Personal memoirs and life histories are forms of qualitative research that from time to time appear on bestsellers lists. These forms of research detail the authors’ experiences of living and reflecting upon their everyday lives—lives that may be unique in some sense or lives made unique by the richness of the interplay of living, reflecting, and writing. In this review, I make the case for viewing moments in all lives as worthy of the development of personal memoir or life history and for using memoir as a way of generating takeaways or lessons learned. I review Elyn Saks’ (2007) memoir and bestseller about her life with schizophrenia, The Center Cannot Hold, and the British actor, author, and comedian, Stephen Fry’s 2006 documentary about bipolar disorder Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. Both are examples of life histories that provide an abundance of opportunities for learning about what we might otherwise never know.


Personal Memoir, Life History, Lessons Learned

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Maureen Duffy is the Co-Editor of The Qualitative Report and The Weekly Qualitative Report at Nova Southeastern University (NSU). She is a family therapist and consultant in private practice and can be contacted at 501 Grand Concourse, Miami Shores, FL 33138, USA; Telephone: 305.335.8043; Fax: 305.758.6276; E-mail: mwhelehan@gmail.com.

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Original volume and issue number from The Qualitative Weekly, an offshoot publication of The Qualitative Report which has been folded into the primary journal: Volume 1, Issue 9


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