I started reading memoir years ago, thinking it might help me write my own. It did. As I revise my memoir, I continue to be fascinated by how other writers structure the narrative of their lives. Here are some of the memoirs I’ve read in the past year and a few that sit on my “to be read” stack. Add your own suggestions in the comment section for a chance to win my copy of Poser.
What I’ve been reading. This collection of memoirs by women has captured my attention this spring. Each story is enough on its own, but this collection of memoirs offers additional gifts—stories of strong women, information on yoga and knitting, and visits to new countries, both here and abroad.
Honey and Vinegar by Linetta Davis. In Honey and Vinegar, poet and teacher Linetta Davis combines narrative, journal entries, and poetry to tell the story of her journey through grief after her father’s sudden death. Though this memoir is about Davis’s grief, it is also an amazing testament to Davis’s father’s love for her, her own strength, and her faith.
Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer. Dederer began taking yoga after she hurt her back while breastfeeding her daughter. As Dederer explored a regular yoga practice, she began to wrestle with the meaning of various roles in her life. In the memoir, Dederer flashes between two periods in her life: raising young children and growing up in Seattle in the early seventies. And here’s the bonus gift you receive when reading this memoir: Poser is a beautiful narrative introduction to both yoga and Seattle.
Yarn: Remembering the Way Home by Kyoko Mori. Writer and teacher Kyoko Mori learned to knit as a child in Japan, but it was not until she was a graduate student that she began to master the art. In Yarn, Mori explores her own family history, including the suicide of her mother, her unraveling marriage, and the history of needlework.
The Bread of Angels: A Journey to Love and Faith by Stephanie Saldaña. When Saldaña left for her year in Syria, she was escaping the end of a romantic relationship and a difficult family history. Saldaña structured her story after St. Ignatius’s spiritual exercises: The Fallen World, Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. Despite the long journey to resurrection, the reader is treated to the many riches the author finds in Syria: magical friendships, a new language, a renewed faith and love.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Walls and her three siblings were raised by parents who were both brilliant and dysfunctional. When her father was sober, he taught them physics and geology, and he invited them to work on his inventions. Her mother made art, wrote stories, and encouraged the children to find their own way. In the spaces between, the siblings formed a tight bond with each other and learned how to fend for themselves.
What I want to read. When it comes to books, my eyes are bigger than the spaces in my calendar. I buy many more books than I have time to read. Here are a few of the memoirs I’m planning to read this summer.
The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves by Siri Hustvedt
Lit: A Memoir by Mary Karr.
Devotion: A Memoir by Dani Shapiro.
The Pain Chronicles by Melanie Thernstrom.
Lonely: A Memoir by Emily White.
Your turn. What memoirs have changed your life? What books would you recommend I add to my summer reading list? Leave your comments in the space below. At the end of the week, I’ll put your names in a bag and have a drawing. The prize? My copy of Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses.