Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sob Stories

Is it a rule that all newly published memoirs must be depressing? While reviewing some non-fiction books for Elle's reader panel, the main recurring theme in all of the autobiographies was how horrible their life was at some time. Observe:

Hillbilly Gothic: uncomfortable pregnancy followed by mental ward-worthy postpartum depression. I really want to have kids now.

Jesus Land: Bible thumpers abuse their adopted black children, care more about the dog and missionary work than their kids, and send "misbehaving sinners" (read: normal teenagers) to ultraChristian reform school hell in the Dominican Republic. Thank God my parents are sane.

Lifeguarding: father is alcoholic and unemployed, then in junior high the author discovers she is a lesbian and comes out while in college - in 1970's Kentucky. I think this would have been more uplifting if the author had provided more details on how her life is now with her partner instead of leaving it as an afterthought in the acknowledgements.

The least depressing was The Horizontal World, which was basically about someone wanting to leave the North Dakota farm where she grew up. Not much happens in North Dakota, and this book of rebelling and becoming a metal singer and quasi-slacker was quite refreshing after reading tale after tale of woe. Not to marginalize the authors' experiences, but I think the sample Elle selected could have had more balance.