Memoir Writing

ENGL209P – Memoir Writing in Philadelphia
M. Nzadi Keita


Memoir Writing in Philadelphia strives to create “deep learning” by asking students to practice a personal, multi-genre form of writing while exploring these questions:

  • How has your life, identity, values, sense of place, community, and future role in our society been shaped by American social change movements?
  • How do you understand these aspects of American society now?
  • What do they lend to your sense of self and your sense of place?

Students write their way toward answers in first-person memoir, based largely on travels and conversations in Philadelphia, where work to enhance freedom, justice, and a pluralistic United States, past and present, has occurred.  Reading, talking, soul-searching, walking, listening, journaling, and research enable this creative dialogue with Philadelphia as they cultivate a relationship to the city and merge its stories of a shared society with their own.


  • Travel to/contact with Philadelphia sites, communities, people, and programs that embody the vision of U.S. society inspired and articulated by various movements for civil rights and social change.
  • Reading and research that informs the writing assignments and travel experiences
  • Prose memoir writing, developed through exercises and travel experiences, aimed at reflecting on how these experiences connect the students’ lives and values to the goals of the Civil Rights Movement


Class meetings will alternate among the following activities:

  • Reading and discussions of the Civil Rights Movement, broadly defined for this course as a social change movement (including abolitionist, community building, economic/political development, and cultural inclusivity work)
  • Exposure to examples of memoir writing
  • Engagement through dialogues and participatory work, where appropriate, with community members
  • Documentation of travel and visits through trip journals
  • Practice at incorporating memoir writing conventions and styles
  • Development of short writing assignments to be critiqued in class
  • Public reading of memoirs in conjunction with participants at certain sites

Relationship to Core

ENGL-209P fulfills either D-course, Humanities, and/ or the Fine Arts requirement.