From Category: Memoir
By Charles M. Blow
By Charles M. Blow. The New York Times op-ed columnist's gorgeously written and introspective memoir is a case study in overcoming patriarchy and healing from abuse. Brought up in rural Louisiana by a devoted but stern and overworked single mother and their extended family, young Charles yearned for more tenderness and attention than a boy was supposed to need. An older male cousin preyed on his isolation, giving him a new secret to add to his fears of being not-quite-straight in a culture where this was taboo. Channeling his need for connection into school achievement and community leadership, Blow found himself on both the giving and the receiving end of violent hyper-masculinity as a fraternity brother. In the end, he recognized that self-acceptance, not repression, was the best way to become an honorable man. Blow writes like a poet, in witty, image-rich, sensitive lines that flow like a mighty river.
By Alison Bechdel
This outstanding memoir, written as a graphic novel, intertwines the author's coming of age as a lesbian with her memories of her brilliant, enigmatic, repressed father, who died in an accident that she suspects was suicide. Drawing parallels to sources as diverse as Joyce, Colette, Proust, classical mythology, and The Wind in the Willows, she shows how their shared love of literature substituted for the intimacy they could never express in more personal terms. Bechdel is the author of the long-running "Dykes to Watch Out For" comic strip.
By Jennifer Rosner
When her first daughter was born deaf, memories of feeling unheard by her own mother led Rosner to trace the history of deafness in her family and imagine how love might bridge the communications gap between parents and children. This beautifully constructed memoir from Feminist Press touches on themes of assimilation, identity formation, and healing. Interwoven with Rosner's tender and humorous memories of her children's early years are vivid fictionalized scenes of her Jewish immigrant ancestors, whom she imagines wrestling with the same challenges in a very different cultural setting. The technology and politics of deafness may keep changing, this book suggests, but the need to connect with the ones we love is universal.
By Dorothy Allred Solomon
This insightful, compassionate memoir tells of growing up within a breakaway fundamentalist Mormon sect that considered plural marriage a holy obligation. A theology of eternal family bonds, combined with the need to hide from persecution, drew her father's many wives and children closer together but also stifled their self-development. Amid the upheaval of social roles in the 1960s and '70s, the author strives to discover her own connection to God without rejecting her people. Personal narrative is well-balanced with historical background. First written in 1984, this book was reissued in 2009 by Texas Tech University Press.
By Martha Beck
Part memoir, part religious history, this compelling, controversial book by a Harvard-educated sociologist describes the fallout from her recovered memories of sexual abuse by her father, a leading Mormon scholar. Her anger is leavened by compassion as she delves into the complicity of a secretive church culture in creating and shielding abusers with split personalities. Though the topic is a dark one, readers who accompany Beck on her healing journey will be rewarded with her account of her strengthened connection to God's love and her own inner truth.
By Faith Adiele
In this profound, witty memoir of spiritual transformation, an intense, high-achieving, activist intellectual goes to Thailand to research the unequal status of women in Buddhist religious life, but unexpectedly finds inner peace during her stint as a member of an ascetic order of nuns. The elegantly designed book pairs her current reminiscences with excerpts from her journals, side by side on the page like a Talmudic commentary.
By Cheryl Diamond
There's more to this teen memoir than meets the eye. Beautiful, blonde Cheryl has a wise old head on her shoulders, which helps her survive encounters with all sorts of human predators as she tenaciously builds a career as a fashion model in New York City. She's also a sharp, funny writer.
Edited by the WE*ACT Editorial Collective (Elsie Dean, Alegria Imperial, Jan Westlund, and Sandi Wingrove)
This anthology of oral histories by senior citizens in British Columbia, Canada, paints a collective portrait of resourceful working-class women who survived poverty, sexism, and the failure of their illusions about marriage and family security.
By David Lovelace
This memoir of mental illness stands out for its lyricism, humility, tenderness, and deeply sane sense of humor about how the author and his family have romanticized their affliction. Lovelace is a poet and the son of a notable evangelical theologian. Both of his parents are bipolar, as are the author and his brother. With refreshing honesty, he traces mania's connection to spiritual and artistic creativity, yet concludes that the private ecstasies of madness lead to incoherence, not a deeper truth.
By Jennifer Finney Boylan
This witty and eye-opening memoir describes one person's experience of being transgender. James Finney Boylan was a published novelist and English professor who had tried all his life to suppress his feeling that he was female inside. Finally, at age 40, he began the process of transition, leading to an upheaval and rearrangement of his family life, depicted here in anecdotes both comical and sad. Some will feel that the real hero of the tale is the author's wife, who lovingly supported Boylan's transition despite her pain and anger at losing the man she married. Boylan's hilarious narrative voice is the book's chief strength; its weakness is an absence of in-depth reflection on where our ideas of "male" and "female" identity come from.
By Daniel Mendelsohn
Provocative, elegant memoir explores gay male desire, the mythic allure of doomed love, and the creative tensions of a life divided between incompatible worlds. Mendelsohn is a classics professor at Princeton, and some of his most interesting reflections involve the application of Greek myths to modern homosexual culture, and the contrast with his family-oriented Jewish heritage.
By John Crawford
This hard-hitting memoir by a young veteran of the 2003 Iraq war portrays a failed system of military leadership that exposed infantrymen to pointless risks as their mission became increasingly unclear. Crawford joined the Florida National Guard before 9/11 for the tuition benefits, then found himself unexpectedly shipped to Kuwait. Scarcity of men and materials meant that his unit's tour of duty was continually being extended, yet they were not given the tools to do the job. Crawford's writing captures the brusque camaraderie and profanity-laced talk of soldiers, while his literary prose brings these harsh scenes to life.
Edited by Brian Bouldrey
Contributors to this profound and heartfelt anthology of spiritual memoirs include Mark Doty, Andrew Holleran, Alfred Corn, Fenton Johnson, and Lev Raphael. The authors touch on such topics as the connection between spiritual and erotic ecstasy, family secrets and reconciliations, and AIDS as a modern crucible of faith.