The Reviewer's Role: Is A Touch of Memoir Appropriate, Honest, Intrusive, Something Else?

Reading and reviewing books side-by-side offers a way of increasing the number of perspectives and experiences one can weave together. The reading process itself is an interactive one. At a minimum it includes the author’s voice and values, reader’s values and experiences, and other texts both reader and writer have woven into their lives. Two books together, in interaction with the reader, greatly increase the complexity of the reading process.

I recently reviewed both the books displayed above (click to find them on Amazon) for Christian Century magazine (link takes you to the review). Doing so provided an opportunity to remember my own life as a teaching life. Hence, I started the review with a personal anecdote and ended it with an application from my own life.

The decision to include a bit of self into the review reflects my belief that no reading can be totally objective and that transparent subjectivity can be a good thing–if done with respect and love for the author.

What do you think of the practice of injecting a little piece of the reviewer’s own life into the review of another book?  I did the same thing at the beginning of my review of Mennonite in a Little Black Dress. Is this helpful? Does it seem intrusive? I can imagine some people might view it as arrogant or solipsistic–the same way some critics view the memoir genre itself.  I’d love your opinion on this matter, since I have reviewed a lot of memoirs here and hope to continue. Please help me become a better reviewer by reflecting on what you appreciate–or not –in reviews as you read them.

Advertisements

About Shirley Hershey Showalter

Author of memoir Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World. Blogging about Magical Memoir Moments and Jubilación -- vocation in the second half of life.
This entry was posted in My Reviews, Personal Reflections and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Reviewer's Role: Is A Touch of Memoir Appropriate, Honest, Intrusive, Something Else?

  1. Loretta Willemss says:

    Shirley, I do like the inclusion of the personal. You do it well. I've read reviews by others where the personal has almost completely taken over. You do not do that. Your presence has never been intrusive.

  2. shirleyhs says:

    Thanks for taking time to give this feedback, Loretta.

  3. clifh says:

    Writing book reviews for the New York Time would perhaps require minimal use of the first person singular pronoun in a book review. Writing reviews on-line is less formal, and the reviewer may write as they wish. It's a judgment call between these two extremes.I appreciate reviewers who interject their personalities into their reviews. It's a reminder to the reader that the review is one person's opinion and not the final judgment from on high.When I finish reading a book I feel compelled to tell the world how I feel about it. Goodreads.com provides that release for me. http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/793473

  4. shirleyhs says:

    Thanks, Clifh. Seeing your thoughts gives me courage to continue with the same mix of attempts at objectivity plus a touch of the clearly personal and subjective. I will go check out your own reviews now!

  5. shirleyhs says:

    Thanks, Clifh. Seeing your thoughts gives me courage to continue with the same mix of attempts at objectivity plus a touch of the clearly personal and subjective. I will go check out your own reviews now!

  6. Miranda says:

    I like the use of a little bit of personal anecdote in a review. After all, life doesn't occur in a vacuum, and neither does reading.But I also agree with the first commenter–it's possible to overdo it.

  7. shirleyhs says:

    Thank you, Miranda. I will keep seeking the happy medium. Glad you stopped by. Come back again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s