Archive for the ‘Memoir’ Category

Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford

June 14, 2021


This is a beautiful, thoughtful, personal memoir. It might seem strange to say that it is personal, given that is a memoir, but the author is very forthcoming about her commitment to being open and vulnerable, and about her determination to be known and understood, both in her life and through this book. That openness and vulnerability are hard won. There are many reasons why her defenses might be up. Growing up Black and poor in Indiana, her father, whom she adored, was incarcerated when she was a young child, leaving her to be raised by her mother — a very complicated woman with whom she has an intense, fraught relationship. She grows up constantly surrounded by family – her grandmother, her cousins, her siblings, and especially her mother. While in many ways her family is a source of strength and joy for her, that closeness also comes with expectations and demands that inhibit her and contribute to the feeling that she can’t truly be herself, even around those closest to her. She paints a vivid portrait of her family that is both brutally honest and loving. The book is particularly effective in depicting what it is like to grow up with an unpredictable parent who is at times fun and loving, and then suddenly, explosively abusive. She also movingly articulates what it is like to suffer from anxiety, which is heightened after she is sexually assaulted as a child. It is painful to watch this funny, smart, inquisitive child start to close herself off from the world. But throughout the book you also have the strong, reassuring voice of the adult Ashley telling the story. As the narrator of her own story (and the very effective reader of the audiobook), she is strong and open and fully herself. It is a wonderful reminder of the power of telling your own story, and having kept herself hidden for so long, this memoir is a beautiful way to bring herself back into the world.

Somebody’s Daughter is available at the Library and as both an ebook and an audiobook on Libby/Overdrive.

Somebody's Daughter

Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger, by Lisa Donovan

March 29, 2021


This is a very satisfying and moving combination of memoir and food writing. I wasn’t familiar with Lisa Donovan before this book was recommended to me – what a story… I’m not sure exactly what to say except that this made me think in some ways of Ruth Reichl’s writing. Life and food and heartbreak and cooking and family and the world all somehow wrapped up in one book and it all fits together. Find it in our catalog.

Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist by Judith Heumann

March 15, 2021


While I love learning about women who have made amazing contributions to the world, it also pains me in some ways to think about why these stories aren’t more widely known. I certainly felt this way reading Vanguard by Martha Jones about the history of Black women fighting for Voting Rights. It was especially poignant for me learning about Judy Heumann since I have been directly impacted by the things she worked on, and yet I only just learned about her from my daughter. So for this Women’s History Month, I want to recommend Being Heumann, Judy Heumann’s fascinating memoir. Heumann is the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. Judy contracted polio at 18 months, and uses a wheelchair. Her parents were advised by doctors to put Judy into an institution, but their experiences in Nazi Germany led them to reject that idea. Her mother fought for her right to a public education, which she had been denied. Judy naturally grew into her activism, inspired by the Civil Rights movement and the Women’s Rights movement, as well as by her parents. To me the most riveting part of the book was the story of the weeks long 504 Sit-In that Heumann led at the San Francisco US Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare in 1977. The Sit-In was part of a nationwide effort by disability rights activists to persuade the US Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare to finally sign the regulations that would enable Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities by any program receiving federal funds. This is very much, as the title indicates, an activist’s memoir, and while there are important aspects of Heumann’s personal life that come through, the focus of most of the book is on the fight for the civil rights of people with disabilities. This was an eye-opening book for me and one I very much recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about this fight, and this extraordinary woman. The book is available at the Library.

Being Heumann by Judith Heumann and Kristen Joiner

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey and No Time Like the Future by Michael J. Fox

December 28, 2020


I have always been mainly a fiction reader, with only an occasional nonfiction that caught my eye.
In the last two months, I have read two – Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey, and No Time Like the Future by Michael J. Fox. Both are memoirs written by two well known personalities. McConaughey, with his cool attitude, reveals much of his life from pre-entertainment industry days, right up to current times. It was very easy to follow along with his “alright, alright, alright” approach to life. Fox has dealt with Parkinson’s Disease for many decades. In his latest book, he reveals the struggles he has had dealing with the challenges of
surgeries, rehab, etc, on top of P.D. At times funny and intimate, you know he will never give up.
They are both entertaining, and give the reader a look into two very different lives. I really enjoyed both. Greenlights is available at the Library and on Libby/Overdrive. No Time Like the Future is available at the Library and on Libby/Overdrive.

Title details for Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey - Wait list
Title details for No Time Like the Future by Michael J. Fox - Wait list

19 Titles of 2019

December 12, 2019


I’m not a big fan of creating best of lists, because I’m far too literal a person to declare anything “the best of 2019.” That being said, I have read all kinds of really wonderful books published this year. So as we head into the new year, here are 19 of my favorite titles published in 2019.




Kids Books

Beautiful on the outside by Adam Rippon

November 5, 2019


It’s November right now. The holidays are heading our way fast and furious. Snow and all its complications feel as though they are right around the corner. There’s so much to schedule, so much to get done. I’ve reached that point where I just need a happy, uncomplicated book. Save your great works of literature for another day. I am here for some sarcasm, a few laughs, maybe a fun fact or two, and extremely low stakes. If this sounds good to you as well check out Beautiful on the outside by Adam Rippon. 

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You don’t need to know anything about figure skating or care about the Olympics to enjoy this memoir. Though if you are a figure skating fan you’ll have a lot of fun recognizing some of the names he references. Mostly it’s a fun, light hearted detailing of Rippon’s many years of hard work on and off the ice. The audiobook version is also a delight.  

A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety, by Donald Hall

August 6, 2019


I’m biased when talking about anything Donald Hall but I loved this book as a continuation in the conversation begun in his other memoirs and essays. Hall is/was a genius of understated, simple poetics that rose above its own simplicity and earthiness. His poetry should be assigned life-reading (imho) and the idea of him and Jane Kenyon writing in the same house, producing these two bodies of work, is beyond imagination.

I have found his works of memoir even more moving in some ways. The poetry is stripped away and we see the man in all of his flaws (of which he has many), in all of his base humanness, and in his lusts and losses.

Donald Hall died in 2018 and this collection of essays shows his age. Still, his wit is sharp (and sometimes cutting) and he turns its blade as often on himself as others. An intimate and funny portrait of a man nearing ninety, and the end of his life.

click here to check availability in our library

May I also suggest:
The Best Day, the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon (this one broke my heart)
Unpacking the Boxes: a Memoir of a Life in Poetry
Life Work
String Too Short to be Saved
Here at Eagle Pond
Seasons at Eagle Pond

Inheritance: a memoir of genealogy, paternity, and love / Dani Shapiro

June 7, 2019


In this timely memoir, author Dani Shapiro shares her experience of doing a DNA test on a genealogy website and having her world turned upside down when she finds out that her beloved late father was not her biological father. This memoir brings up important issues, including how this new technology can run up against a person’s desire for privacy, questions of identity and what makes you the person you are, relationships between parents and children, and the impact that secrets can have on a family. This is an interesting and empathetic window into the positive and negative consequences of having access to more and more information about ourselves out there to be discovered.

Inheritance can be found as both eBook and audiobook on Libby/Overdrive.

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

September 27, 2018


The audiobook of Soul of an Octopus was wonderful– I am often wary of books narrated by the author, but maybe unnecessarily so. Since Sy Montgomery narrated, she was really able to bring out the thrills and emotions that she really experienced throughout this span of time with the octopuses. (Yes, even though I knew “octopuses” is the plural, I found out from this book that a word like this with a Greek root cannot have a Latin plural– thanks Sy.)

I find both animal consciousness and octopuses so fascinating– this was the perfect book to gain insight and vicarious experience with the animals. Much of it was set in the familiar locale of the New England Aquarium as well, so it felt very real. The reader gets to know individual octopuses intimately through Montgomery’s own experience, and the book left me inspired to read more about animals’ psyches.

I rarely get so into nonfiction– this was definitely a winner. Great narrative style and a New Hampshire author to boot. I’m interested in reading more books by this author, such as Birdology and The Good Good Pig, and as a children’s librarian and mom I’m thrilled that she writes for all ages!

This book is available free to library members on both Hoopla and Overdrive, as well as at Wiggin.

Other Books by Sy Montgomery:
For Children
For Teens

Boys in the Trees, Carly Simon

December 8, 2017

[Lesley] I give this 5 stars both for the writing/her story/her honesty and the amazing audio. The audiobook weaves music into the story in a meaningful and moving way. I didn’t know much about Carly Simon’s life – didn’t know her father was the Simon of Simon & Schuster for example. She is so thoughtful and honest and kind about her life and the people in it; wonderful.

The audiobook can be found on Libby/Overdrive.