In a personal essay, conversely, the message is the subject, and the author uses her experience as more of a vehicle to communicate the message. Furthermore, personal essays are usually - as the name suggests - essay-length and not book-length.
A narrative often (but certainly not always) is written in chronological order. A narrative essay makes its point, or thesis, by telling a story. The story is usually true for the narrative essay, and might be an example, a case study, a way to organize an interview, or a way to show history through narrative. In his book "Can't You Get Along with Anyone?: A Writer's Memoir and a Tale of a Lost Surfer's Paradise Allan C. Weisbecker reports that Frey had first pitched the book as a novel, but his publisher would only buy it if they could label it as a memoir. In short, narratives have a beginning, middle, and end. While it is common to write a narrative in chronological order (the order of time unfolding it is not unusual for narrative writing begin in rising action and then unfold earlier times as they move forward. A narrative essay might, for example, tell the story of how Madame Curie discovered radium. However, usually a narrative essay has a point besides simply telling the story-perhaps in the example of Madame Curie, to demonstrate the contributions women made in science against particular odds.
What makes it a memoir is that she uses these events to show how she finally comes to understand that she is not defined by her face, but by the person she is underneath.
A personal essay, like the memoir, uses the author's experience to communicate a theme that will - if the author has done her job well - resonate with her readers. The difference, however, is focus.
About the Author, christopher Cascio is a memoirist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and literature from Southampton Arts at Stony Brook Southampton, and a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in the rhetoric of fiction from Pennsylvania State University.