by Jill Kemerer
Whenever I research, I use a multi-faceted approach. I look for material online, YouTube, magazines, people who have experience with the subject I’m researching, and, of course, books. I recently read two memoirs with very different tones, messages, and content.
One of the memoirs, Claiming Ground by Laura Bell, tells of her years living in Wyoming as a shepherd, cattle ranch hand, and various other positions that built off her knowledge of the land. It’s a quiet book, an honest one, and it really touched me. Laura doesn’t shy away from the mistakes she made, and her love of the land and her stepdaughters shine through. That being said, the book is a tough read. She grew up in a Christian home, but I didn’t get a sense of her faith, and when she lost someone close to her, I found myself longing for her to have that faith. Heaven comforts me, and I want it to comfort everyone.
The other memoir I read, This Isn’t the Ivy League by Mary Clearman Blew, held me captive for the first hundred pages, but as I continued, I felt the opposite of heartwarming. While I’m fascinated by women who trailblaze, this book unsettled me. I admire Mary for fighting through prejudice to become a professor at a university, but the overall theme depressed me. The message seemed to be that she paid a heavy price for wanting more than typically was expected of women in the fifties and sixties. But I feel that much of that price was brought on by herself. Honestly, I’m not sure what I was supposed to take away from this book.
It got me to thinking about what makes a memoir satisfying. I don’t want to read about someone’s charmed life. I love honesty. However, if the honesty gives the reader no hope or nothing to chew on in a hopeful way, the memoir falls flat.
Have you read any memoirs lately? What would you recommend?
Have a lovely day!