Letter to my daughter: ethical dilemmas in the writing of a memoir

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Writers of nonfiction are regularly called to make ethical decisions as part of the day-to-day requirements of their calling, as they balance the demands of publishers, editors, readers and the craft of storytelling itself, with responsibilities and sometimes loyalties to those written about. Writing memoir, in particular, raises a host of ethical questions regarding the ownership of the material and the ways in which it can be used. Our lives (and life stories) are made more interesting by our relationships, their ups and downs and the way we handle them. But what happens when we are telling the stories of those for whom it is difficult to give clear or informed consent? What happens when the line between the public and the private is blurred? When we are writing about family members? Our children? Do we have a greater ethical responsibility when telling their stories? Couser, Carey, Mills and others have deliberated on the responsibilities of the memoirist in celebrating the private self in the public realm. This paper reflects on these issues as part of the author⿿s own ethical dilemmas in writing about the adoption of her young daughter and her struggle to work out where her responsibilities lie in the creation of the text. Keywords: ethics; memoir; creative nonfiction
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • ethics
  • memoir
  • creative non-fiction

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