This past weekend, I attended my 45th high school reunion and I’ve been reading memoirs lately. I seem to be having a nostalgic summer and it’s been lovely! The books recommended this week are interesting, enlightening, well written and very different from each other. Hopefully, you’ll find something to suit your mood.
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie
Award-winning author Alexie has long been one of my favorites. An honest voice for modern-day life on American Indian reservations, many of his poems, stories and novels have had bits of autobiography in them. Recounting the complicated relationship he had with his mother, this full-fledged memoir could not have been written until after his mother had passed away. She was a quilter and was 78 years old when she died in 2015. Alexie has constructed this book as a quilt, built of 78 poems and 78 essays. It’s a difficult story, because life on the rez is difficult and because their relationship was difficult, too. As usual, though, Alexie tells it all with openness, heartbreak, and humor.
On the Move: a Life by Oliver Sacks
Neurologist and accomplished author, Sacks is well known for his collections of case studies such as The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, An Anthropologist on Mars and Seeing Voices: A Journey into the World of the Deaf. His bestseller, Awakenings, was made into a feature film starring Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro. This final autobiography (he died in 2015 at the age of 82) recounts a life well lived and shares intimate details which had not been made public before. At once extremely shy and quite daring, he moved from his native Britain to California and eventually to New York City, collecting a wealth of friendships and adventures along the way. And yes, that is him on the cover of the book. He had always had a love of motorbikes and spent the early ’60’s on Venice Beach (CA) as a body builder! Listening to the audio, I found it easy to absorb the medical terms and phrases.
Here If You Need Me: a True Story by Kate Braestrup
The first in her series of memoirs was published in 2007 and after having read it, I wanted to be her when I grew up! (Never mind that I’m probably ten years older than she is.) In Here If You Need Me, Braestrup recounts how her husband, and the father of their four children, was killed in the line of duty as a Maine State Trooper. To help deal with her tremendous grief, she chose to pursue his dream – to become a minister. Enrolling in divinity school, caring for her grieving family, and trying to keep the day-to-day together, Braestrup persevered and became a Unitarian Universalist minister. She then found her calling as the first chaplain for the search-and-rescue teams across the state of Maine. It’s a moving, inspirational story that reminds us that it’s the small miracles that happen every day. An accomplished writer, Braestrup continued to relate her journey with two more books: Marriage and Other Acts of Charity in 2010 and the most recent, Anchor and Flares: a Memoir of Motherhood, Hope and Service, in which she faces her eldest son’s choice to join the military. Beautifully done.
A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel
Born in 1965 in quintessential small-town America, Kimmel was nicknamed Zippy for the way she raced around the house. Growing up in the tiny hamlet of Mooreland – where neighbors helped neighbors, people went to church on Sundays, and everyone knew everyone else – Kimmel shares glimpses of life in a gentler time. Laced with humor and wonderful 3rd-grade insights, A Girl named Zippy is a love letter to Kimmel’s home town.