Mid-century Baltimore provides the context for Little Birds (Korongo 2020, private edition) Theresa Bryant's essay collection about an upwardly mobile, middle-class Black family whose forebears left the south during the Great Migration. Theresa's family history recalls a time when cities like Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, and New York offered many opportunities for Black families. I shall always remember exactly what I was doing on the afternoon of December 7, 1941. On that date I learned, along with others throughout the world, that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, destroying most of our country’s navy and killing hundreds. I was seated at the kitchen table in my parents’ home, preparing lessons for the following week of teaching in a one-room rural school, when President Roosevelt’s familiar voice came over the radio announcing that our country was at war. . . .
Idora Tucker, Wartime I am now deeply involved in finding order in my life. How does my history collide with world history, with two world wars in my century and the colossal upheaval in global catastrophe? Perhaps hindsight can be a useful and even pleasurable aging experience if it is approached with patience and understanding of myself and others, love, and forgiveness.
—Margaret Egerton, The Hale Street Gang: In Cahoots As memoirists, we have to remember that readers seek our stories in a quest to witness another human being coming to terms with the complexities of life. To identify with that struggle, readers have to have doorways into the story, and the way you provide those doorways is to link your story to aspects of human experience other people can identify with. . . . The common thread we writers of memoir can offer readers is our life in the context of a larger experience that was shared by other humans. For example: the look and feel of a city during a particular era, its crime problems, the artists who directed its cultural life, musicians who populated its clubs, along with your experience moving through its streets, going to those clubs, tapping your foot to those iconic musicians, and living your individual life. Or perhaps you grew up on a farm and you want to write about those years. Your personal story of family and crops and animals will be enhanced if you offer the bigger picture, too: some history of agriculture, notes on the weather during those years, background info on machinery and techniques, stories about water rights, anything that will allow the reader to see your personal journey in the context of a larger story.
—Lisa Dale Norton, Shimmering Images
Think back to your adolescence, a time when you became more aware of popular culture: fashions and trends in clothing, music, hairstyles, slang, cars. You began to make your own choices and think your own thoughts, independent of the adults who had raised you. Your heroes changed. You read certain books that made a deep impression. You began to think about where you would go after you left home and what you would do. Make a list of the cultural influences on you from that period of your life, and write a short essay about what it was like to be a teenager of that particular time and place.
Just for fun Visit Smithmag.net, Larry Smith’s online magazine for storytellers, and write a six-word memoir.