Today’s guest post comes to you from one of my blogging twins, Meg at Write Meg! We both started blogging at about the same time and for the same reason — we had English degrees and a craving to talk with someone, anyone, about books. She’s wonderful, and I hope you’ll find many suggestions in her five examples of female-driven memoirs.
Back in the dark ages of my own ignorant soul, the phrase “nonfiction” was enough to send me cowering beneath a pile of chick lit. Memoirs were viewed as dusty, boring tomes that held no relevance — or interest — for this twenty-something more accustomed to reading about love affairs, shoe addictions and jaunts around New York City.
After studying English in college and losing myself in Shakespeare’s sonnets, I was officially a literature addict . . . but with B.A. in hand, I really, really wanted to lighten up. Though I adore the classics (seriously, just hand me an Austen), my post-school reading life began to revolve around light-hearted women’s fiction and young adult reads.
Basically, everything I couldn’t read in academia.
It wasn’t until years after entering the blogging world — and discovering brilliant reviewers like Kim here at Sophisticated Dorkiness — that I began to, you know, give nonfic a chance. It started with picking up books relating to subjects of personal fascination. Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time was the first historical account with which I truly fell in love.
With time and patience, I began to accept that “memoir” isn’t synonymous with “dull.” Historical accounts, stories of triumph, biographies and autobiographies have all snaked into my reading diet, and I now believe a good story is a good story . . . regardless of genre. I stopped focusing on labels and emphasized enjoyment.
And what I enjoy? Friendship, food, travel, women’s issues and dynamics. And since there is no shortage of non-fiction on those topics, grab a cool beverage and settle in for the good stuff.
Female-driven memoirs that make really great stories — but they’re extra awesome because, you know, they’re real
I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert — Now a polished, poised event planner and entrepreneur, Gilbert has faced more than her share of difficulties on her rise to the top. I was captivated by her fight to survive — and eventually thrive — in the aftermath of a brutal attack, and this quick memoir held my interest until the last light went out.
Have Mother, Will Travel by Claire and Mia Fontaine — A mother-daughter duo forge a bond after Mia’s long, tumultuous teen years — only to lose each other once more in the twists of adulthood. Their memoir of time spent on a real “Amazing Race”-style scavenger hunt was honest, raw and thought-provoking. I loved their thoughts on motherhood and friendship, too. (Plus: travel. Beautiful countries. Awesome food. Sensing a theme?)
Heaven Is Here by Stephanie Nielson — A young mother wakes from a coma to discover she’s been in a plane crash — and has suffered burns over 80 percent of her body. With faith, compassion and honesty, Nielson recounts life before the crash and the harrowing days after . . . and though it’s heart-wrenching and gut-punching, I walked away from this memoir feeling tender in the best way possible. I double-dog-dare you not to be moved by Stephanie’s story, which — spoiler — has a happy ending.
How To Love an American Man by Kristine Gasbarre — It’s rare to find a memoir that reads like the first cool breeze after a miserable summer, but Gasbarre’s coming-of-age and coming-to-love story refreshed me at a time when I really needed refreshing. Her story of family is framed around her grandmother’s advice on becoming a strong, independent woman, and I fell in love Gasbarre’s take on life. More than worth the read.
Paris In Love by Eloisa James — After surviving cancer shortly after her mother died of the disease, James packs up her family and high-tails it to Paris for a year abroad. She writes, she eats, she thinks — and she lets us in for all of it. Told in vignette-like bursts, Paris In Love occasionally reads more like a Facebook feed than a memoir . . . but it’s perfect for the armchair traveler. And people with short attention spans (guilty). And yes, there are macarons.