Rate My Life

I will never understand people’s reluctance to rate memoirs. I’ve heard this a bunch of times on BookTube and it frustrates me to no end. Memoirs are still stories, even if it was a person’s life. It doesn’t mean they are incapable of telling the story in a way that doesn’t appeal to you.

Was it well written or a bit standard and unremarkable? Where the stories believable or did you suspect some retroactive editing of history? Did you learn something? Did it make you laugh or cry or feel something? Were you captivated or did you just drag through it? Did you gain insight into an experience you’d never know about on your own? Were you not entertained?

I enjoy memoirs because they often contain a narrative element similar to fiction. You can see what life is like at the South Pole or in the Playboy Mansion or as a person of a different color. I was utterly enthralled by Zoo Story, underwhelmed by Stranger Here, and disappointed by Negroland.

The same people who don’t like rating memoirs typically don’t hesitate to rate poetry collections. Why? Poetry is very subjective. Unless you’re emulating a particular kind of form or structure, there isn’t a way to fundamentally do poetry wrong. Badly, yes. Anyone who survived their teenage years can attest to that. Memoirs are the same way.

You can’t tell the story of your life wrong. However, the way it is told won’t appeal to every person. Jefferson’s narrative choices in Negroland were utterly unappealing to me and that is reflected in my review. It doesn’t mean her book is wrong or I have a problem with her life.

Rating a memoir is saying how this work made you feel or think or didn’t. Did the memoir/(auto)biography leave an impression? Cool. Talk about what kind. Don’t remember what it’s about? Than it rates below three stars. If people had a problem with you rating their life, then they shouldn’t have written a memoir in the first place. So either tell me what you think or don’t waste my time.

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