Feeling lost when it comes to the difference between memoir and autobiography? You're not alone. The words are sometimes used interchangeably, so it's natural for people to be confused.
There are, however, certain fundamental distinctions to keep in mind to avoid confusion.
Memoirs and autobiographies are both written by the author, but they differ in many ways. Autobiographies focus on the events of one's life, while memoirs may include family history and other non-related information.
Memoirs can also be written about a specific topic like your personal health or your experience with something like domestic violence.
This blog will discuss both of them in detail and will walk you through the key differences between them.
What is an Autobiography?
An autobiography is a biography about a person's life. It covers significant points from the writer's life, including the major events. It comes through the author's own experiences and in his own words.
Autobiographies are written to express sentiments and ideas for others to understand them. After that, it should be published so that it may reach
The primary goal of the autobiography is to;
- Give information or educate someone about anything.
- Tell the story via a memoir.
- Concentrate on the major events and personalities in the writer's life.
- Give you a deeper insight into who they are today as a result of their experiences.
Furthermore, an autobiography is composed as a fictitious narrative that resembles real events.
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What is a Memoir?
A memoir is a French word, which means ‘memory.’ Memoirs also often go into more detail than autobiographies do because authors have more time to write them since they're not focused on just writing their life stories.
This means that readers get an inside view of someone’s life through different perspectives and the person’s point of view. Such as what it was like for you growing up or how you felt after a certain event occurred in your life.
The goal of the autobiography is to;
- Share your own life experiences with the audience.
- Tell the important event from the author's perspective.
- Interact with individuals who are going through similar or comparable circumstances.
- Assist the readers in coming to terms with their own problems.
- Recognize what's essential in their lives and relate it to the themes of the readers' life.
Furthermore, a memoir is an autobiography that focuses on a specific event or personal experience in the author's life.
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Autobiography vs. Memoir - What are the Main Differences?
Before discussing the differences, let's start with some of the similarities between the two. Both autobiography and memoirs are first-person accounts and cover the author’s life.
This implies that the author is using "I" and "me" to describe his or her life (e.g., "I did this, then this happened to me," etc.) in both of these works.
Here are the main differences between an autobiography and a memoir.
|Covers a complete lifespan
||Covers a particular event only
|About famous people only
||Could be about anyone
|Famous for informing about the personality
||Famous for a specific topic or writer’s style
|Written in chronological order
||Moves back and forth in time
|Based on facts
||Based on feelings
Let’s discuss each difference in detail below.
a. An autobiography refers to a person's life from birth, while a memoir is about a specific period of time.
Generally, autobiography strives for completeness, whilst memoir does not. Autobiographies aim to tell the true story of their life from beginning to end, although some portions will receive more attention than others.
Most writers, memoirists, in particular, choose a particularly significant event or aspect of their lives. They'll pick a topic or subject and relate tales from various areas in their lives.
For example: The most significant aspects of Malcolm X's life are covered in his autobiography, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, while the majority of Melissa Febos' book, Abandon Me: A Memoir, is concerned with two important relationships (her father and a lover).
b. A lot of celebrities, particularly those in the public eye, have written autobiographies. A memoirist could be anyone, famous or not.
An excellent example of this is Nelson Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, which details his life from childhood until his release from prison in 1990.
He was a significant figure who had a significant impact on history. Therefore, his personal narrative about his life is important. Only a famous person writes an autobiography.
Mary Karr's The Liar's Club is not a tale of a famous individual but rather an account of a regular person's youth. As a young girl, her childhood was full of interesting events, yet it doesn't stand out due to her fame.
Memoirists do occasionally become well-known, but it's for their memoirs only.
c. People read autobiographies to learn about a famous individual. People read memoirs for different reasons, like having an interest in teh topic.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is a book that people may read for personal reasons, such as wanting to learn about the author’s entire life.
They might have heard it's very informative and well-written, but the desire to learn about a person who molded American history is most likely the driving force.
Readers may choose to read Roxane Gay's book Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body because it contains discussions about food, weight, and body image. They may be inspired by her essays available online to learn more about her work.
d. Autobiographies have chronological order, while the memoirs could have their own flow.
Readers expect an autobiography to begin with the author's childhood and go through young adulthood, middle age, and old age before ending with the time of writing.
Equiano's The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano follows this structure exactly: it begins with his childhood and goes through the entire life story of the author.
Time is a central element in memoirs, but it may be dealt with much more freely in them. Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot skips back and forth through time, emphasizing the concept rather than chronology.
We learn about Mailhard's significant events throughout the book, but not necessarily in chronological order.
e. Autobiography deals with history in a different way than a memoir. Facts are more emphasized in autobiography, while a memoir is all about emotions and feelings.
Autobiographies are frequently regarded as a type of history and used as important source material by historians.
Frederick Douglass' Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is significant because of his talents in oration, statesmanship, and abolitionism. His political prominence raises the value of his writing.
The facts in a memoir are important, but it is understood that writers select and shape them to investigate their chosen subject. The protagonist of Darin Strauss's Half a Life: A Memoir was inspired by a real-life incident—an accident in which he hit and killed a classmate.
The book focuses only on the emotional consequences of this event.
People write memoirs to tell their stories. Autobiographies are personal accounts of a person's life and experiences.
Memoirs and autobiographies both provide insight into personal lives, and we all learn something from them.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How long is a memoir?
A memoir will have the same word count as any novel, between 60,000 and 80,000. Since it focuses on a single event, you should explain it in detail and with enough information to keep the readers engaged.
Is a memoir written in the first person?
Yes, being a personal narrative of an event, a memoir should be written in a first-person narrative.
Are memoirs in the present tense?
No, autobiographies, biographies, and memoirs are usually written in past tense but in the first-person narrative.
What is the purpose of a memoir?
The main purpose of a memoir is to explore the meaning of an event that has happened in the past.