“Brutally attacked by rebel soldiers who cut off both her hands….” That’s the beginning of a synopsis of The Bite of the Mango by Miratu Kamara, a book included on About.com’s list of biographies, autobiographies and memoirs for teens. Apparently teens are a tough bunch these days. Other books on the list relate the lives of a drug smuggling gone horribly wrong, teenagers on death row, a “boy soldier” in Sierre Leone and, perhaps most famous, a young surfer whose arm was chewed off by a shark.
If you believe that your memoir has something to offer young people, there’s no need to sugar-coat your life’s experiences. Write your story in words a 14-year-old can understand. Try to keep it under 300 pages. Don’t overplay the graphic detail involving violence or sex. Present it in a way that there’s a lesson they can take away—that’s probably the hardest requirement. School libraries and the young people’s sections of public libraries will carry your book if it strikes the librarians as “powerful” in painting the picture of a series of events and in delivering a message.
Without a message, the story of your life is a narrative that will resonate only with the people who know you. If you think you have something of value to teach to young people who will be inspired to follow in your footsteps, or the opposite—will be able to avoid making the same mistakes you made—write with those teens in mind.