Sue William Silverman
University of Georgia Press
Trade Paperback/272 pages
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". . . a new and vibrant view of what is and is not memoir . . ."
The “I” in memoir is a literary device to both enhance and explore complicated truths. Just as we are complex people in real life, [we] must be equally complex personas on the page—albeit artistically rendered.
There is a difference between your every day voice and your literary, or memoir, voice. Fearless Confessions by Sue William Silverman is all about this difference and how to bring the most authentic you to the page.
It began for Silverman with her therapist telling her she needed to write her story, to put the pain of her father’s sexual abuse and her sexual addiction in writing. Even as a graduate student in literature she didn’t know how to find that voice and tell her story. Thus began the longest paragraph she’d ever written, a memoir that came from within her pain.
Many respected reviewers such as Michiko Kakutani see memoir as “exhibitionistic monologues” and others dismiss them as prurient and sensational examples of a victim culture. Silverman points to The Diary of Anne Frank and Michel Montaigne’s personal essays as proof that there is not only a need but a place for confessional writing to illuminate individual history as it is experienced.
Fearless Confessions offers a new and vibrant view of what is and is not memoir and how it differs from journalistic autobiographical and biographical writing. What Silverman does best is show how the truth of memoir can be used and how it should be used. Silverman’s writing is clean and unfettered by convention, amply supported by historical as well as personal data. For writers of memoir, this is solid bedrock upon which to build.
Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell