I’ve written about memoirs several times before in this column simply because I love them. The narrative style of the memoir gives you the absorbing reading experience of fiction with the bonus of learning about an interesting time in a real person’s life. The following books are the last five memoirs I have read – not all of them were my favorites, but they each provide the unique slice of life one looks for in a memoir.
Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land is a memoir written by a woman who only quite recently clawed herself out of poverty.
A single mother, without much in the way of family support, Land worked tirelessly as a maid for years without any safety net whatsoever. She discusses the ways in which “the system” is broken and seemingly designed to keep poor people poor. This thought-provoking memoir is suggested for readers of Evicted by Matthew Desmond and Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.
Unwifeable by Mandy Stadtmiller is about the writer’s decade of low self-esteem, promiscuity and hard partying in New York City following her divorce at age 30. It’s one of those trainwreck memoirs, sometimes difficult to read but even harder to look away from. It’s witty, raw, occasionally raunchy and startlingly honest. I’d suggest it for readers of How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell, Nothing Good Can Come from This by Kristi Coulter and Drunk Mom by Jowita Bydlowska.
Help Me by Marianne Power is a memoir about the year (and a bit) the author spent on a self-help journey; that is, a year-long self-improvement plan guided by 12 popular self-help books. This included The Secret, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway and even Tony Robbins. The author was funny and engaging and, while I find it hard to believe this project was really as impactful as it was portrayed, it was interesting to hear about what worked and what didn’t.
Crave by Christine O’Brien is a coming-of-age memoir written by a woman who grew up with a mother who insisted that vegetable juices, yeast flakes and other strange and restrictive “health” foods were the only way to keep her family healthy. The privileged daughter of a film executive, the author had an unusual childhood.
She grew up living in the legendary New York City apartment building The Dakota (where Rosemary’s Baby was filmed, Judy Garland once lived and John Lennon was killed) and yet had a relatively down to earth upbringing.
Her parents were loving but flawed, especially her mother whose mental instability manifested in her health food obsession. The impacts of this restrictive diet would follow O’Brien into adulthood.
Nobody Cares by Anne T. Donoghue is an odd selection of biographical essays about “work, failure, feminism, and the messy business of being alive in your twenties and thirties.” Amusing, silly and frequently thought-provoking, these essays are not necessarily orderly but they are definitely engaging. I would suggest this one for an under-40 crowd.
All of these titles can be borrowed in a variety of formats from the County of L&A Libraries. Reserve them at your local branch or online at www.countylibrary.ca. And if you, like me, love a good memoir then consider writing your own. The library (Amherstview and Napanee branches) will be hosting five-part memoir writing workshops starting in March 2019. Full-time author and retired educator, Jean Rae Baxter will lead you through writing about your personal experiences by teaching you the tips and techniques in memoir writing. With her guidance, you will be able to translate and structure them into an unforgettable finished product that you will be proud to share with your family and friends.
”Telling your Story” begins at the Napanee branch March 5 (at 2 p.m., running each week until April 2) and the Amherstview branch on March 7 (10:30 a.m., running each week until April 4). It’s free to register but you are encouraged to sign up early because spaces will be limited.