Skip to main content, seriously. (Justin Bieber's memoir hits bookstores today)

With the release of Justin Bieber: First Step 2 Forever today, one of my pet peeves comes urbling to the surface of the blogosphere. Without addressing the literary quality in young Bieber's book (I'm sure enough people will be trashing it without reading it, but that's an entirely separate pet peeve), what irks me is all the people saying, "Isn't he too young to write a memoir?"

Memoir and autobiography are two very different forms. An autobiography is the chronicle of a full life span, typically written in a person's later years; a memoir is a slice of an extraordinary life. A talented ghostwriter could do a memoir with a baby. (I'd actually love to try that!) The story could take place over a month, a day, an hour. Why not Memoir of a Minute? (Hmm. I'd love to try that, too.)

I wrote a memoir in my mid 30s. (Which reminds me: Buy my memoir!) I ghostwrite memoirs for people young and old. (Buy this one too. And this one!) Hilary Liftin wrote her first memoir, Dear Exile: The True Story of Two Friends Separated (for a Year) by an Ocean with her Yale roommate and followed up with the delicious Candy and Me: A Girl's Tale of Life, Love, and Sugar before ghosting memoirs for Tori Spelling, Miley Cyrus, and Terri Hatcher. Then there's Lance Armstrong's It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life, written with Sally Jenkins. And hey, while I cringe to mention Lindbergh's Pulitzer winner in the same paragraph as Tori Spellling, The Spirit of St. Louis, anyone?

Memoirist/writing coach Virginia Lloyd, author of The Young Widow's Book of Home Improvement: a True Story of Love and Renovation says this about that:
All memoirs are about personal journeys, which often involve change and transformation. They are quite different from autobiographies, which endeavour to remember everything noteworthy that happened, in chronological order, during the author’s lifetime. Memoirs are much more selective, focused on a particular period of time in a defined place, or a series of related experiences. The strongest memoirs arise from the fact that the writer undergoes some kind of change due to specific experiences, and he or she now has the necessary perspective, analytical distance, and emotional courage to write about them.
She wisely advises: "It should go without saying that if you are not already reading memoirs then you should not be attempting to write one." (Or you should hire a talented ghostwriter.)

Take a moment to read the rest of Virginia Lloyd's excellent Write Stuff article. There's some terrific procedural advice for anyone with a memoir on the brain or in progress.

By the way, Bieber's book features photographs by the brilliant Robert Caplin. Check out his "Love and Cartagena" piece for the New York Times.

And for those immune to Bieber fever, here's a quiet moment from before he was famous, just somebody's kid who is undeniably talented and a little harder to hate.


The Biebs is giving fans one more reason to give him a hand at his scream-inducing concerts, with a line of glittery nail polish aptly dubbed, “One Less Lonely Girl.” This week they giving away Justin Bieber tickets to the hottest show in the Bay Area. it would be a dream for Justin Bieber fans.
Suzan Harden said…
And no one believed me when I said Justin's memoir was coming out.

For the record, I'd much rather read Justin's memoir than Snooki's novel.
suzqz said…
Great post! I recently read Double Take by Kevin Connoly-- another fantastic example of an under 30 memoir.

I just don't know why people are so hard on the young Mr. Beiber. I don't much care for his music, but I can see that he's a talented musician and performer. He has what it takes to produce some really amazing things.
Jen Singer said…
Anyone can write a memoir. It's writing a good memoir that's tough. I am studying how you've done it -- again and again -- Joni. You are a master.
I don't really have a problem with the whole young people doing memoirs thing; it's more that I wonder what young Bieber will think down the road, say 20 years from now, about his "own" memoir. And I have to admit that I do have a problem with celebrities claiming to write their memoirs themselves. I don't have a problem with someone ghosting, but then the celeb author should own up to that.

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