Semi-autobiography versus Memoirs

Directions: From the selection of the question, please answer the question in complete 5 paragraphs essay. Please make sure you use at least a documentary/film in the essay.


•      Please use proper in-text quotation and a well written works cited page.


•      Please try to use at least 3-4 outside sources in your response and do more research on each topic as you will have a little bit



Semi-autobiography versus Memoirs:

I am Malala

Lecture 1

Pp. 40-80


“Then he began to cry. Stop listening to music, he begged. Stop going to movies. Stop dancing. Stop, he begged, or God will send another earthquake to punish us all” (39)

This reading section ends on a very interesting note. First and foremost, it begs us to question the role of media? What kind of influence does the mullah have over the people? Why does he instill fear into the ones who are listening? Why doesn’t Malala give in and confrom to the fears?

Documentary – media and India-Pakistan Conflict

Genre: Memoir as literature and history – Definition

Memoir, n: a well-established genre used by historical figures and other thoughtful but less recognized men and women to capture a certain moment in time.

Records of events or history written from the personal knowledge or experience of the writer, or based on special sources of information. (Oxford English Dictionary)

Memoir as a literacy device

The unique attributes of memoir as a literary genre

The difference between autobiographies, memoirs, and diaries

Memoir as a powerful witness to history

The relationship between memoir and memory




The Question at Heart

What is it about the memoir that can make it a more powerful means of expression than other literary forms?

By using the example of Testament of Youth (1933), Vera Brittain provides perhaps one answer. Grappling with how to depict World War I from a young woman’s perspective, Brittain rejected the idea of writing a novel, feeling that it would be too far removed from the reality of her experience.

Opting to write a memoir enabled Brittain to recount her personal story against the backdrop of a harrowing war, within a society that decried female independence and denied her the right to vote.

Vera Brittain – Testament of Youth (1933)

Personal versus Political

“In no other fashion, it seemed, could I carry out my endeavor to put the life of an ordinary individual into its niche in contemporary history, and thus illustrate the influence of world-wide events and movements upon the personal destinies of men and women.” (12)

Autobiography versus memoir

A memoir can excel in evoking immediacy and veracity, where private feelings mesh with public issues and raw emotions intertwine with the detachment of rational argument and the exegesis of an intellectual or political stance.

Memoir Versus Autobiography: Memoir differs from autobiography in that the memoir concerns a specific, concentrated period within a life, whereas an autobiography tends to recount the story of a life that is generally more all-embracing, with a greater chronological sweep and more linear structure

Memoir, Diary, and Autobiography: All three forms of relating personal stories are told in the first person, and therefore readers need to be mindful of the process of interpreting a narrator’s point of view.

Chapter 12 – A school girl’s diary – Turning point

”He suggested that I use a fake name so the Taliban wouldn’t know who was writing the diary” (77)

My first diary entry appeared on 3 January 2009, but two weeks before Fazlullah’s deadline. The title was ”I Am Afraid.” I wrote about how hard it was to study or to sleep at night with the constant sounds of fighting in the hills outside town. And I described how I walked to school each morning, looking over my shoulder for fear I’d see a Talib following me” (77)


Popular Memoirs

Eli Wiesel’s Night about his account of surviving his experience in Aushwitz

Ishmael Beah’s account of war in Sierra Leone, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (2007) demonstrate how the memoir stands as a powerful witness to history.

Gives history a more human context than a bald recounting of dates, battles, and other details of more formal or grand historical narratives.

Demonstrate the occasionally didactic nature of the memoir, which raises consciousness about society, culture, and government.

The complicated relationship of history and memory


Criticism on the memoir genre

While the memoir serves as a testament to injustice, it is also a genre that may indulge the worst excesses of contemporary voyeurism and self-absorption, so it is worth considering when memoirs reveal merely narcissism and even deceit.

Malala’s narrative is typical of the memoir’s ability to give us an insider’s perspective on events that may seem remote when reported in newscasts and other media. The vividness of personal experience evokes not only the sense of terror and displacement caused by Taliban control but also the beauty of the Swat Valley and the renowned hospitality of the Pashtun people.



Group activity – Important memoirs

September 11, 2001 – USA

The Diary of Anne Frank – Holland

Elie Wiesel’s Night – Holocaust

A Long Way Gone– Apartheid, South Africa

Civil Rights

A Jewish Prisoner of War

Survivor Testimony – Holocaust






Group Activity – Discussion

How do they each portray the times?

The emotional context? Historical facts?

Where do we feel the greater affinity?

How do the contrasts and complexities relate to individual experience as it is affected by social, cultural, and historical events?

Do you find that you also have “contrasts” within yourself as they relate to things in your life that you feel passionate about or want to change? What can we learn from looking at the world and ourselves in a more complex way?

Written as a memoir, are Persepolis and I am Malala more powerful than Dazai and Sidhwa’s semi-autobiographical novels? Why or why not? Compare either Dazai or Sidhwa’s text with either of the memoirs we read in class. What are the benefits and drawbacks of memoirs and semi-autobiography? Please use specific examples to justify your observations.


Persepolis book


Final essay: 2,200 words

Font: Times font 12, double space

Works cited page

Format: MLA 8th edition

Please use proper in-text quotations.

"Looking for a Similar Assignment? Get Expert Help at an Amazing Discount!"