Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir [NOOK Book]


In the tradition of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, a critically acclaimed National Book Award finalist shares inspiration and practical advice for writing a memoir.

Writing memoir is a deeply personal, and consequential, undertaking. As the acclaimed author of five memoirs spanning significant turning points in her life, Beth Kephart has been both blessed and bruised by the ...
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Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir

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In the tradition of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, a critically acclaimed National Book Award finalist shares inspiration and practical advice for writing a memoir.

Writing memoir is a deeply personal, and consequential, undertaking. As the acclaimed author of five memoirs spanning significant turning points in her life, Beth Kephart has been both blessed and bruised by the genre. In Handling the Truth, she thinks out loud about the form—on how it gets made, on what it means to make it, on the searing language of truth, on the thin line between remembering and imagining, and, finally, on the rights of memoirists. Drawing on proven writing lessons and classic examples, on the work of her students and on her own memories of weather, landscape, color, and love, Kephart probes the wrenching and essential questions that lie at the heart of memoir.

A beautifully written work in its own right, Handling the Truth is Kephart’s memoir-writing guide for those who read or seek to write the truth.

Winner of the 2013 Books for a Better Life Award for Motivational

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
National Book Award finalist for A Slant of Sun, one of her several memoirs, Kephart (creative nonfiction, Univ. of Pennsylvania) has composed a gorgeous meditation on memoir. The author has achieved what few do in the crowded field of writing guides: she has created a work of art simply by reflecting on her own art—the writing and teaching of memoir. In four eloquent parts, Kephart introduces readers to the basic principles of memoir construction, suggests many writing prompts for navigating memories, and discusses the issues of describing living relatives and friends and of striving for accuracy. The book's highest value lies in the author's long experience with the memoir genre and its students. She writes with the same lyricism found in her own works and offers here passionate encouragement for would-be memoir writers to embrace truth and empathy, mystery and exploration. Drawing from classroom and personal examples, Kephart introduces readers to the delicate balance that creates the most honest and accomplished memoirs. An appendix of suggested memoirs for reading, grouped by category with generous annotations, is included. VERDICT Highly recommended for anyone interested in the anatomy of a successful memoir and for all writers of literary nonfiction.—Stacey Rae Brownlie, Harrisburg Area Community Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA
Kirkus Reviews
A self-described "memoir autodidact" and distinguished author's refreshingly idiosyncratic guide to the art of creative nonfiction. National Book Award finalist Kephart (Small Damages, 2012, etc.) began her literary career writing "from the margins." This book, which grew out of creative nonfiction classes she taught at the University of Pennsylvania, is not only about "the making of memoir and its consequences," but also "its privileges and pleasures." Though firmly rooted in personal experience, memoir is not an exercise in narcissism. As Kephart shows through examples from writers such as Michael Ondaatje and Annie Dillard, it is a process by which "memoirists open themselves up to self-discovery and…make themselves vulnerable." Those interested in writing creative nonfiction must actively read it so that they can begin to know not only what moves them, but what goals to set for themselves in their own work. In setting out to actually write a memoir, Kephart advises writers to start small, using notes on and photographs of everyday life to start, while mining sensory details, situations and landscapes for meaning and metaphor. Awareness of what is at stake, not just for themselves and those whom they portray, but also for their readers, is also crucial. For Kephart, memoir is an act that brings a single person closer to the "us" of collective human experience. In the process of self-discovery--and like the Penn students from whose work she quotes liberally throughout--memoirists must also learn to ask the right questions about the past and about life itself. Perhaps most importantly of all, though, they must remember the things they love. Only then will they find their own authentic way of writing "toward the truth." Generous, intelligent and genuinely insightful.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101620182
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 8/6/2013
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 442,539
  • File size: 699 KB

Meet the Author

Beth Kephart’s first memoir was a National Book Award finalist and was named best book of the year (1998) by several publications. Her subsequent four memoirs earned her additional acclaim and standing among memoir readers. A respected reviewer, essayist, and blogger, Kephart chaired juries for both the National Book Awards and the PEN First Nonfiction Awards. A veteran writing teacher, she currently teaches memoir at the University of Pennsylvania.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 17, 2014

    This is perhaps my favorite book about writing -- and I have a s

    This is perhaps my favorite book about writing -- and I have a shelf full.  Beth is a passionate, brilliant teacher.  I'm envious of her grad students at Penn.  But I take solace in this book the next best thing to being in her classroom.  For anyone who dreams of writing, or is fascinated by the art and craft of a well made sentence., this book is a must. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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