Memoir as Literature & History


"A memoir can mesh private feelings with public issues and intertwine raw emotions with the detachment of rational argument."

Julie Donovan
The George Washington University

Memoir As Literature & History Curriculum PDF

In choosing to narrate the brutal attempt on her life, Malala Yousefzai selected the literary form known as memoir, a well-established genre used by historical figures and other thoughtful, but less recognized men and women to capture a unique moment in time.

This theme considers the unique characteristics of memoir as a literary device and its effectiveness in communicating Malala’s story through a discussion of the following topics:

  • the unique attributes of memoir as a literary genre
  • the difference between autobiographies, memoirs and diaries
  • memoir as a powerful witness to history
  • the relationship between memoir and memory

A supplemental feature for high school teachers appears at the end of this theme.

The resource guide theme can be downloaded at right, and the toolkit theme can be downloaded here.

Individual Activities  

Students will have the opportunity to write a brief memoir that focuses on one memorable instance where everything seemed to change; analyzes different features of memoirs as it applies to other work or themselves; or create or analyze a blog about a specific historical event . 

Group Activities   

Classes are encouraged to choose a historic event that has been chronicled by journalists, historians and individuals and then divide into small groups to read different accounts of the same event. Follow up discussions can compare and contrast these different versions of history.