An innovative study of the contemporary memoir, blending autobiography and literary analysis to illuminole the intellectual, cultural, and emotional dynamics of life writing Maintaining that the memoir requires a more personal relationship with its readers and critics, Janet Mason Ellerby calls for ""intimate readings."" She begins this work with her own memoir, narrating a long-held secret - her pregnancy at age sixteen, her life in the Florence Crittendon Home for Unwed Mothers, and the birth and adoption of her first daughter. She goes on to tell about the aftermath of this pivotal time in and the painful consequences of keeping a secret. Included are detailed analyses of more than a dozen contemporary memoirs by American women, all of which share a common purpose: the disclosure of secrets. Ellerby describes the costs of this secrecy and explores the possibilities of breaking intractable codes of silence. It is a study that is germane to the intellectual and emotional lives of all women. This book is the first serious exploration of a genre that has gained acceptance with an expanding audience of readers. Ellerby maintains that the efforts of memoirists to plumb their painful pasts has cultural significance and precipitates important social work. The memoir joins fiction and autobiography as an important commentary on modern life.