May 17, 2021 | AmyJo
Following someone's journey through life can be inspiring, powerful and heartbreaking all at the same time. Walk a mile in someone else's shoes by reading these memoirs.
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade's worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi's transformation from a naive medical student "possessed," as he wrote, "by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life" into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.
In the tradition of Mary Karr's The Liars' Club and Rick Bragg's All Over But the Shouting, Walls has written a stunning and life-affirming memoir about surviving a willfully impoverished, eccentric, and severely misguided family.
Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home.
In this moving and compelling book, Melinda shares lessons she's learned from the inspiring people she's met during her work and travels around the world. As she writes in the introduction, "That is why I had to write this book--to share the stories of people who have given focus and urgency to my life. I want all of us to see ways we can lift women up where we live." Melinda's unforgettable narrative is backed by startling data as she presents the issues that most need our attention--from child marriage to lack of access to contraceptives to gender inequity in the workplace. And, for the first time, she writes about her personal life and the road to equality in her own marriage. Throughout, she shows how there has never been more opportunity to change the world--and ourselves. Writing with emotion, candor, and grace, she introduces us to remarkable women and shows the power of connecting with one another. When we lift others up, they lift us up, too.
The Liars' Club took the world by storm and raised the art of the memoir to an entirely new level, bringing about a dramatic revival of the form. Karr's comic childhood in an east Texas oil town brings us characters as darkly hilarious as any of J. D. Salinger's-a hard-drinking daddy, a sister who can talk down the sheriff at age twelve, and an oft-married mother whose accumulated secrets threaten to destroy them all. This unsentimental and profoundly moving account of an apocalyptic childhood is as "funny, lively, and un-put-downable" today as it ever was (USA Today).
Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her psychiatrist, a dead-ringer for Santa and a lunatic in the bargain. Suddenly, at age twelve, Augusten Burroughs found himself living in a dilapidated Victorian in perfect squalor. The doctor's bizarre family, a few patients, and a pedophile living in the backyard shed completed the tableau. Here, there were no rules, there was no school. The Christmas tree stayed up until summer,and Valium was eaten like Pez. And when things got dull, there was always the vintage electroshock therapy machine under the stairs....
Running with Scissors is at turns foul and harrowing, compelling and maniacally funny. But above all, it chronicles an ordinary boy's survival under the most extraordinary circumstances.
"Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about the physical manifestations of violence, grief, trauma, and abuse on his own body. He writes of his own eating disorder and gambling addiction as well as similar issues that run throughout his family. Through self-exploration, storytelling, and honest conversation with family and friends, Heavy seeks to bring what has been hidden into the light and to reckon with all of its myriad sources, from the most intimate--a mother-child relationship--to the most universal--a society that has undervalued and abused black bodies for centuries"-- Provided by publisher.
"When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood."
So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank's mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank's father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy -- exasperating, irresponsible and beguiling-- does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. Frank lives for his father's tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies. Perhaps it is story that accounts for Frank's survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig's head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors--yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance and remarkable forgiveness.
Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill with what seemed at first flu, then pneumonia, then complete septic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later--the night before New Year's Eve--the Dunnes were just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital when John Gregory Dunne suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In a second, this close, symbiotic partnership of forty years was over. Four weeks later, their daughter pulled through. Two months after that, arriving at LAX, she collapsed and underwent six hours of brain surgery at UCLA Medical Center to relieve a massive hematoma.
This powerful book is Didion' s attempt to make sense of the "weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness . . . about marriage and children and memory . . . about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself .