I have always been fascinated by the different ways to tell someone’s life story. Only recently have I begun reading different autobiographies and biographies – most of them are written by or about people who have done interesting things with their lives, are writers or have a cause to be passionate about. When I was doing my Masters degree in Women’s Studies, my dissertation was about deaf women and autobiography – specifically about how deaf women’s autobiographical writings shows the tension between deaf politics and the politics of being a woman. I’ve thought a lot about my own memoirs and autobiography – where would I start? I’ve got a lot to say about many different things and I also have a lot of memories, events and achievements to write about. I feel that if you have a story to tell, and want to tell it to somebody, then a memoir is a way to tell your side of the story and make sure that people get to know you or a chance to leave something behind for people who will never meet you.
I don’t think you have to have achieved great things in order to write down your memoirs. I’ve come across all sorts of autobiographies and memoirs that are about very ordinary people talking about their life and the time they live in. We would never know what the past was like if people didn’t write about it and talk about all those things that historians, novelists and researchers want to know about. Memoirs can be more intimate and interesting than reading a history book written by someone who never lived through the time they are writing about. Getting inside someone’s head makes the past more real to us.
So why do I want to write my memoirs? What attraction does it hold for me? Well, being a writer, any chance to type or scribble away appeals to me. I think we all secretly want to jump at the chance to talk about our lives, even though it might seem daunting or uninspiring to start with. I’m of the generation who are probably quite self involved and interested in identity politics – I was a teenager when the internet hit and I became a social networker. I’m 25 now, born in 1984, to two weekend hippy music loving parents. My parents came from Cambridge but moved to North London, the Hertfordshire area. I have some very faint memories of my time with them without my sister, who came along when I was 4 years old. I find it interesting that my memories are more vivid when Sarah came into my life – I remember seeing her for the first time in hospital, her dark curly hair and little fingers. I remember putting the cuddly toy I had bought into her cot with her – a Disney Thumper from Bambi. She still has it somewhere, I think.
I was quite an adventurous and imaginative child – I still remember imagining things and making up stories that would allow me license to explore various gardens, imagining I was in a story. I remember enjoying creative things – finger painting, playing with clay and play-doh, painting, dressing up and putting on shows for people. Later still, I was interested in crafts and set up an after school group called the ‘Green Group’ where some of my primary school friends and I made things to sell so we could raise money for an animal charity. We made flowery hair scrunchies, Fimo brooches and papier mache christmas decorations. I think scrunchies were fashionable in the 90s – you won’t find me wearing them now!
When I was 6 years old, I was diagnosed as profoundly deaf. Back then, I could still hear quite a bit without my hearing aids, so it didn’t effect me as much as it did my parents. My Mum tells me that she was devastated, and that they had no idea what to expect. For me, though, it was just part of my everyday life and it didn’t stop me enjoying my childhood and doing what I wanted to do. I think for a lot of people, when you say you’re deaf, their immediate reaction is to feel sorry, but I really don’t feel that this is the right reaction – because it is part of me, my identity and my experience as a human being. I live in a hearing world, which should be more accommodating for deaf people, and not treat us like we have something to be sad about. It has never been my deafness itself that upset me and created barriers – I’m a highly visual person and use my other senses to compensate. What creates barriers is the social world and the environment which is generally set up for hearing people.