I Can Do This, But How?

For Project II, I have decided to take the notes I have about my grandma’s life and turn them into a mini-biography. As part of my initial research, I looked back at Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Both tell  biography-esque stories; the former is what Maya considered to be autobiographical fiction (if I remember correctly) and the latter is a fictional epistolary novel, which is a thought I have thrown around in considering this project. On top of those books, I also retrieved some documents containing dates and names of my grandma’s family members that could come in handy (possibly).

A page from my great grandma’s funeral guest book.


I’ve been considering what T and others brought up in class last week when I spoke about choosing this topic for the project. It was mentioned that biographies are oftentimes written about famous people or people who have had extraordinary lives. So the question presents itself: who would want to read about a person if they’re not famous; if they’re not a relative; if they didn’t survive the Holocaust or some other historical horror; if they’re sphere of impact isn’t global, or national, or statewide, or even citywide? I consider these things, but also look to other biographical works and see that it has been done, and done successfully. The two aforementioned novels, even, were successful at accomplishing this. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was Maya Angelou’s first novel, thus nobody knew who she was when it was first published. Of course she became very famous because of it and her other works later on, though. The Color Purple, while not exactly a biography, nonetheless details the fictional life of Celie, an African American woman growing up in the South, through letters that she writes to God and her sister Nettie.

I’m not saying I can write something that even comes close to the level of those two novels, but that I think I can write something that will be interesting and that people would want to read, even though they have no idea who my grandma is. I don’t know what form this will take yet, but I’m sure about the idea. An epistolary manner would make it quite fictional with some real facts thrown in here and there. Traditional biography style would be closer to reality, or at least the reality I can gather. I still have much to consider.

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