While in graduate school, I had the pleasure of having a one-on-one writing session with Rodger Kamenetz, author of The History of Last Night’s Dream, and other books. You can find out more about Mr. Kamenetz here: http://rodgerkamenetz.com
The chief takeaway from our meeting, discussing memoir structure, was that the memoirist is asking a question at the beginning of the memoir, which is answered (if it can be) by the rest of the book. It hooks not only the writer, but also the reader, to go on the journey of remembering, to find the answer.
He asked me what question was I asking? (At the time, about eight years ago now, I had too many questions I wanted answers for, and as a result my memoir was a mess).
While there are many ways to begin a memoir, I think inquiry is a great way to look at the writing of memoir, of writing narrative nonfiction.
What question am I trying to answer?