Contemporary American Memoirs in Action

How to Do Things with Memoir

  • Jane Danielewicz

Part of the American Literature Readings in the 21st Century book series (ALTC)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. Jane Danielewicz
    Pages 1-20
  3. Jane Danielewicz
    Pages 21-37
  4. Jane Danielewicz
    Pages 39-57
  5. Jane Danielewicz
    Pages 59-76
  6. Jane Danielewicz
    Pages 77-96
  7. Jane Danielewicz
    Pages 97-112
  8. Jane Danielewicz
    Pages 113-120
  9. Back Matter
    Pages 121-135

About this book


This book analyzes a collection of literary memoirs to demonstrate how this genre is an avenue for participation in public life.  Writers are repurposing the memoir, a genre known for its personal and expressive function, to engage in debate and serve political goals.  The chapters provide case studies for memoir as social action that effects change by looking at the writing of Joan Didion, John Edgar Wideman, James McBride, M. Elaine Mar, Janisse Ray, Lucy Grealy, and Ann Patchett. Drawing on theories of genre and agency, Danielewicz asserts how these writers are acting pragmatically. Memoirs contribute to democratic society by offering solutions, creating new knowledge, revealing social trends, bringing issues to light, creating empathy and connection, and changing public opinion. 


life-writing autobiograophy genre theory Joan Didion Ann Patchett James McBride writing for social action memoir writing and social change writing and activism memoir and marginalized groups autobiographical subject memoir and selfhood memoir and the public sphere Mikhail Bakhtin Anis Bawarshi John Edgar Wideman Janisse Ray Lucy’s Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face The Color of Water dialogue in memoir

Authors and affiliations

  • Jane Danielewicz
    • 1
  1. 1.University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

Bibliographic information