Memoir Categories

I pulled this list of memoir categories together for the memoir class I’m teaching with Linda Joy Myers. I’ve been sharing it with a few people who’ve found it fun to contemplate, so I’m sharing it here, too. I’d love to hear your additions or tweaks.


Childhood, Adolescent, and Coming of Age Memoirs

• Family dynamics, dysfunction, drama

• Unique childhood experiences/growing up stories

• School days

Examples of this type of memoir include: Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs; Jesus Land, by Julia Scheeres; I’m Down, by Mishna Wolff; Funny in Farsi, Firoozeh Dumas


Life Experience Memoirs

• Motherhood

• Career

• Incarceration

• Extraordinary stories

• Inspiring tales

• Disease: living with; witnessing; surviving

• Death: witnessing, questioning, living in the aftermath

Examples of this type of memoir include: It Sucked and Then I Cried, by Heather Armstrong; Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua; My Life Deleted, by Scott Bolzan; Between a Rock and a Hard Place, by Aron Lee Ralston; Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi; The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion;



• Love

• Dating

• Divorce

• Friendship

• Animal stories

Examples of this type of memoir include: Truth and Beauty, by Ann Patchett; The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness, by Brianna Karp; It Happens Every Day, by Isabel Gillies; 31 Dates in 31 Days, by Tamara Johnson; Marley & Me, by John Grogan


Cultural/Ethnic/Sexuality Memoirs

• Coming-out stories

• Stories of growing up within a particular culture

• African American, Asian American, Southeast Asian-specific stories, where race and ethnicity play a primary role in the story.

Examples of this type of memoir include: Black, White, & Jewish, by Rebecca Walker; Bitch Is the New Black, by Helena Andrews; YELL-O! Girls! edited by Vickie Nam


Food Memoirs

• Cooking

• Eating

• Inspired by food

• Gardening

• Food movement stories

Examples of this type of memoir include: Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell; Tender at the Bone, by Ruth Reichl; The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, by Jennifer 8. Lee; Farm City, by Novella Carpenter; Licking the Spoon, by Candace Walsh


Travel Memoirs

• Single-destination

• Multiple-destination

• Theme-based travel

• Soul-searching travel

Examples of this type of memoir include: Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert; The Road to Somewhere, by James A. Reeves; The Adventures of Bindi Girl, by Erin Reese; Es Cuba, by Lea Ashkenas


 Survivor Memoirs

• Harrowing childhood stories

• War stories

• Abuse (sexual, physical, or emotional)

• Trafficking

• Prostitution
Examples of this type of memoir include: The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls; The Tender Bar, by J.R. Moehringer; A Child Called “It,” by Dave J. Pelzer; A Piece of Cake, by Cupcake Brown


 Addiction and Compulsion Memoirs

• Drug or alcohol abuse

• Smoking

• Parents of child with drug or alcohol problem

• Eating disorders

• Body dysmorphia

Examples of this type of memoir include: Beautiful Boy, by David Sheff; Tweaked, by Patrick Moore; Lit, by Mary Karr; A Life in Smoke, by Julia Hansen; Drinking, A Love Story, by Caroline Knapp; Purge, by Nicole Johns; Fat Girl, by Judith Moore


Emotion Memoirs

• Stories of a single emotion

• Personal interactions with things like time, money, etc.

Examples of this type of memoir include: Monkey Mind, by Daniel Smith; Money, A Memoir, by Liz Perle; Dancing at the Shame Prom, edited by Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter


Spirituality Memoirs

• Spiritual development

• Your experiences with religion

• Finding or losing religion

Examples of this type of memoir include: Traveling Mercies, by Anne Lamott; The Spiral Staircase, by Karen Armstrong; Unorthodox, by Deborah Feldman; 90 Minutes in Heaven, by Don Piper


Other Memoirs

• Humor (Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris)

• Hybrids (The Pain Chronicles, by Melanie Thernstrom)

• Graphic memoirs (Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel)

• Anything extraordinarily unique that doesn’t fit into the above-mentioned categories (ask Brooke or Linda Joy before you place your book into an outlier category!)

• Personal essay anthologies that do not fit into the above-mentioned categories

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