Characteristics of a Memoir: A Reading of Love in a Headscarf by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed
Keywords:love, headscarf, Islam, Muslim, women, memoir
Etymologically derived from the French word ‘memoire’ meaning memory or reminiscence, a memoir is a learned collection of memories that a person writes about. These include both public and private events that took place in the life of the subject at a given point in time. The author of a memoir is often referred to as a memoirist or memorialist. A memoir is different from a biography or autobiography though it has been historically considered to be a subcategory of these genres. It does not relate the entire happenings of an individual’s life but only a fragment of incidents over a particular span of time. It is again different from a diary which is a record in a discreetly arranged chronological manner. Memoirs have been written since time immemorial such as Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic Wars or Henry David Thoreau’s 1854 memoir Walden. Twentieth century memoirs include those of the world wars. Since the 1990s, memoirs are also being written by ordinary people regarding their varied experiences in life. This paper analyses the characteristics of a memoir that are present in the debut novel Love in a Headscarf by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed.