Sunday, November 19, 2017

An Enduring Legacy

January 1, 2010 by Jane Ross  
Filed under Blog, Books, Publishing, Self publishing

Perhaps you’ve thought about writing a memoir but wonder, What difference will it make in the grand scheme of things?

dust_n_snowJust last month, I learned that my grandfather’s memoir, which I edited for him more than twenty years ago, lives on and is still being read. And I learned his book had brought comfort to a woman who was battling cancer.

I recently reconnected with distant relatives in Houston. Margaret, the matriarch of this family had been diagnosed with cancer over a year ago and passed away in November. The family would read to Margaret during her long illness and my grandfather’s memoir was particularly meaningful to her.

My grandfather and Margaret’s father were cousins. They had many shared experiences from their childhood growing up in England and India in the first decades of the 1900s. So the stories that my grandfather told in his memoir sparked memories for Margaret of stories she had heard from her father. The book evoked for her the spirit of the time when her father was young. And it reaffirmed for her and for the rest of the family the continuity of family and memory and the stories of who we are that are passed down through the generations.

When I edited my grandfather’s memoir, I never imagined that it would  live on as it has. And I doubt my grandfather imagined either that his story would touch the life of a distant relative in this way. I think if he could have imagined that, he would have been delighted.

For the memoir writer, there is a level of (relative) permanence about a printed book that we cannot count on from digital media. Writing a memoir (and self-publishing it) is a big undertaking. As we work on our story and labor to turn it into a book, we cannot really know how far I will reach and whether it will change lives. But it may, even 20 years later.

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