The African American Experience: Memoirs by Women

The African American Experience blog photo

Explore the personal stories of political activists, literary giants, and other women who challenged perspectives and overcame biases surrounding race, sex, and class to become inspiring leaders.

Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High by Melba Beals

The author describes the threats and emotional abuse she endured from white students and adults along with her fears of endangering her family as she committed to being one of the first African American students to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957.

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors

A memoir by the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement explains the movement’s position of love, humanity, and justice, challenging perspectives that have negatively labeled the movement’s activists while calling for essential political changes.

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Read a Biography

There’s still time to work on your July Summer Challenge Sheet! Have you read a biography or memoir yet? Biographies are a fantastic genre because they give a glimpse of another person’s life. They can inspire or challenge you. And, reading about other people’s lives can be beneficial to your own.

Here are a few biographies and memoirs to check out:

 

Indira by Katherine Frank – Indira Ghandi was reluctant to enter politics. She was educated at schools in Switzerland, England and India while her father and many family members were in and out of jail during the Independence Movement in India. After the deaths of her husband, her fathers, and independent India’s first leader she joined politics in order to realize the dream of an independent country.

Call Me American by Abdi Nor Iftin – Read about Iftin’s path to US citizenship. He grew up in Somalia and loved American culture as a young child and learned English by listening to American music. But when a radical Islamist group rose to power in 2006, it became dangerous to celebrate any kind of Western culture. Iftin used his language skills to post secret dispatches to NPR and the Internet in order to make a living, and found an audience of worldwide listeners. But as life in Somalia grew more dangerous, Ilftin had no choice but to flee to Kenya as a refugee.

Sick by Porochista Khapour – Khapour doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t sick. Several hospitalizations and $100,000 later, Khapour finally learns that she has Lyme disease. Read about her long, emotional journey and how she deals with the American medical system.

Well That Escalated Quickly by Franchesca Ramsey – The comedian and activist shares her advice on how to deal with internet trolls, low-key racists and social media in general.

How To American by Jimmy Yang – Jimmy Yang is a standup comedian and actor. In his hilarious memoir, he shares his story of growing up as a Chinese immigrant and how pursuing a Hollywood career went against the dreams of his parents.

Discover a Scientist

Still working on your June Summer Challenge sheet? Here are some titles to help you “Discover a Scientist:”

Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox – In 1962, Maurice Wilkins, Francis Crick, and James Watson received the Nobel Prize, but it was Rosalind Franklin’s data and photographs of DNA that led to their discovery. This is the powerful story of a remarkably single-minded, forthright, and strong young woman who was erased from the greatest scientific discovery of the twentieth century.

A Crack in Creation by Jennifer Doudna – Doudna helped create a new technology, CRISPR, that can make changes to human embryos. CRISPR may provide the cure to HIV, genetic diseases, and some cancers, and will help address the world’s hunger crisis. However, even the tiniest changes to DNA could have unforeseeable consequences. This is the thrilling story of her discovery.

Doudna is a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of California, Berkley. Her lab focuses on obtaining a mechanistic understanding of biological processes involving RNA.

Unnatural Selection: How We are Changing Life, Gene by Gene by Emily Monosson – When our powerful chemicals put the pressure on to evolve or die, beneficial traits can sweep rapidly through a population, or a species could die out.

Monosson is an environmental toxicologist and writer. She currently holds an adjunct faculty position in the Department of Environmental Conservation at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee – Take a look into the future of cancer treatments and discover a different perspective on the way doctors, scientists, philosophers, and lay people have observed and understood the human body for millennia.

Mukherjee is an oncologist and his research focuses on the links between normal stem cells and cancer cells.