voices in the family

Memoir


Memoirs. We read them all the time. Blue Nights by Joan Didion. Bossypants by Tina Fey. Night by Elie Wiesel. Most memoirs are deeply personal. They enlighten and provoke, as truths and half-truths are revealed.

Dan Gottlieb and his guests ask what’s at the heart of these life stories? How does memoir writing depict who we are and how we feel about ourselves, others, our circumstances, and surroundings? And what’s its therapeutic value?

We hear from writer Beth Kephart. In the newly released Handling the Truth: on the Writing of Memoir she helps other learn to tell their story and understand why their story matters.

And we talk to social psychologist James Pennebaker. His earlier work found that keeping secrets can make people sick. He discovered people could improve their physical and mental health by writing about their deepest secrets.


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  • http://www.lisadevuono.com Lisa DeVuono

    Great program! love the research. Another great resource is National Association for poetry therapy….thanks for all the work you do to assist people in sharing their stories….it matter so much!

  • http://wordpress.com/aquaverse Ron Fischman

    I listened to this interview with great interest. I read part of a poem on your show with Ellen Bass. It turns out that I am now working as a ghostwriter, and almost all my work is memoir.

    I just started a project with a woman who had a title and a theme, but she couldn’t crack the code of her past, which included generations of philandering men, including her husband. She looked back on a childhood in Haiti and only saw grey. Slowly, by pressing into the sensory aspects of time and place, she was able to make all kinds of distinctions that will tell her story, but more important than that, she opened up a floodgate of memory and feeling that she could look at, express, and re-parent.

  • geraldine Lucas-Haji

    Dr. Dan, Thank you for your show illuminating the mystery of memoir writing –and what it accomplishes. Two things stood out: Jaime’s statement about his student’s benefit from writing of a traumatic experience the first day(chaotic facts) second day, (more coherent, approaching story form) and the third day, (an overview of how it affected them)–proving writing helps people be their best therapists. And writer Beth’s statement that a memoir (in part) is “bearing witness to the world, and your place in it” Such wonderful thoughts passed along to those of us attempting a memoir! The question of who is it for? My daughter of course! But
    also, to answer the primitive question–why are we (and I) here? Geraldine Lucas-Haji

  • Barbara

    Very interesting show. I like the balance between the two ways of approaching writing about our lives. I do want to read Beth’s book now. And Jamie’s research is very provocative. Thanks Dan.( I heard only bits and pieces today while I was working, so I listened to the whole show again online. )

  • http://www.joanleof.com Joan Leof

    Dear Dr. Dan,
    I appreciated this program immensely, both as one who has been keeping a personal journal for decades and also has written a memoir, Fatal If Swallowed: Reclaiming Creativity and Hope Along the Uncharted Path. This program will benefit those I coach in both journaling and memoir writing. Let’s hope that many more will be inspired to use the powerful tool of writing either privately as Pennebaker said, to “know oneself” or more publically as Kephart said, “..to connect with the rest of the world” through our “universality.”




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