Memoir

No ashes in the fire : coming of age black & free in America book cover

No ashes in the fire : coming of age black & free in America

Darnell L. Moore

BIOGRAPHY /Moore, Darnell L.
Memoir, LGBTQ+

When Darnell L. Moore was fourteen years old, three boys from his neighborhood tried to set him on fire as he was walking home from school. Darnell was tall and awkward and constantly bullied for being gay. That afternoon, one of the boys doused him with gasoline and tried lighting a match. It was too windy, and luckily Darnell's aunt arrived in time to grab Darnell and pull him to safety. It was not the last time he would face death. What happens to the black boys who come of age in neglected, poor, heavily policed, and economically desperate cities that the War on Drugs and mass incarceration have created? How do they learn to live, love, and grow up? Darnell was raised in Camden, NJ, the son of two teenagers on welfare struggling to make ends meet. He explored his sexuality during the height of the AIDS epidemic, when being gay was a death sentence. He was beaten down and ignored by white and black America, by his school, and even his church, the supposed place of sanctuary. He made it out, but as he quickly learned, escaping Camden, escaping poverty, and coming out do not guarantee you freedom. It wasn't until Darnell was pushed into the spotlight at a Newark rally after the murder of a young queer woman that he found his voice and his calling. He became a leading organizer with Black Lives Matter, a movement that recognized him and insisted that his life mattered. In recovering the beauty, joy, and love in his own life, No Ashes in the Fire gives voice to the rich, varied experiences of all those who survive on the edges of the margins. In the process, he offers a path toward liberation.

Melody's picture

Added by Melody

Long live the tribe of fatherless girls  book cover

Long live the tribe of fatherless girls

T Kira Madden

BIOGRAPHY /Madden, T Kira
Memoir, LGBTQ+

The acclaimed literary essayist T Kira Madden's raw and redemptive debut is a memoir about coming of age as a queer, biracial teenager within the fierce contradictions of Boca Raton, Florida, a place where cult-like privilege, shocking social and racial disparities, rampant white-collar crime, and powerfully destructive standards of beauty hide in plain sight. As a child in Florida, T Kira Madden lived a life of extravagance--from her exclusive private school to her equestrian trophies and designer shoes, she had plenty to envy. But beneath the surface, life in "the rat's mouth" of Boca Raton was dangerous. Left to her own devices as both parents battled drug addiction, Kira navigated the perils of coming of age too quickly, and without guidance--oblivious parents and misguided babysitters at home, tormentors at school, sexual predators at the mall, and the confused, often destructive, desperately loving friendship of fatherless girls. With unflinching honesty and moving, lyrical prose, and spanning from 1960's Hawai'i to the nip and tuck rooms of 1990s Florida to the present-day struggle of a young woman in a culture of harassment, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls is the story of families both lost and found, unmade and rebuilt, crooked and beautiful

Melody's picture

Added by Melody

All the Wild Hungers book cover

All the Wild Hungers

Karen Babine

616.994 /Babine
Memoir, Literary Nonfiction

“My sister is pregnant with a Lemon this week, Week 14, and this is amusing. My mother’s uterine tumor, the size of a cabbage, is Week 30, and this is terrifying.” When her mother is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Karen Babine—a cook, collector of thrifted vintage cast iron, and fiercely devoted daughter, sister, and aunt—can’t help but wonder: feed a fever, starve a cold, but what do we do for cancer? And so she commits herself to preparing her mother anything she will eat, a vegetarian diving headfirst into the unfamiliar world of bone broth and pot roast. In these essays, Babine ponders the intimate connections between food, family, and illness. What draws us toward food metaphors to describe disease? What is the power of language, of naming, in a medical culture where patients are too often made invisible? How do we seek meaning where none is to be found—and can we create it from scratch? And how, Babine asks as she bakes cookies with her small niece and nephew, does a family create its own food culture across generations? Generous and bittersweet, All the Wild Hungers is an affecting chronicle of one family’s experience of illness and of a writer’s culinary attempt to make sense of the inexplicable.

Melody's picture

Really beautiful language and emotionally gripping. -Melody

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

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

Shrill : notes from a loud woman book cover

Shrill : notes from a loud woman

Lindy West

BIOGRAPHY West, Lindy
Nonfiction, Memoir

"Presents a series of essays by the American writer and comedian, dealing with issues of body image, popular culture, feminism, and social justice,"--NoveList.

Jason's picture

A six-episode series is coming to Hulu based on Lindy West's feminist memoir of the same name. -Jason

The only street in Paris : life on the Rue des Martyrs book cover

The only street in Paris : life on the Rue des Martyrs

Elaine Sciolino

944.361 /Sciolino
Nonfiction, Memoir

Rue des Martyrs is more than just a street, it's an enchanting and bustling community in Paris. At just over half a mile long, spanning between the Ninth and 18th arrondissements, this street is filled with four- and five-story buildings of varying architectural designs, with picturesque wrought-iron balconies and shuttered windows and small businesses at street level. As the author (La Seduction), a former Paris bureau chief for the New York Times, explores her neighborhood, she describes its fascinating history, from ancient churches and the saints and martyrs the street may be named after to the 19th-century Cirque Medrano. The quaint cafés and shops remain locally owned, per Paris law, and their merchants and artisans are the leading characters of the book--and of the street. There's Roger Henri, who pushes a cart with a bell offering his knife-sharpening services; Michou, the owner and creator of the transvestite cabaret at No. 80; and Laurence Gillery, the woman who restores antique barometers, the last of her kind. The atmosphere on rue des Martyrs is refreshing and enticing in our modern world.

Candice's picture

Elaine Sciolino's book is a lovely paean to the Rue des Martrys, a street that runs north-south through the 9th arrondisement of Paris, and into the village of Montmartre. She chronicles the lives and activities of the storefronts and shopkeepers who live and work there, as well as the life and changing nature of the street itself. The assortment of shops--many of them providing fresh foods and personal services--help to create a sense of community among the residents that seems uniquely Parisian, and possibly of a bygone era. -Candice