Biographies

Path to the stars : my journey from Girl Scout to rocket scientist book cover

Path to the stars : my journey from Girl Scout to rocket scientist

Sylvia Acevedo

jBIOGRAPHY Acevedo, Sylvia
Kids, Biographies

"The inspiring memoir for young readers about a Latina rocket scientist whose early life was transformed by joining the Girl Scouts and who currently serves as CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA."--

Morgan's picture

An engrossing read about Sylvia Acevedo who grew from a Girl Scout to a rocket scientist and CEO. Her thirst for knowledge and success allowed her to overcome the challenges of gendered cultural expectations, domestic abuse, and racism. I loved this window into the life of an inspiring woman. -Morgan

I'm still here : black dignity in a world made for whiteness book cover

I'm still here : black dignity in a world made for whiteness

Austin Channing Brown

305.896 /Brown
Memoir, Biographies

The author's first encounter with a racialized America came at age seven, when her parents told her they named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. She grew up in majority-white schools, organizations, and churches, and has spent her life navigating America's racial divide as a writer, a speaker, and an expert helping organizations practice genuine inclusion. While so many institutions claim to value diversity in their mission statements, many fall short of matching actions to words. Brown highlights how white middle-class evangelicalism has participated in the rise of racial hostility, and encourages the reader to confront apathy and recognize God's ongoing work in the world.

Anne M's picture

Brown's powerful memoir dives deep into her experience as a black woman in the United States. She takes a holistic approach in describing interactions and relationships with white people from interviews to neighborhoods to school. Brown is a writer and lecturer on Christianity and she addresses race and religion in this book. -Anne M

Sign my name to freedom : a memoir of a pioneering life book cover

Sign my name to freedom : a memoir of a pioneering life

Betty Reid Soskin

979.4 /Soskin
Memoir, Biographies

"In Betty Reid Soskin's 96 years of living, she has been a witness to a grand sweep of American history. When she was born in 1921, the lynching of African-Americans was a national epidemic, blackface minstrel shows were the most popular American form of entertainment, white women had only just won the right to vote, and most African-Americans in the Deep South could not vote at all. From her great-grandmother, who had been enslaved until her mid-20s, Betty heard stories of slavery and the times of terror and struggle for black folk that followed. In her lifetime, Betty has watched the nation begin to confront its race and gender biases when forced to come together in the World War II era; seen our differences nearly break us apart again in the upheavals of the civil rights and Black Power eras; and, finally, lived long enough to witness both the election of an African-American president and the re-emergence of a militant, racist far right. Blending together selections from many of Betty's hundreds of blog entries with interviews, letters, and speeches, Sign My Name to Freedom invites you along on that journey, through the words and thoughts of a national treasure who has never stopped looking at herself, the nation, or the world with fresh eyes"--

Anne M's picture

For another memoir spanning the 20th Century, check out National Park Ranger and nonagenarian Betty Reid Soskin’s “Sign My Name to Freedom: a Memoir of a Pioneering Life.” -Anne M

I will not fear : my story of a lifetime of building faith under fire book cover

I will not fear : my story of a lifetime of building faith under fire

Melba Beals

379.263 /Beals
Memoir, Biographies

In I Will Not Fear, Beals takes you on an unforgettable journey through terror, oppression, and persecution, highlighting the kind of faith we all need to survive in a world full of heartbreak and anger. She shows how the deep faith we develop during our most difficult moments is the kind of faith that can change our families, our communities, and even the world.

Anne M's picture

Journalist Melba Beals, also part of the Little Rock Nine, has a new autobiography “I Will Not Fear: My Story of a Lifetime of Building Faith under Fire.” She explores how her faith helped her face everyday realities as a person of color, on top of being involved in the integration of Little Rock Central High School. -Anne M

Becoming book cover

Becoming

Michelle Obama

BIOGRAPHY Obama, Michelle
Memoir, Biographies

"An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States. When she was a little girl, Michelle Robinson's world was the South Side of Chicago, where she and her brother, Craig, shared a bedroom in their family's upstairs apartment and played catch in the park, and where her parents, Fraser and Marian Robinson, raised her to be outspoken and unafraid. But life soon look her much further afield, from the halls of Princeton, where she learned for the first time what if felt like to be the only black woman in a room, to the glassy office tower where she worked as a high-powered corporate lawyer--and where, one summer morning, a law student named Barack Obama appeared in her office and upended all her carefully made plans. Here, for the first time, Michelle Obama describes the early years of her marriage as she struggles to balance her work and family with her husband's fast-moving political career. She takes us inside their private debate over whether he should make a run for the presidency and her subsequent role as a popular but oft-criticized figure during his campaign. Narrating with grace, good humor, and uncommon candor, she provides a vivid, behind-the-scenes account of her family's history-making launch into the global limelight as well as their life inside the White House over eight momentous years--as she comes to know her country and her country comes to know her. [This book] takes us through modest Iowa kitchens and ballrooms at Buckingham Palace, through moments of heart-stopping grief and profound resilience, bringing us deep into the soul of a singular, groundbreaking figure in history as she strives to live authentically, marshaling her personal strength and voice in service of a set of higher ideals. In telling her story with honesty and boldness, she issues a challenge to the rest of us: Who are we and who do we want to become?"--Dust jacket.

Anne M's picture

The most popular book at the Iowa City Public Library right now is Michelle Obama’s new memoir, “Becoming.” Obama gives an intimate account of her life growing up in a working class family in Chicago to serving as the First Lady of the United States—a life of contrasts. Her memoir is honest and real, making the life of an American icon tangible. -Anne M

Song in a weary throat : memoir of an American pilgrimage book cover

Song in a weary throat : memoir of an American pilgrimage

Pauli Murray

BIOGRAPHY Murray, Pauli
Biographies

"A prophetic memoir by the activist who "articulated the intellectual foundations" (The New Yorker) of the civil rights and women's rights movements. Poet, memoirist, labor organizer, and Episcopal priest, Pauli Murray helped transform the law of the land. Arrested in 1940 for sitting in the whites-only section of a Virginia bus, Murray propelled that life-defining event into a Howard law degree and a fight against "Jane Crow" sexism. Her legal brilliance was pivotal to the overturning of Plessy v. Ferguson, the success of Brown v. Board of Education, and the Supreme Court's recognition that the equal protection clause applies to women; it also connected her with such progressive leaders as Eleanor Roosevelt, Thurgood Marshall, Betty Friedan, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Now Murray is finally getting long-deserved recognition: the first African American woman to receive a doctorate of law at Yale, her name graces one of the university's new colleges. Handsomely republished with a new introduction, Murray's remarkable memoir takes its rightful place among the great civil rights autobiographies of the twentieth century."--Provided by publisher.

Anne M's picture

There is a long-overdue, new edition of Pauli Murray’s “Song in a Weary Throat.” Originally published in 1987, Murray’s memoir encompasses the multitudes she contained. She was a poet, an academic, an ordained Episcopal priest, a Civil Rights activist, and a brilliant lawyer, influential in the pivotal Civil Rights cases of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Murray’s memoir shows that none of this was enough—a book that describes the discrimination she faced because of her race and because of her gender. -Anne M

Trailblazer : a pioneering journalist's fight to make the media look more like America book cover

Trailblazer : a pioneering journalist's fight to make the media look more like America

Dorothy Butler Gilliam

070.92/Gilliam
Biographies

Dorothy Butler Gilliam, whose 50-year-career as a journalist put her in the forefront of the fight for social justice, offers a comprehensive view of racial relations and the media in the U.S. Most civil rights victories are achieved behind the scenes, and this riveting, beautifully written memoir by a "black first" looks back with searing insight on the decades of struggle, friendship, courage, humor and savvy that secured what seems commonplace today-people of color working in mainstream media. Told with a pioneering newspaper writer's charm and skill, Gilliam's full, fascinating life weaves her personal and professional experiences and media history into an engrossing tapestry. When we read about the death of her father and other formative events of her life, we glimpse the crippling impact of the segregated South before the civil rights movement when slavery's legacy still felt astonishingly close. We root for her as a wife, mother, and ambitious professional as she seizes once-in-a-lifetime opportunities never meant for a "dark-skinned woman" and builds a distinguished career. We gain a comprehensive view of how the media, especially newspapers, affected the movement for equal rights in this country. And in this humble, moving memoir, we see how an innovative and respected journalist and working mother helped provide opportunities for others. With the distinct voice of one who has worked for and witnessed immense progress and overcome heart-wrenching setbacks, this book covers a wide swath of media history -- from the era of game-changing Negro newspapers like the Chicago Defender to the civil rights movement, feminism, and our current imperfect diversity. This timely memoir, which reflects the tradition of boot-strapping African American storytelling from the South, is a smart, contemporary consideration of the media.

Anne M's picture

“Trailblazer: A Pioneering Journalist’s Fight to Make the Media Look More like America” documents Dorothy Butler Gilliam’s fifty years as a journalist and activist, striving to ensure black journalists and stories are represented in the news. As the first “Washington Post” female black reporter, she brought a different and important perspective on what was news and how it should be reported. -Anne M

Black is the body : stories from my grandmother's time, my mother's time, and mine book cover

Black is the body : stories from my grandmother's time, my mother's time, and mine

Emily Bernard

305.48896 /Bernard
Memoir, Literary Nonfiction, Biographies

An extraordinary, exquisitely written memoir (of sorts) that looks at race--in a fearless, penetrating, honest, true way--in twelve telltale, connected, deeply personal essays that explore, up-close, the complexities and paradoxes, the haunting memories and ambushing realities of growing up black in the South with a family name inherited from a white man, of getting a PhD from Yale, of marrying a white man from the North, of adopting two babies from Ethiopia, of teaching at a white college and living in America's New England today. From the acclaimed editor of Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten ("A major contribution," Henry Louis Gates; "Magnificent," Washington Post).

Anne M's picture

Emily Bernard’s acclaimed memoir, “Black is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine,” is a collection of personal essays documenting experiences from her own life. These stories follow her time growing up in the South, getting an education at Yale, and teaching at a college in northern New England. The poetic memoir illustrates how her experiences are formed and framed through the lens of race. She writes, "I am black--and brown, too. Brown is the body I was born into. Black is the body of the stories I tell." It is incredibly personal and beautifully written. -Anne M

Romantic outlaws : the extraordinary lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley book cover

Romantic outlaws : the extraordinary lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley

Charlotte Gordon

BIOGRAPHY Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft
Biographies

Shawna's picture

Mary Shelley's 1818 publication of Frankenstein brought life to one of the most recognizable horror creatures. Learn more about her and her mother, philosopher and feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft in this 2015 Biography. -Shawna

Mary Shelley book cover

Mary Shelley

DVD MOVIE DRAMA Mary
Biographies

"The real-life story of Mary Shelley, and the creation of her immortal monster, is nearly as fantastical as her fiction. Raised by a renowned philosopher father in eighteenth-century London, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin is a teenage dreamer determined to make her mark on the world, when she meets the dashing and brilliant poet Percy Shelley. So begins a torrid, bohemian love affair marked by both passion and personal tragedy that will transform Mary and fuel the writing of her Gothic masterwork." --

Shawna's picture

Mary Shelley's 1818 publication of Frankenstein brought life to one of the most recognizable horror creatures. Learn more about her and her mother, philosopher and feminist, Mary Wollstonecraft in this 2015 Biography. -Shawna