Okay to Laugh? Trauma, Memoir, and Teaching the Podcast Mum Says My Memoir is a Lie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In her 2017 podcast Mum Says My Memoir Is a Lie, the author and comedian Rosie Waterland reads aloud her bestselling memoir, The Anti-Cool Girl (2015), chapter by chapter to her mother. As Rosie reads and her mother responds, the podcast mimics and destabilizes some of the more persistent critiques that have attended memoirs of traumatic childhood. This essay discusses the authors’ experience teaching Waterland’s podcast as a set text in an undergraduate course on contemporary life writing. Waterland’s account of a traumatic childhood fits to the dominant tropes of trauma text or misery lit that have been used to describe (mostly pejoratively) life narrative in the twenty-first century. However, as a humorous memoir, the podcast also works with affective registers and comic strategies that are designed to unsettle or disarm reader expectations and heighten critical literacy. In discussing teaching Mum Says My Memoir Is a Lie, the authors address foundational scholarly issues of truth, memory, ethics, and authenticity. As a podcast, the text also draws attention to medium and mediation, which are central. The act of listening places the student in a subject position that is inhabited in the podcast by Rosie’s mother, Lisa. What ethics of listening, or questions of responsibility in the face of trauma and testimony, might be framed here? And how might the podcast be a significant or unique medium for this kind of engagement?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-315
Number of pages17
Journala/b: Auto/Biography Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Rosie Waterland
  • podcast
  • memoir
  • comedy
  • trauma


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