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Memorable Memoirs

I am nosy and I love learning about the lives of others—partly because it makes me feel more normal.  Reading about other people is one of the more socially acceptable ways to learn about the idiosyncrasies and sordid histories of real people.  Generally, I can’t get behind biographies, autobiographies, let alone any other type of nonfiction.  But stick a well-written memoir in my hands, and I’m hooked from beginning to end.

Because memoirs are artistic retellings of a life, they are more narrative and have more of a story structure than other nonfiction genres.  According to Wikipedia, “Memoirs are structured differently from formal autobiographies (which tend to encompass the writer’s entire life span), focusing rather on the development of his or her personality…  [The memoir] is therefore more focused and flexible than the traditional arc of birth to old age as found in an autobiography.”

Here are a few engaging memoirs, highly recommended,  to use as an escape away from this heat wave into someone else’s life.  You can also find a wonderful list of memoirs on our Teen page.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

This book documents the author’s childhood with an alcoholic father and unattentive mother. Under these circumstances, Walls and her siblings were forced to fend for themselves, providing their own food, shelter and clothing–even if it meant picking through dumpsters.

The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez

In this book, Rodriguez shares her experience growing up in the shadow of low expectations, reveals how she was able to fake her own pregnancy, and reveals all that she learned from the experience. Stereotypes, and how one girl found the strength to come out from the shadow of low expectations to forge a bright future for herself.

America’s Boy: A Memoir by Wade Rouse

Born in 1965 into a small town in the heartland of America, Wade Rouse didn’t quite fit in. He struggles with his own identity through the loss of a brother and the traumas of being different.

Breaking Night by Liz Murray

The memoir of a young woman who at age 15 was living on the streets but survived to make it to Harvard.

I’m more Clark Kent than Superman.

You may never find the time in your life to write a memoir but everyone can write a six-word memoir. That is the basic premise behind the blog turned book series Six-Word Memoirs. Each book has hundreds of authors, both famous and obscure, who have all written their memoirs with one common theme: six words.

As I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets: Six Word Memoirs by Teens Famous and Obscure states:

“The idea of telling an entire story in half a dozen words dates back to Ernest Hemingway. Legend has it that this great American writer was once challenges to write a whole novel in just six words. He came back with “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

I recently borrowed all four six-word memoir books to read them again! Some are funny and satirical, others are melancholy and serious. Here are a few of my favorites and the links to order them for yourself!

According to Facebook, we broke up.

 Always forgetting to bring an umbrella.

Texting in class, lost my phone.

I know they wanted a boy.

Falling apart because Dad’s in jail.

He preferred buddies, buddy preferred me.

Degree in English, I sell furniture.

What’s you life story in six words?

-Michael (CLP Hazelwood)

Waiting for Liberty: Women’s History Month!

Many of my favorite non-fiction books are shelved in children’s non-fiction.  Writing for a younger audience seems to attract authors who are great at researching, understand the value of historical photos and illustrations, and have mastered the art of focusing their narrative. 

Lately I’ve been reading about some new and old books that are conveniently women’s history-related. Just in time for March! 

With Courage and Cloth: Winning the fight for a woman’s right to vote

by Anne Bausum

 

If this book doesn’t inspire you to register to vote, then your heart must be made of wood. The fight to enfranchise (that’s a term I learned while reading this book) women took so long that some women’s grandchildren were able to join it before it was over.  Women were force-fed, jailed, and chased by angry mobs of men just because they wanted to have a say in who made the laws that affected their lives.

Read this if you like hearing about kick-butt heroes with political savvy to spare.

Almost Astronauts: 13 women who dared to dream

by Tanya Lee Stone

 

They gave her hundreds of X-rays.  Blood tests, lung strength tests.  They injected freezing water into her ears to give her vertigo, destroy her sense of balance, and then measure how  long it took for her to get it back.  They put a rubber hose down her throat and made her drink radioactive water.  They probed her head to record her brain waves and made her pedal on a stationary bike to the ticking of a metronome to ensure that she didn’t slow down when the resistance on the wheel increased.  Then they put her on a tilt table and measured her heart rate and blood pressure. 

The people who had gone before her often passed out during this part.  She didn’t get dizzy. 

They put her in a tank of body temperature water in a pitch black room and told her to stay there as long as she could.  She stayed so long they had to ask her to come out, and not the other way around—an unprecedented result.

 Was this secret government torture?  Illegal medical experimentation?  Neither.  It was 1960 and Jerrie Cobb had signed up for all of it—she was a volunteer.  She worked as a pilot and had been flying airplanes since she was twelve years old.  She’d set a world speed record and a world altitude record, and she thought women should be part of the new space exploration project going on in the country.

 Jerrie Cobb was the first woman to go through the testing that all the male astronaut candidates went through.  She performed better than they did, and 12 women followed her through the tests.  Now they just had to convince NASA and the President that women should be allowed into the space program.

Let me play : the story of Title IX : the law that changed the future of girls in America

by Karen Blumenthal

 

If you play a sport, you owe it to yourself to read this book.

Here are some other books about real women in history that look fascinating, but remain yet unread by me:

Amelia lost : the life and disappearance of Amelia Earhart

by Candace Fleming

 

With chilling details about the last flight of Earhart.

I’ll pass for your comrade : women soldiers in the Civil War

by Anita Silvey

About the hundreds of women who assumed male identities, put on uniforms, enlisted in the Union of Confederate Army, and went into battle alongside their male comrades.

Factory girls : from village to city in a changing China

by Leslie T. Chang.

In Factory Girls, Leslie T. Chang, a former correspondent for theWall Street Journal in Beijing, tells the story of these workers primarily through the lives of two young women, whom she follows over the course of three years as they attempt to rise from the assembly lines of Dongguan, an industrial city in China’s Pearl River Delta. As she tracks their lives, Chang paints a never-before-seen picture of migrant life—a world where nearly everyone is under thirty; where you can lose your boyfriend and your friends with the loss of a mobile phone; where a few computer or English lessons can catapult you into a completely different social class. Chang takes us inside a sneaker factory so large that it has its own hospital, movie theater, and fire department; to posh karaoke bars that are fronts for prostitution; to makeshift English classes where students shave their heads in monklike devotion and sit day after day in front of machines watching English words flash by; and back to a farming village for the Chinese New Year, revealing the poverty and idleness of rural life that drive young girls to leave home in the first place.

Rat Girl

by Kristin Hersh

In 1985, Kristin Hersh was just beginning to find her place in the world. After beginning her music career at the age of fourteen, the precocious child of unconventional hippies was enrolled in college while her band, Throwing Muses, was getting off the ground, amid buzzing rumors of a major label deal. Then, everything changed. Her emotional troubles were diagnosed as bipolar disorder, and – just after the band was signed – Hersh was processing news of a very different sort: she was pregnant. Suddenly, she found herself wondering whether antidepressants could be mixed with prenatal vitamins, how to balance a guitar on her swollen stomach, and whether a rock band could tour with an infant.

6 Word Memoirs

Since late summer, we at CLP-Main in the Teen Department have given our teen customers the chance to write their six word memoir.  It’s been a great experiment with some wonderful results.  Here are just a few of the memoirs that have adorned our pinboard wall:

Live, Love, Grow, Learn, And Peace…

Life is full of surprises, too.

Laughed at all the wrong moments.

Had my reservations. Changed my ticket.

Life is weird. I found out.

Life is weird, so be weirder.

No time to do so much!

Weird stuff happens. Especially to me.

Life is full of laughs, dude.

Six Seven Word Memoir – I had a hard but fixable life.

If you’d like to write your six word memoir, visit us in the Teen Department!

Corey
CLP, Main – Teen Dept.

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