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These days, memoirs are often the target of contempt. A scathing slam in New York Times Book Review this year inveighed against "oversharing"; and in the New Yorker, the memoirist was likened to "a drunken guest at a wedding... motivated by an overpowering need to be the center of attention." If the narrative deals with socially unacceptable matters like abuse, addiction, family dysfunction, or even poverty, the scorn gets even thicker.
But in the right hands, these stories can have unmatched immediacy and redemptive power. To read an author who speaks about the darker parts of experience honestly, beautifully, humorously, and insightfully is more than just titillating — it makes the world a less lonely place. Each of these memoirs shows confessional writing at its best, forging a rare connection between writer and reader.