The Year of Magical Memoirs: Why Personal Stories Are Trending

Writers should remember the shoeshine boy before they jump on this trend.

Carlyn Beccia


memoirs are trending
Artwork: © Carlyn Beccia |

In 1929, Joseph Kennedy Sr. (father of JFK) was strolling along Wall Street, past the ringing trading bells and rumbling Model T Fords, when he stopped at a shoeshine stand. As the shoeshine boy buffed and polished Kennedy's oxfords, the young lad gossiped about the hottest stocks.

Kennedy, one brow arched, listened. Maybe he could learn something from this boy.

It has long been rumored that Kennedy made his fortune through bootlegging, but the Irish never had the scandalous mob boss stories the Italians did. No, Kennedy made his fortune like most wanna-be Boston Brahmins did — unregulated stocks (insider trading).

But it wasn't only his diabolical financial acumen that built the Kennedy empire. Joseph Kennedy also understood people.

Thus, as the shoeshine boy shared his stock tips, Kennedy had an epiphany: When shoeshine boys give stock advice, the bubble is about to burst.

Legend has it that Kennedy didn't merely ruminate on this quirky revelation. He acted on it, pulling out of the market before the sky fell. And fall it did — into the abyss of the Great Depression.

Lately, there are a lot of shoeshine boys giving writers advice.

One such repeated wisdom is that essays should always contain a personal story. Forget about writing for readers. If you have a personal angle, readers will rubberneck your life like you are the next Kardashian.

Yeah, so that advice is crap.

Humans are fickle creatures. One year, we devour vampire chick lit. The next year, dystopian teen fiction is all the rage. And the following year, erotic romances with kinky bad-boy protagonists fly off the shelf.

Lately, celebrity memoirs are dominating the top-seller list. From Prince Harry to Britney Spears, celebrity memoirs entice readers with a simple promise — famous people are just like us. They must prune their quirks, foibles, fears, and passions to grow their roses. We love stories with thorns.



Carlyn Beccia

Author & illustrator. My latest books — 10 AT 10, MONSTROUS: THE LORE, GORE, & SCIENCE, and THEY LOST THEIR HEADS. Contact: