Au­thor to kick off com­mu­nity read

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Glenn Grif­fith ggrif­[email protected]­ @cn­weekly on Twit­ter

CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. >> A pre­sen­ta­tion this Sun­day from me­moirist Mar­ion Roach Smith will pro­vide the of­fi­cial start to the Friends of the Clifton Park & Half­moon Li­brary’s an­nual Two Towns One Book com­mu­nity read.

The goal of the TTOB pro­gram is to bring peo­ple in the li­brary com­mu­nity to­gether through the shared read­ing and dis­cus­sion of a com­mon book.

The choices made each year in­spire rich dis­cus­sions of the books as well as lec­tures, com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties, and oc­ca­sional trips. A young read­ers’ por­tion of the pro­gram­ming en­cour­ages young­sters to par­tic­i­pate through com­pan­ion books and re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties.

This month marks the ninth year the Friends group has reached out to the com­mu­nity for po­ten­tial reads. Past selections for the TTOB pro­gram in­clude The Book Thief, Un­bro­ken, The Mar­tian, and last year’s book about co­or­di­nated child ab­duc­tion in 1930s Ten­nessee, Be­fore We Were Yours,

This year’s fi­nal vote on a book se­lec­tion re­sulted in a two way tie.

The books Be­com­ing by for­mer First Lady Michelle Obama and Ed­u­cated by Tara Westover were cho­sen by the com­mu­nity as this year’s reads. Both can be con­sid­ered mem­oirs.

Roach Smith will give her pre­sen­ta­tion ti­tled, “It’s A Mem­oir Re­nais­sance” at 2 p.m. Jan. 12 at the li­brary, 475 Moe Road, Clifton Park. The event is free and open to the pub­lic.

Roach Smith comes from a fam­ily of jour­nal­ists. She spent six years as a re­porter for the New York Times. While still in col­lege the Times’ Mag­a­zine pub­lished her sub­mis­sion de­scrib­ing her first per­son ac­count of a fam­ily mem­ber’s di­ag­no­sis of early on­set Alzheimer’s disease.

The ar­ti­cle, pub­lished in 1983, help start a na­tional con­ver­sa­tion on long term care and specif­i­cally Alzheimer’s. The mag­a­zine ar­ti­cle led to a book con­tract and Roach Smith has been an au­thor, me­moirist, and writ­ing coach ever since.

Her books in­clude An­other Name for Mad­ness, and The Roots of De­sire: The Myth, Mean­ing and Sex­ual Power of Red Hair. Her most re­cent book is ti­tled, The Mem­oir Project, A thor­oughly Non-Stan­dard­ized Text on Writ­ing & Life.

As part of her ap­pear­ance she will share her ex­per­tise as a me­moirist and writ­ing coach, dis­cuss the dif­fer­ent types of mem­oirs, the im­por­tance of mem­oir, and the change in ac­cep­tance of mem­oir by pub­lish­ers.

In a re­cent con­ver­sa­tion she was asked about the dif­fer­ent gen­res of mem­oir.

“Within mem­oir there are some sub-gen­res; there’s the al­co­holism mem­oir, the health care mem­oir, the dog mem­oirs,” she said. “For in­stance, within mem­oir there is this whole huge cat­e­gory of re­cov­ery, and it could be drugs, al­co­holism or any of the other ad­dic­tions. It’s the ad­dic­tion mem­oir. That’s the way ed­i­tors think of them and that’s the way book­stores break them up.”

While dis­cussing the two books cho­sen for this year’s TTOB com­mu­nity read, Roach Smith de­scribed Michelle

Obama’s book as be­ing more au­to­bi­og­ra­phy than mem­oir, while Tara Westover’s book stayed more true to the mem­oir style.

“Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy is one big book on the his­tory of your life while mem­oir is one as­pect of your life; one ar­gu­ment where you have some­thing to say,” Roach Smith said. “Mem­oir is what you know af­ter you’ve been through some­thing.”

In the book, Ed­u­cated, Roach Smith said she found Westover ar­gu­ing for ed­u­ca­tion while Obama’s book took on much more.

“I’m sure Michelle Obama would ar­gue for it too but in her book she’s ar­gu­ing about tenac­ity, per­se­ver­ance, love, de­vo­tion, and ed­u­ca­tion,” Roach Smith said.

With re­gard to pub­lish­ing, Roach Smith said she has seen a change in ac­cep­tance of the en­tire mem­oir genre in re­cent years by mass mar­ket pub­lish­ers not­ing that there is a qual­ity of ex­cel­lence that has to do with hu­man­ity and shar­ing the hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence.

“When you read a book about some­one who walks the Ap­palachian Trail you may not ever walk it your­self but maybe we learn some­thing about en­durance or push­ing our­selves,” she said. “Maybe it gets us up off the couch to go do some­thing that in­creases our per­se­ver­ance or en­durance. Mem­oir al­lows for that hu­man to hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence and I love it for that.”

She pointed to Anne Frank’s Di­ary and the nar­ra­tives of Amer­i­can slav­ery as mem­oirs that pre­sented the world with the his­tory and op­pres­sion of the dis­en­fran­chised.

“I’m a huge de­fender of mem­oir; I think it’s a beloved genre,” Roach Smith said. “I can’t think of any­thing more im­por­tant than shar­ing our sto­ries and this is a genre that al­lows us to do so.”


A pre­sen­ta­tion by au­thor, me­moirist, and creative writ­ing coach Mar­ion Roach Smith will kick off the 2020 Two Towns One Book com­mu­nity read on Sun­day

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