They say that the difference between Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies is that comedies end in a marriage and a tragedies end in death. While I am not a bardolator, I have a similar view about certain memoirs.
I have fallen down a very niche literary rabbit hole. I am currently reading memoirs that mostly feature female protagonists in their early thirties to early forties. More similarities among the authors include that these women tend to marry later, have successful careers, and live in big cities including Boston, LA, and New York. Additionally, but to a lesser extent, many of these women have experienced divorce, work in the entertainment or publishing industries, and, coincidentally, a fair portion are Jewish. (For a sampling, see here). Aside from the authors, there remains another interesting similarity that persists in many of the books — these memoirs end on a serious note, most notably, on birth or death.
Note, if you view a brief discussion of a memoir’s ending as a “spoiler,” then, yes, this next bit contains spoilers.
Sam Polk’s memoir, For the Love of Money, tells Polk’s story about his struggles with emotional abuse, success on Wall Street, and various addictions. In the end, Polk describes his joy for doing philanthropic work, his wife, and the birth of his children.
In Jessi Klein’s memoir, You’ll Grow Out of It (more here), we witness the author’s life through an amusing collection of stories centered around wry observations and engaging experiences. This memoir ends on the “Infertility Chapters,” which detail the author’s quest to become pregnant.
In Jessica Valenti’s memoir, Sex Object (more here), Valenti discusses her struggles with sexual harassment as a young woman in New York City. While the first two-thirds of the book stick with this theme, interestingly, the last third of her book revolves around her difficult pregnancy and relationship with her husband during this time.
Most recently, I finished reading the memoir, by actress Gabrielle Union, We’re Going to Need More Wine. While the majority of her book deals with serious topics (namely, racism) in a light-hearted way, all humor is dropped in the last essay. Union closes her memoir with a call to action, demanding that we all prioritize our health. She conveys her message through a personal story about a dear friend, who lived the last five years of her life with metastatic breast cancer (an incurable form of cancer).
Comedian and actress, Amy Schumer, ends her laugh-out-loud funny memoir, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo (more here), with a call to action to end gun violence. To spread this message, she details the 2015 lethal shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana during the premiere of her movie “Trainwreck.”
In In the Land of Men, a memoir by editor and author Adrienne Miller (more here), the book ends with a discussion of the death of famous writer David Foster Wallace.
In, Primates of Park Avenue, a memoir by researcher Wednesday Martin (more here), Martin spends the end of her book discussing her miscarriage and the bond that she is able to form with her community through this tragic yet familiar experience.
Writer and filmmaker, Nora Ephon, ends her short comedic memoir I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman on a somber note when she discusses her friend’s battle with cancer and her preoccupations about aging and death.
The examples I have listed are just a few and, honestly, I wish I had kept better notes on the books that I have read because my memory for such details (e.g. the order of the stories/ content) is quickly failing me.
I love memoirs and, of coooooourse, they end in more than just two ways… but sometimes making broad generalizations from a small sample size is fun 😉
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