On Sundays, I’ll compile a short list of Editor’s picks within a specific genre or topic.
In honor of the passing of Dr. Maya Angelou, I’ve decided to dedicate my first Sunday Shorts (a list of editor’s picks) to memoir.
For as long as I can remember I have been enamored with hearing people’s stories, but it wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I fell in love with memoir as a genre. It was taking “Craft of Creative Nonfiction” and a graduate level course in “Women’s Autobiography” back-to-back that solidified the genre as my favorite. The combination of reading amazing memoirs and learning the craft behind them made me appreciate the complexity of autobiographies.
1. Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood, bell hooks
What can I say about bell hooks that hasn’t been said already? She’s an intellectual, a feminist, and a master of her craft. Her memoir is broken up into vignettes – short anecdotes that are both affecting and unflinchingly honest. Bone Black explores the mother/daughter relationship, literature as a lifeline, hook’s ars poetica, and black girlhood (and, more abstractly, womanhood in general). My copy of Bone Black is full of pencil marks — annotations, asterisks, underlines, and exclamation points. I couldn’t stop finding amazing lines and passages. In less than 200 pages, hooks created a memoir as pure and strong as bone.
One of my favorite professors in college once compared my writing style to Virginia Woolf, and it is still the biggest compliment anyone’s given my writing. Moments of Being contains five memoir pieces exploring anecdotes from nearly four decades and, similar to hook’s Bone Black, is part autobiography/part ars poetica. Woolf’s prose is lyrical and soft and full of metaphors. Besides her jaw-dropping writing, my favorite thing about Woolf’s autobiography is her honesty about the failures of memory — the way time blurs our memories and makes them smudged around the edges.
3. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Mindy Kaling
Delightful is the word I’d use to describe Mindy Kaling’s memoir. Steeped in sassiness and humor, Kaling still manages to find real humanity. Best known for her writing and acting on The Office and The Mindy Project, her first essay collection is like catching up with your best friend. Her conversational, bubbly tone makes the book easily accessible and just plain fun to read. I truly enjoyed Kaling’s first collection (the bit about Irish goodbyes was hilarious) and I’m eagerly looking forward to her next.
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What are your favorite memoirs? Have you read any of the books I listed above? Do you want to see a specific genre for Sunday Shorts? Let me know in the comments!