Your Life Story

In General on July 24, 2009 at 11:24 pm

I’m judging a contest for a magazine (I don’t know if I’m allowed to say which one yet, so I’ll wait until the judging is over). The category is self-published books in the subject of “Life Stories” which seems fairly broad.

I can say honestly that while not all life stories make for compelling reading, there is some bit of history in each one that does. I marvel over the way a person’s ancestor, a woman in the 20’s, for instance bore baby after baby, and lost some along the way, with little other hobby or pasttime allowed to her while her man worked and traveled. What kept that woman going, kept her from going crazy?

Wild west stories are fabulous. I love outlaws and scallywags–true capitalist spirit at its most primal! Women in the American west were also a hardier, fouler-mouthed bunch. I’m always won over by a woman who can pull off a dress and a four letter word at the same time.

There’s lots of war in life stories, and while I’m not a big war buff, I’m nonetheless impressed and awed by the commitement of young men, in World War I, in particular, who would rather have been fighting than comfortable with their families at home.

This is all to say that while not every life story can make it as a bestseller, or even as a great read, I do think there’s merit of a personal kind, of a preservationist kind, in writing down the stories of our ancestry, and our own as well, to preserve history that might otherwise be lost.

  1. Perhaps it isn’t the life story so much as the way you tell it or the way somebody tells it for you. I’m a regular NPR listener and one of the regular features is something called Story Corp. These are short retelling of moments in people’s lives, or sometimes their life story, most are told by the person themselves and the majority are facinating.

    I don’t read a great number of biographies, but those I have I usually enjoy. (Why don’t I read more? Who knows?) I think would-be autobiographers sometimes make a mistake in thinking their life story is going to be a story others have an interest in hearing when they have lived contemporaneously to a major event or time period without really experiencing it themselves. Along the same vein, they may know or be related to a person of significance, but the general interest in such a fact begins and ends in the same sentence.


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