We Love Memoirs!

Educated : a memoir

Tara Westover

BIOGRAPHY Westover, Tara
Memoir

"Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag." In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent. As a way out, Tara began to educate herself, learning enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University. Her quest for knowledge would transform her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Tara Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes, and the will to change it."--Provided by publisher.

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I was completely obsessed with finishing this book once I started it. Tara Westover describes her life as the daughter of "Homeschooling" Survivalists in the Idaho mountains. (Homeschooling is in quotes because based on Tara's account it does not seem she considered her education very educational. I'm speaking as a former Homeschooler here.) Back before YTK, her family was preparing for the End of Days by endless canning and stockpiling. During her teen years, Tara narrowly avoided being killed by heavy machinery while working for her dad scrapping metal. The love she feels for her family is never in question - as the narrator she is still ambivalent about the process of figuring out how to relate to her family. The way Tara describes coming to awareness about how differently she was raised was excellent, and you can't help but rooting for her as she makes her moves toward an independent adulthood and college.
- Heidi K

Apprenticed to Venus : my secret life with Anaïs Nin

Tristine Rainer

818.52 NinYr
Memoir

“I first met Anaïs in 1962 at her Village apartment, when I was an eighteen-year-old virgin.” And so begins Tristine Rainer’s years as Anaïs Nin’s accomplice, keeping Nin’s confidences—including that of her bigamy—even after Nin’s death and the passing of her husbands, until now. Apprenticed to Venus charts Rainer’s coming of age under the guidance of Anaïs Nin: lover to Henry Miller, Parisian diarist, author of the erotic bestseller Delta of Venus, and feminist icon of the sexual revolution. As an inexperienced young woman, Tristine was dazzled by the sophisticated bohemian author and sought her instruction in becoming a woman. From their first meeting in Greenwich Village through Nin’s death in 1977, Tristine remained a fixture of Anaïs Nin’s inner circle, implicated in the mysterious author’s secrets—while simultaneously finding her own way through love, lust, and loss. From personal memories to dramatized scenarios based on Nin’s revelations to the author, Apprenticed to Venus blurs the lines between novel and memoir, bringing Anaïs Nin to life in new way—a pioneer whose mantra was, “A woman has as much right to pleasure as a man!” A compelling look at the intricacies—and risks—of female friendship and the mentor-protégé relationship, Tristine Rainer’s Apprenticed to Venus is the intimate story of an entanglement only she could tell.

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I have always been interested in the literary figure Anais Nin, ever since I was 12 and discovered a dusty old bound copy of her diaries in a library. This is an interesting perspective on Nin from a person who got closer to her than most. Nin was purposefully very secretive and enigmatic - there is much, much more on that topic in this book. Recommended if you like literary memoirs and/or Anais Nin.
- Heidi K

Fetch : how a bad dog brought me home : a graphic memoir

Nicole J. Georges

BIOGRAPHY Georges, Nicole J.
Graphic Novels

From an award-winning artist, a memoir of life with a difficult, beloved dog that will resonate with anybody who has ever had a less than perfectly behaved pet. When Nicole Georges was sixteen she adopted Beija, a dysfunctional shar-pei/corgi mix--a troublesome combination of tiny and attack, just like teenaged Nicole herself. For the next fifteen years, Beija would be the one constant in her life. Through depression, relationships gone awry, and an unmoored young adulthood played out against the backdrop of the Portland punk scene, Beija was there, wearing her "Don't Pet Me" bandana. Georges's gorgeous graphic novel Fetch chronicles their symbiotic, codependent relationship and probes what it means to care for and be responsible to another living thing--a living thing that occasionally lunges at toddlers. Nicole turns to vets, dog whisperers, and even a pet psychic for help, but it is the moments of accommodation, adaption, and compassion that sustain them. Nicole never successfully taught Beija "sit," but in the end, Beija taught Nicole how to stay. -- Provided by publisher.

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This is an adorable book about a "bad dog" Beija and her human Nicole who loves her anyway.
- Heidi K

Are you my mother? : a comic drama

Alison Bechdel

BIOGRAPHY Bechdel, Alison
Graphic Novels, LGBTQ+

A graphic memoir of Alison Bechdel becoming the artist her mother wanted to be. Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home was a pop culture and literary phenomenon. Now, a second thrilling tale of filial sleuthery, this time about her mother: voracious reader, music lover, passionate amateur actor. Also a woman, unhappily married to a closeted gay man, whose artistic aspirations simmered under the surface of Bechdel's childhood . . . and who stopped touching or kissing her daughter good night, forever, when she was seven. Poignantly, hilariously, Bechdel embarks on a quest for answers concerning the mother-daughter gulf. It's a richly layered search that leads readers from the fascinating life and work of the iconic twentieth-century psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, to one explosively illuminating Dr. Seuss illustration, to Bechdel’s own (serially monogamous) adult love life. And, finally, back to Mother—to a truce, fragile and real-time, that will move and astonish all adult children of gifted mothers.

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If you like graphic novels, and haven't read this one yet: do it. If you swear you don't like graphic novels or comics: try this one.
- Heidi K

Four Seasons in Rome : on twins, insomnia, and the biggest funeral in the history of the world

Anthony Doerr

914.5632 /Doerr
Travel, Biographies

"The recipient of an American Academy fellowship, Doerr, his wife, and their twin newborns are on their way to Rome for a year. Cultural isolation, the death of John Paul II, struggles to complete a novel, and the tales of first-time parenthood uniquely blend together as Doerr meanders his way through a one-year Roman holiday. Along the way, he meets Romans quick to praise his twins, Romans quick to prejudge an American, and Romans happy to share the secrets of their city with him. Set against this backdrop, Doerr finds it difficult to focus on the novel he plans on writing; instead, like so many other visitors, he falls for the Eternal City. For readers who have been to Rome, Doerr's reflections will leave them longing for a return trip. For those who have not, Doerr's stories of piazzas and pizzas will have them checking travel arrangements. Either way, this memoir is a wonderful combination of a writer's two dominant struggles: cultural identity and family."--

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Anthony Doerr (author of All the Light We Cannot See) was a brand-new father of twins when he was granted a sabbatical in Rome. He takes on the Eternal City and the newborns all in one go, and is rewarded for it. A sort of epic love poem to Rome and family, and all there is to be aware of and savor.
- Candice

The life and the adventures of a haunted convict

Austin Reed

BIOGRAPHY Reed, Austin
History

The earliest known prison memoir by an African American writer—recently discovered and authenticated by a team of Yale scholars—sheds light on the longstanding connection between race and incarceration in America. In 2009, scholars at Yale University came across a startling manuscript: the memoir of Austin Reed, a free black man born in the 1820s who spent most of his early life ricocheting between forced labor in prison and forced labor as an indentured servant. Lost for more than one hundred and fifty years, the handwritten document is the first known prison memoir written by an African American. Corroborated by prison records and other documentary sources, Reed’s text gives a gripping first-person account of an antebellum Northern life lived outside slavery that nonetheless bore, in its day-to-day details, unsettling resemblances to that very institution. Now, for the first time, we can hear Austin Reed’s story as he meant to tell it.

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This book is a remarkable find. Perfect for history buffs, rare manuscript nerds, and African American prison researchers, this book was written by an African American man born free in the 1820s but living much of his life in confinement. Reed was a natural storyteller and his memoir reads like a novel. He documents his experiences both in prison and as a free man, the cruelties of the whip and other 19th Century torture tactics as well as adventures and opportunities he encountered while living free.
- Melody

Not my father's son : a memoir

Alan Cumming

COMPACT DISC BIOGRAPHY Cumming, Alan
Memoir

In his unique and engaging voice, the acclaimed actor of stage and screen shares the emotional story of his complicated relationship with his father and the deeply buried family secrets that shaped his life and career.

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While Cumming's story about his father is often painful, there are many uplifting and positive moments. His relationships with other family members are loving and supportive, and one feels that his journey to learn more about his father and grandfather makes him a stronger person. The audio book, which I listened to, is narrated by Cumming himself, so I knew that all the right bits were being emphasized. The book version has photos of the family.
- Heidi L

The best we could do : an illustrated memoir

Thi Bui

BIOGRAPHY Bui, Thi
Graphic Novels, Memoir, Biographies, History

The author describes her experiences as a young Vietnamese immigrant, highlighting her family's move from their war-torn home to the United States in graphic novel format.

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Combining genealogy, auto-biography, history and graphic novel, Thi Bui's memoir is haunting and beautiful.
- Casey

The wine lover's daughter : a memoir

Anne Fadiman

BIOGRAPHY Fadiman, Anne
Memoir

"A memoir exploring the author's father's love of wine" --

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What can be better than books and wine? Fadiman writes “My father had long associated books and wine: they both sparked conversation, they were both a lifetime project, they were both pleasurable to shelve, they were the only things he collected..." This lovely book is about an adult child coming to terms with an aging father, learning that father’s full story, and sharing much love and warmth along the way.
- Heidi L

When they call you a terrorist : a Black Lives Matter memoir

Patrisse Khan-Cullors

305.896 /Khan-Cullors
Memoir

"A poetic and powerful memoir about what it means to be a Black woman in America--and the founding of a movement that demands restorative justice for all in the land at the tree Raised by a single mother in an impoverished neighborhood In Los Angeles, Patrisse KhanCullors experienced firsthand the prejudice and persecution Black Americans endure at the hands of law enforcement. For Patrisse, the most vulnerable people in the country are Black people. Deliberately and ruthlessly targeted by a criminal justice system serving a white privilege agenda, Black people are subjected to unjustifiable racial profiling and police brutality. In 2013, when Trayvon Martin's killer went free, Patrisse's outrage led her to co-found Black Lives Matter with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. Condemned as terrorists and as a threat to America, these loving women founded a hashtag that birthed the movement to demand accountability from the authorities who continually turn a blind eye to the injustices inflicted upon people of Black and Brown skin. Championing human rights in the face of violent racism, Patrisse is a survivor. She transformed her personal pain into political power, giving voice to a people suffering inequality and a movement fueled by her strength and love, to tell the country--and the world--that Black Lives Matter. [This book] is Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele's reflection on humanity. It is an empowering account of survival, strength and resilience and a call to action to change the culture that declares innocent Black life expendable."--Dust jacket.

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I was surprised by this book in that I thought it would be more of a history of Black Lives Matter (which it does get to!) and less of a personal memoir. Well, I'm so glad the book is more of a traditional memoir. Patrisse Khan-Cullors evokes her youth and her path towards activism in a way that I found very eye-opening and original. Definitely a must-read book for 2018.
- Heidi K

Thanks, Obama : my hopey changey White House years

David Litt

973.932 /Litt
Nonfiction, Memoir

"A different kind of White House memoir, presidential speechwriter David Litt's comic account of his years spent working with Barack Obama and his reflection on Obama's legacy in the age of Trump"--

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I absolutely loved this book. David Litt was one of President Obama's speechwriters, and most often, he wrote jokes. This book is the funniest nonfiction I think I've ever read! It's hilarious, moving, hopeful, inspiring, and delightful. I couldn't put it down.
- Amanda

Can't we talk about something more pleasant?

Roz Chast

BIOGRAPHY Chast, Roz
Graphic Novels, Nonfiction

A graphic memoir by a long-time New Yorker cartoonist celebrates the final years of her aging parents' lives through four-color cartoons, family photos and documents that reflect the artist's struggles with caregiver challenges.

The Wilder life : my adventures in the lost world of Little house on the prairie

Wendy McClure

813.52 /WilderYm
Nonfiction, Memoir

In this funny and thoughtful guide to a romanticized version of the American expansion west, children's book editor and memoirist McClure (I'm Not the New Me) attempts to recapture her childhood vision of "Laura World" (i.e., the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House books about an 1880s pioneer family).

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Did you ever want to try the snow-made molasses candy? Warning -- it could damage your teeth! Wendy McClure learned this the hard way -- and so much more.
- Meredith

Everything that remains : a memoir by The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn

158.1 /Millburn
Nonfiction, Memoir

What if everything you ever wanted isn't what you actually want? Twenty-something, suit-clad, and upwardly mobile, Joshua Fields Millburn thought he had everything anyone could ever want. Until he didn't anymore. Blindsided by the loss of his mother and his marriage in the same month, Millburn started questioning every aspect of the life he had built for himself. Then, he accidentally discovered a lifestyle known as minimalism...and everything started to change. That was four years ago. Since, Millburn, now 32, has embraced simplicity. In the pursuit of looking for something more substantial than compulsory consumption and the broken American Dream, he jettisoned most of his material possessions, paid off loads of crippling debt, and walked away from his six-figure career.

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Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus thought they were living The American Dream. They had high-paying jobs and homes filled with things, but it wasn't until they gave everything up that they found the happiness that eluded them.
- Meredith

Real friends

Shannon Hale

Newbery Honor author Shannon Hale and New York Times bestselling illustrator LeUyen Pham join forces in this graphic memoir about how hard it is to find your real friends--and why it's worth the journey. When her best friend Adrienne starts hanging out with the most popular girl in class, Shannon questions with whether she and Adrienne will stay friends, and if she is part of the clique.

Furiously happy : a funny book about horrible things

Jenny Lawson

BIOGRAPHY Lawson, Jenny
Memoir

"In Furiously Happy, #1 New York Times bestselling author Jenny Lawson explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. But terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.As Jenny says: "Some people might think that being 'furiously happy' is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he's never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos. "Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you'd never guess because we've learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, 'We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.' Except go back and cross out the word 'hiding.'"Furiously Happy is about "taking those moments when things are fine and making them amazing, because those moments are what make us who we are, and they're the same moments we take into battle with us when our brains declare war on our very existence. It's the difference between "surviving life" and "living life". It's the difference between "taking a shower" and "teaching your monkey butler how to shampoo your hair." It's the difference between being "sane" and being "furiously happy."Lawson is beloved around the world for her inimitable humor and honesty, and in Furiously Happy, she is at her snort-inducing funniest. This is a book about embracing everything that makes us who we are - the beautiful and the flawed - and then using it to find joy in fantastic and outrageous ways. Because as Jenny's mom says, "Maybe 'crazy' isn't so bad after all." Sometimes crazy is just right"--

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A truly hilarious book about mental illness!
- Amanda