What's The Difference Between An Autobiography And A Memoir?

What’s The Difference Between An Autobiography And A Memoir?

In this post, we explain the difference between an autobiography and a memoir.

What is the difference between an Autobiography and a Memoir?

Both memoirs and autobiographies are based on truth and both require lots of research, but there are significant differences between the two.

An Autobiography:

  1. Is usually written by a famous person.
  2. Makes use of documentary records.
  3. Focuses on an entire life.
  4. Begins at birth, progressing chronologically to your age now.
  5. Has the feeling of a historical document.
  6. Is filled with facts and specific dates.

A Memoir:

  1. Can be written by anyone.
  2. Is a representation of memory, not of history.
  3. Focuses on an event, theme, era, or choice in a life.
  4. Begins anywhere, can move backwards and forwards, and ends wherever you choose to end it.
  5. Is based on memory, and it is a personal telling of an event.
  6. Is more concerned with the emotional truths of your life.

The two forms are not interchangeable.

Most of us will be writing a Memoir. We will look back at our lives and decide on a timeline and a theme for our story. We will remember as much as we can, and we will research as much as we can.

It is important to remember that memoirs are not fiction. They are about real people and the things that actually happened in our lives.

Examples of Autobiographies

  1. Agatha Christie: An Autobiography by Agatha Christie
  2. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  3. Confessions by Augustine
  4. Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama
  5. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  6. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
  7. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  8. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
  9. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  10. The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi
  11. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Examples of Memoirs

  1. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
  2. Girl, Interrupted by Susana Kasen
  3. Heaven’s Coast by Mark Doty
  4. House on the River by Nessa Rapoport
  5. Incognito: The memoirs of Ben Trovato by Mark Verbaan
  6. Levels of Life by Julian Barnes
  7. One Midlife Crisis and a Speedo by Darrel Bristow-Bovey
  8. Out of Africa by Isak Dinnesen
  9. Patrimony by Philip Roth
  10. Paula by Isabel Allende
  11. Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill
  12. Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  13. The Black Notebooks: An Interior Journey by Toi Derricoted
  14. The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr
  15. The Red Devil: To Hell with Cancer and Back by Katherine Rich
  16. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  17. Two or Three Things I Know for Sure by Dorothy Allison
  18. Virgin Time by Patricia Hampl

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a memoir, look into our Secrets of a Memoirist course.
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by Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. How Your Characters’ To-Do Lists Can Help You Plot Your Book
  2. Why Writing A Memoir Is All About The ‘How
  3. 29 Ways To Write About Happiness
  4. 7 Really Good Reasons To Write A Memoir
Posted on: 6th February 2019