Introduction to Genre: Memoir

“A memoir is a collection of memories that an individual writes about moments or events, both public or private, that took place in the subject’s/person’s life.” I struggled to find an additional genre that allowed me to truly summarize my college living experience. I think that a memoir is a great way of encapsulating my living experiences, especially because I adore my current roommate. It’s the happy resolution that a memoir should have. It is a subgenre of autobiography that does not require one’s entire life story. I’m interested in it because I think the genre encompasses that reminiscent connotation that I am currently feeling. Perhaps this is a product of the changing leaves, my new status as an upperclassman, or my graduate school search. Regardless, a memoir seems like a fitting way to end the semester.

Personally, I always thought memoir had a sad connotation. After looking into the genre, it seems more about an uplifting story. I prefer this happier narrative and I think I can do it. Most of the ones I’m familiar with, such as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, are coming-of-age stories that almost have an expectation of being something the reader needs to be sympathetic. This is one of the most famous memoirs because it tackles trauma and racism, subject matters far more severe than the story I’m telling. In my genre research, I attempted to find reader expectations as opposed to my typical search for writer expectations. In this, I found:

A sympathetic main character

Vividly depicted scenes

Emotional tension

Increasing sense of drama/conflict:

A satisfying ending

My story provides all of these. I think I can add emotion to a lot of the scenes, especially when provided the lack of patience I was experiencing during much of this because I was in such a toxic relationship that I allowed to characterize my living experience for the better part of this.

There is also an expectation for a memoir to have a deeper meaning. I think I can give life to this premise through the coming-of-age aspect of it. The personal growth I experienced because of this, especially with regard to overcoming social anxiety, depression, and abuse during this time will allow me to cultivate this. I would love to explore this route because it is less comical and forces me to reflect on the situation from a different perspective. I’d like to focus more on the positive for a change. It’d be nice in the midst of exams.

Intro to Open Letters

For those of you who aren’t familiar, my origin piece(s) are text messages between my friends from home and I about my roommates over the past few years. For the most part, they’re complaints and stories about my eventful living situations. My first genre was satire, which did not pan out, so I’d figure I’d try to stick to something a little more achievable. For this next piece I want to attempt to write an open letter.

I first became familiar with the genre when I had to write one for my 125 final. I wrote this one to Donald Trump’s tie and genuinely enjoyed doing so. I’ve read many, namely from newspapers that my parents have forced me to read and from McSweeney’s.

I’ve always found these works enjoyable. My dad made me read a few political ones over the year, typically regarding acts of war and legislation, so I’ve always been intrigued by them, such as this one to former President George H.W. Bush:

My favorite one so far is this one: https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/an-open-letter-to-white-people-in-need-of-a-token-brown-person . It’s an open letter about being the token minority and it resonated with me because for most of my childhood, I was one of the few people of color in my classes. I grew up in one of the few conservative areas in California and the experience was not one unfamiliar to me. All my neighbors were white and I didn’t make my first ‘minority’ friend until I was in the eighth grade. I like the emotional nature of this piece and I like its message.

Typically open letters are written to change something or bring attention to it (https://www.mindmybusinessnyc.com/how-to-write-the-open-letter/). Personally, I would just like to bring attention to some of the more humorous, unconventional aspects of my living experiences since 2017. Similarly, the person writing the letter must establish ethos within their piece, or else it loses its credibility and becomes less enjoyable. They’re supposed to be more concise and offer some type of solution or plea in response to what they are trying to draw attention to.

Another source, (https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/open-letter/) noted that these are supposed to be intimate, emotional appeals because of their public nature. When done correctly, this same articles states, they aren’t “simply for the person to whom it’s addressed.” It also notes that these are usually done in these particular fashions:

  • A humor or satirical piece addressed to a celebrity or person in the news.
  • A piece of constructive criticism (or praise) to a politician, either international or local.
  • A letter to a thing — one of your fears, a habit you’d like to break, etc.
  • A note to yourself at a specific age/year in the future.

My hope is that my piece would/should fall into the last bullet point.

intro to sarcasm/satire

My parents often remind me that they disapprove of my sarcastic nature. I wasn’t always like this, but my best friend is and I stole it from her because I think she’s the coolest person I know. I understand how my newer dry nature could negatively impact my social life at 20, but it attracts equally sarcastic and sardonic individuals into my life. This makes for a much more entertaining social circle, so I’m not really upset about it. Plus I have this really pitchy, pleasant voice that tends to make things sound significantly less cutting. It’s a gift and a curse, but it has been complicit in what likely is the development of the worst part of my personality. I continue to use sarcasm in my day to day life because I love it. It has also led to my interest in satire, more specifically political satire, so I would be very interested to try to do some satirical work of my own.

Satire is defined as being “ in which human or individual vices, follies, abuses, or shortcomings are held up to censure by means of ridicule, derision, burlesque, irony, parody, caricature, or other methods, sometimes with an intent to inspire social reform. ” The appeal of satire stems from its wit, irony, and its ability to make fun of the obvious. I have a preference for political satire because I think it makes a lot of awful topics significantly more digestible. I think sarcasm/satire would be one a few formats fit for telling the story of my past roommate experiences. They are painfully humorous–at my own expense, not that of others–so I think this genre would allow me to make fun of the obvious and mock some weird conventions that the people I have lived with over the years have subscribed to. I would make use of the Horatian school of satire because it is lighthearted and that is exactly the type of story I would like to tell. In describing my former living situations, my intent is to make people laugh as opposed to a critique of my former roommates. I want it to be a more wholesome story.

My living situation worked out eventually, but it was a rough journey. Making fun of the journey that finally got me here would be enjoyable and a great way to reminisce as an upperclassmen.

I think one of the examples that come to mind when I think of this genre is The Onion: I used to find no interest in making light of issues that tend to be offensive or upsetting, but I have found some merit in it as a coping mechanism. Similarly, many of my favorite pieces from this genre actually come from other websites like Reductress, like this one:

My intent isn’t to ridicule my former roommate’s for their character, but to poke fun at some odd situations I’ve found myself in throughout the years. I’ve had 11 roommates so far, all of whom have had various quirks: I had a roommate who enjoyed waxing people for free, which meant that I often walked into my apartment only to see a naked stranger and various hairy wax strips on the floor or the roommate I had who was using my face mask to cure a rash on her butt. They were never bad people, just strange. I’d just like to make light of some fun memories that I have.

They always make for a good story at the dinner table so why not try it for academia.

Hello.

Howdy.

I didn’t know how to start off my introduction because practically every greeting sounded too enthusiastic, too dry, or phony when I envisioned myself saying it. Plus, howdy seemed unconventional enough to where my saying it could totally be a Tatiyana-thing. Didn’t wanna make it seem like I was trying too hard, so I added a period after howdy. Very nonchalant of me.

Still not really sure how I want to do this introduction of me because I don’t really know what to say about myself. I’m sorta grappling with the fact that I haven’t been the one to define myself for quite some time now and I need to learn who I am these days to start.

Because I don’t really know how to define myself anymore, I’m hoping that a description of my current state will help explain me: I’m currently sitting criss-crossed on my couch, typing with greasy confetti cookie dough fingers, and waiting for my peel-off face mask to dry. I am sporting my favorite pair of men’s Frosty the Snowman pajama pants, a raggedy Save the Whales shirt from the San Diego pier/my favorite city in the world, and a mismatched pair fuzzy socks that differ in length. My hair is in a messy bun because I haven’t learned to tame it in the twenty years I’ve been on this planet, but it ties the look together quite nicely. The apartment is definitely way too warm for me to be dressed like this, but that’s just because the oven is turning the small amount of cookie dough that I didn’t eat into real cookies. Also because the fireplace is running on a sticky, humid day so my pooch can sleep peacefully in front of it and because my roommate and I are unofficially competing to be his favorite foster mom and I’m most definitely buttering him up.

I think my physical description is a good indicator of where I’m at right now: I finally got out of an unhealthy relationship that I let set the confines of my character for almost two years. Things are a little messy right now but I’m hoping to turn the messy bits into something happy, like the chaotic piles of sprinkles, sugar, eggs, and butter transforming in my oven as I type that are an objectively happy thing.

I’m in my oven stage right now.