Part 2: The Sister Who Only Reads Memoirs

October 2, 2009

he first Va-Va-Voom Sister I met was V2, the middle child. I don’t know if anybody remembers Keane paintings from the 70s: portraits of sad, doe-eyed waifs. That’s how V2 struck me when she attended one of my “How to Search the Internet” classes. Slight, pretty in a plaintive way.

However, her reason for seeking help was so eccentric and peculiar I could not avoid falling in love with her (platonically, of course) immediately.

“The only thing I want to read are memoirs,” she told me mournfully. “I finish one in one to three days, and then I immediately want to read another.”

Although I worked for a library, I am not a librarian, and my first response was fairly stupid.

“You mean, you only want to read autobiographies, biographies told in the first person? They will be shelved under ‘B,’ where all the biographies are shelved.”

“No! I don’t want autobiographies. I want memoirs,” she insisted.

After we talked for a while I began to understand the problem.

First, by a “memoir,” she meant not just a first person autobiography (though she will only read books written in the first person); she also meant something sensational and exciting. If all the guests on shows like Jerry Springer and Oprah Winfrey wrote books recounting their life stories, those would be the books V2 wants to read.

I am making this example up, but as I looked for books for V2, the template in my mind ran something like this:

A perfect book for her would run something like: My father was a gang member who dealt drugs and my mother was a prostitute who turned tricks. I grew up hooked on crack cocaine and turning tricks to support my habit.

Second, not all memoirs are filed in libraries under biographies. V2 also liked to read books about people who suffered from terrible medical problems such as cancer. I will provide some examples of how a search for something for her to read her might go if I were trying to find some books by women who struggled with breast cancer.

After I found several books with a Google search I looked them up in the library catalog.

For example, here are two books by women who survived breast cancer:

Cancer Is A Bitch by Gail Konop Baker.

5 Lessons I Didn’t Learn from Breast Cancer by Shelley Lewis.

Both of these books are filed under 362 in the Dewey Decimal System, which applies to “Social Welfare Problems and Services.”

On the other hand, Saving Graces, a memoir by Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Vice Presidential Candidate and adulterer John Edwards, is filed under Biography.

Yet another book I found in my search was One-Breasted Woman by Susan Deborah King, a Presbyterian minister, a psychotherapist, a writing teacher, and a poet. “Susan made time to turn her emotions into poetry,” the publisher’s description tells us, so the book is filed under 811 (poetry).

Probably V2 would not have liked One-Breasted Woman. I don’t think she cares for poetry.


4 Responses to “Part 2: The Sister Who Only Reads Memoirs”

  1. Pete Says:

    Maybe you should write a memoir and have her help you. This blog gets you most of the way there…
    Sidenote: I’m doing the Oregon Coast next week!
    I can’t wait!

  2. modestypress Says:

    Pete, I don’t think my memoir would tickle V2’s fancy. I have never been in jail; I have never been a drug addict; I have never gotten a woman pregnant out of wedlock; I am a far too boring a person to write a memoir to her taste.

  3. This is hilarious … I love the bit about the vagaries of the genre classification system. And amazed that anyone would actually title a book “One-Breasted Woman.”

  4. Stephen Kahn Says:


    With all the modern fascination with and mania for cosmetic surgery, I can envision a breast cancer survivor having her body altered so instead of having an artificial breast (so she would look again as if she had two breasts), she has one breast in the middle of her chest.

    I do not know of such a person, but I did see a couple of years ago on the Internet a photograph of a top model (and survivor of breast cancer) displaying her body “topless” on a beach, defiantly flaunting her one breast.

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