I recently read both of bell hooks' memoirs,"Wounds of Passion" and "Bone Black". I liked them both but was a bit put off at first by her use of the third person. She says in the intro to "Wounds of Passion" that part of the reason for that was because some of the memories were too painful. I suppose writing in the third person might be distancing but I found it hard to get my head around. It felt like a cop-out. But a few days after reading "Bone Black" I discovered that it was really getting under my skin and affecting my mood. I was wrong.
I like reading memoirs and autobiographies -- even the lying ones steeped in so much denial they fill me with anger and disgust (like Nina Simone's). I've recently realized that I prefer non-fiction to fiction in all manners of story-telling. I'm just generally more interested in real life because it's crazy and strange and fascinating, and because for me it creates a sense of connection and understanding.
When I was a kid growing up and attending public school, a homogenous sort of normalcy was constantly reinforced. It seemed to breed a kind of sickness really and I know that for me personally it created a strong sense of alienation. I hated the way we were taught to lie and pretend about who we were even though I could so clearly see there was something more lurking inside the other kids and the adults. I sometimes think that this is the exact place where lots of people get seriously screwed up. We're all born with this incredible capacity to see, feel and comprehend but that is constantly discouraged and crushed to the point where a lot of people grow up flattened feeling totally disconnected to themselves... which drives them fucking crazy.
And maybe this is why I am drawn to nonfiction, especially when people have the courage to reveal their strength or their vulnerability (which is a kind of strength in my mind anyway) or just tell the truth in a straightforward manner. It reinforces my perspective; the one where I'm not alien but totally normal in my lack of normalcy.