Recording memories for future generations
Two great memoirs to read and keep - Then Again by Diane Keaton and My Story, My Song by Lucimarian Roberts.

Three memoirs worth keeping

I’m not a big fan of celebrity memoirs, but I am a huge fan of memoirs that share life lessons. In the last year I’ve read three great celebrity memoirs that I’m still talking about to clients and friends: Then Again by Diane Keaton; Life is a Gift by Tony Bennett; and My Story, My Song by Lucimarian Roberts.

Inspiration and motivation comes to each of us from different places and experiences throughout of lives. In sharing these life stories we open ourselves up to connecting with others who feel the same. In evidently, readers think about their own life experiences and what they would say about their own lives. Here’s why I love these memoirs.

Then Again

Diane Keaton never wanted to write a celebrity memoir. Like every family, there’s a little drama. She has had her own ups and downs in her career and wanted to keep those stories private. Her mother Dorothy, however, struggled through middle age to find her own voice and develop a sense of self worth beyond managing a household. Throughout her lifetime she wrote and decorated 85 journals. This was her creative outlet.

The first ones were spotted in the house when Diane was a young actress. They detailed the comings and goings of growing family and a mid-life struggle with marriage. Sometimes they were written. Some pages were photo scrapbooks. Other entries were more like mixed-media artwork.  Mom did a great job of saving newspaper stories about her Diane and then writing her own commentary.

It was only after Mom’s long and graceful sunset with dementia that Diane and her brother read through the journals and realized what an amazing family history it was.  Like anyone with a family loss, they didn’t want her to disappear. Diane realized the most alluring trait about the woman who was her mother was her complexity and her fine abstract reasoning capabilities. At the age of 59 in 1980, her mother wrote the following passage about recording life stories:

 

“Every living person should be forced to write an autobiography. They should have to go back and unravel and disclose all the stuff that was unpacked into their lives. Finding the unusual way authors put ideas into words gives me a very satisfying knowledge that I could do this too if I focused on it. It might help me release the pressure I feel from stored up memories that are affecting me now. I really wanted to write about my life, the close friends I knew, the family life we had, but I hold back. If I would be totally honest, I think I could reach a point where I’d begin to see me in a more understandable light. Now I’m jumpy in my recollected thought, yet I know it would be nothing but good for me to do this.”

 

This is beautifully said. The remainder of the book weaves Keaton family stories with Diane’s. It’s a legacy written for the Keaton children and shared with the public. I highly recommend this Random House book for anyone who wants to write a family history and isn’t sure where to begin. Your story begins at home. Look around and see what’s there to help you tell your story.

Life is a Gift

My love affair with Tony Bennett’s voice began in college in 1981 when I bought an album at a yard sale. No one my age was listening to big band music.

Life is a Gift should be mandatory reading for every child coming of age. The entire book is an ethical will.  Mr. Bennett does a tremendous job detailing and reinforcing the life lessons that he learned the hard way in the music industry and continues to live by today. He’s honest in saying these lessons haven’t been easy.  He talks about drugs and alcohol and how addictions ruined many of his friends lives and his own for a period of time.

Whenever he was sidetracked in his life he always came back to his gift and stuck to writing and recording the kind of elegant music that works for him. He has found a way to share that gift with generations of new musicians who cherish the opportunity to work with him. Tony ends each chapter with The Zen of Tony Bennett, a series of life lessons from the stories told in that passage.

This reads more like a celebrity memoir than a personal family history, but it’s interesting.  It is a good example of memoir where personal struggles are woven with life lessons, good humor and gratitude. Each of us has our own challenges. In life review we could easily write the zen of me.

My Story, My Song

I’m so thankful that Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts and her siblings talked their mother into writing a book. My Story, My Song is exactly the kind of book that every family should write for future generations. It doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to read like a suspend thriller or be loaded with hundreds of photographs. There certainly doesn’t have to be an earth-shattering secret revelation. It simply has to be a series of heartfelt family stories and shared values.

In the sunset of her life Lucimarian Roberts documented her family history, sharing pivotal moments in her intriguing life, including the struggles of growing up as a black woman born in 1924, raising a family, cultural changes in America and why she sang through life. Her faith in God is an unwavering string woven through each story. So too is her music. Her favorite bible passages and poems are woven throughout this very personal book.

The final chapter, Growing older, celebrating life, is followed by a section where each of Mrs. Roberts’ children write a letter about their mother’s influence on their lives. Bingo! Every family should do this.

After reading My Story, My Song I feel like I spent a perfect afternoon with a new friend who invited me over to a family party. This is my must-read, must-keep book.

If you are wondering what gift to buy a family member who has everything give them this book and a blank journal. It’s a quick-read printed in larger type by Upper Room Books. Inspire them to write their own story. Make time to sit and listen to their stories.

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