narrative

About the Author:

Alice Kaplan is the author of French Lessons: A Memoir, The Collaborator, The Interpreter, and Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, and the translator of OK, Joe, The Difficulty of Being a Dog, A Box of Photographs, and Palace of Books. Her books have been twice finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards, once for the National Book Award, and she is a winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She holds the John M. Musser chair in French literature at Yale. She lives in Guilford, Connecticut.

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