Blending their individual disciplinary expertise in the areas of sociology and literature, Dr. Susan Aminoff and Dr. Marlene Wagner help writers to analyze the impact of social forces on their lives. They also assist writers to identify and recognize the power of narrative  in recounting and recreating their personal stories.

image001_2Dr. Susan Aminoff has served as professor of sociology in the Los Angeles Community College District. A member of the Board of Trustees of Santa Monica College and the Broad Stage for the Performing Arts, she is active in several community organizations and projects in Santa Monica, California. She has also taught classes in “thematic autobiography” in USC’s Emeriti College.

Dr. Aminoff received her B.A. degree in sociology from State University of New York at Stony Brook; her Master’s degree in Gerontology from the USC School Andrus School of Gerontology, and a second Master’s degree in Sociology from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.  She received her Ph.D. in the Sociology of Education from the University of Southern California.

Dr. Aminoff teaches that writing about your life highlights the importance of context in determining outcome. Your biography is dependent on the moment in history in which you live.  As you write your autobiography, the power of social context is clearly illustrated. Your life would have evolved very differently if you had been born in another place, or time, or under different social circumstances.

Dr. Marlene S. Wagner has taught autobiography courses at USC and Vermont College. She has also taught “thematic autobiography” classes in USC’s Emeriti College. After an administrative and fundraising career spanning more than three decades at the University of Southern California, she is enjoying an “encore career” as a facilitator of autobiography workshops for more information.

Dr. Wagner received her A.B. degree cum laude from Boston University, and her Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California. She also holds a Certificate in Gerontology from the USC Andrus School of Gerontology.

Dr. Wagner recognizes that narrative elements such as plot, character, time, voice, point of view, symbol and metaphor enhance and enrich the way you tell your story.

Story-making is a way to explain the random events and unexpected surprises of a life.  It is a way to connect the various threads in the fabric of your life and weave them into a coherent plot.

Autobiography Matters: Themes of Our Lives ed. by Susan Aminoff and Marlene Wagner. Figueroa Press, 2015.  Available on

Autobiography Matters: What’s in A Name? ed. by Susan Aminoff and Marlene Wagner. Figueroa Press, 2017.