My Advanced Memoir Workshop was fortunate to host Wenguang Huang, author of The Little Red Guard, for an immensely informative Q&A session back in July. (Lucky for us, he lives in Chicago.) His memoir tells the touching story of a worker’s family during China’s Cultural Revolution. Beneath a cloth in the bedroom, this family hides a dangerous secret: In a country where cremation is mandatory, the narrator’s grandmother insists on a traditional burial and persuades his father to build her a coffin. At the age of ten, the narrator becomes the “coffin keeper.” Thus begins a perilous balancing act between keeping a secret to honor a tradition and toeing the party line to make a living. Over time, the coffin
consumes, quite literally, the family’s savings and well-being as an ever
larger web of machinations is spun to prepare for an elusive funeral.
One of my students asked Wen about the use of chapter headings in the book. Since most of us memoir writers struggle with structure at some point, I thought I’d share Wen’s rather practical insight here:
Question: The organization of your chapters, with one word as a heading for each chapter