Memoir: “Changing the Narrative”

Memoir: “Changing the Narrative”
This morning here in “Chicagoland,” as we call it, we awoke to more snow falling—no surprise there—but also to the news that our city’s own Jesse Jackson Jr. is planning to write a memoir. The announcement comes as Jackson is awaiting sentencing after he and his wife pleaded guilty to a bit of crime—filing false tax returns for Sandi, mail fraud and making false statements for Jesse Jr.—that could land Jesse in prison for up to nearly five years. Jackson also has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
An unnamed source told The Chicago Tribune that Jackson wants to write the memoir in order to “clear up his legacy” and, since “he has nothing else to do right now,” he’s “desperately trying to change the narrative of his life story.”
As I’ve noted before in blog posts, this is a common reason to write an autobiography, even for people who are not facing jail time and are not famous. It’s human nature to want to clear up and clean up your legacy by correcting the perceived “facts” of your life, justifying your behavior, explaining your intentions and, perhaps, expressing contrition for some of what you’ve done. It’s tricky, though. This type of memoir can sound whiny and be seen as making excuses or blaming other people for your bad decisions. But it also can be very satisfying. Even if you don’t change anyone’s mind, you’ve had the gratification of telling your side of your own life story.

This morning here in “Chicagoland,” as we call it, we awoke to more snow falling—no surprise there—but also to the news that our city’s fallen hero, Jesse Jackson Jr., is planning to write a memoir. The announcement comes as Jackson is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to a bit of crime—conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and making false statements—that could land Jesse in prison for up to nearly five years. Jackson also has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

An unnamed source told The Chicago Tribune that Jackson wants to write the memoir in order to “clear up his legacy” and, since “he has nothing else to do right now,” he’s “desperately trying to change the narrative of his life story.”

As I’ve noted before in blog posts, this is a common reason to write an autobiography, even for people who are not facing jail time and are not famous. It’s human nature to want to clear up and clean up your legacy by correcting the perceived “facts” of your life, justifying your behavior, explaining your intentions and, perhaps, expressing contrition for some of what you’ve done. It’s tricky, though. This type of memoir can sound whiny and be seen as making excuses or blaming other people for your bad decisions. But it also can be very satisfying. Even if you don’t change anyone’s mind as you attempt to “change the narrative,” you have the gratification of telling your side of your own life story. And everyone has the right to do that.