Humans of New York, by Brandon Stanton came out in 2013. It was the next step for a blog that had been started in 2010. Currently the blog, including social media, has almost 25 million followers.
The appeal of the book was of course the quality of the photography, but it also was the real interest in the people in the pictures. People wanted to know more about their lives. Brandon must have gotten a lot of feedback telling him that and that lead to the most recent version, Humans of New York, Stories. The key thing is that stories telling more about the lives of the people were added.
We want to know more about each other and that has come up in many of this blog's posts. My very first post on this blog talked about experiences I had with a group of men listening regularly to their life stories. We grew closer together and we saw our own lives differently. The success of Humans of New York and our interest in personal stories points to the rise of the the literary genre of Memoirs.
This blog contains a lot of pictures in the various tab sections. This is because the visual images take you out of where you are, and stimulate thoughts, so that you can then connect with the images.
The author/editor, Meredith Maran, put together a book on the subject of life stories and memoirs; her approach is a good next step looking into why this is so interesting.
She wrote the introduction and provided comments in the book. She presented twenty successful and interesting authors thoughts on "why they wrote works of memoir". She compared this to the age-old tradition of oral history as well as their strong popularity.
I can relate to the idea of learning life stories through oral histories. My father told me stories of all our ancestors, as he recalled them. Great Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, Cousins and more. He told their stories and I should add that he did it over and over again. I often thought that I might just tell him, “Dad, I heard that story before” but I never did. I'm glad I didn’t.
The twenty writers chosen by Merideth presented their thoughts in similar formats. They each answered the question of "why they wrote about themselves".
One author, Ishmael Beah, is well known for his memoir “A Long Way Gone: Memories of a Boy Soldier”. I remember when this was released, some critics said it wasn't authentic. It was about the author having been pushed into service in the army of his country, Sierra Leone, as a 12 year old boy. This author talked in Merideth's book about how that made him feel to be called a fake. He also addressed the question of why he wrote, saying he wrote his memoir to “prove his existence”.
Kate Christensen has written several books, and her comments about her memoir caught my attention, particularly when she discussed her divorce at about age 50, and then marrying a man 20 years younger than her. She said it worked out great and talked about it some. She said that over her years as a writer, journal-keeping had really helped her develop her skills. She also said that at a young age she became enthralled with autobiographies, biographies, and journals, especially of famous people, and that she wanted to explore the existence of others. (She wrote The Great Man and other books)
Kelly Corrigan, explained that “she had an insatiable hunger to know the intimate details of other people’s lives”. It seemed like that helped her to understand that her readers could want to know more about her. A lot of what she is about relates to her family. (She wrote Glitter and Glue: A Memoir and others)
Jesmyn Ward tells her story of being a poor black women growing up in rural Mississippi. It is a success story, even though her life had plenty of challenges. She started out as a fiction writer. Like so many good writers she had a purpose. She said “that there were other people out there living through (what she did) who were wondering why nothing of their experience was being reflected back to them in the media, TV, books, or anything.” They couldn’t see themselves in the outside world and she wanted her book to reach them. (See wrote Salvage the Bones: A Novel and others)
These books have similar implications. They show the interests we have in each other. The book “Why we Write About Ourselves" was well worth it.