By Alyse Mgrdichian
Memoirs are, to me, a magical thing―they offer us a glimpse into the lives and experiences of others, broadening our understanding of the world and strengthening our capacity for empathy. Since August 31st is officially “we love memoirs day,” I thought it’d be fitting to share a list of 16 new and upcoming memoirs for you to consider! I hope that, by the end, your TBR has gotten a little bigger―I know mine has.
By Faleeha Hassan And William Hutchins (Translator)
An intimate memoir about coming of age in a tight-knit working-class family during Iraq’s seemingly endless series of wars.
Faleeha Hassan became intimately acquainted with loss and fear while growing up in Najaf, Iraq. Now, in a deeply personal account of her life, she remembers those she has loved and lost. As a young woman, Faleeha hated seeing her father and brother go off to fight, and when she needed to reach them, she broke all the rules by traveling alone to the war’s front lines–just one of many shocking and moving examples of her resilient spirit. Later, after building a life in the US, she realizes that she will coexist with war for most of the years of her life, and so chooses to focus on education for herself and her children. In a world on fire, she finds courage, compassion, and a voice. A testament to endurance and a window into unique aspects of life in the Middle East, Faleeha’s memoir offers an intimate perspective on something wars can’t touch–the loving bonds of family.
By Constance Wu
From actor Constance Wu, a powerful and poignant memoir-in-essays.
Growing up in the friendly suburbs of Richmond, Virginia, Constance Wu was often scolded for having big feelings or strong reactions. ‘Good girls don’t make scenes,’ people warned her. And while she spent most of her childhood suppressing her bold, emotional nature, she found an early outlet in local community theater—it was the one place where big feelings were okay—were good, even. Acting became her refuge, her touchstone, and eventually her vocation. At eighteen she moved to New York, where she’d spend the next ten years of her life auditioning, waiting tables, and struggling to make rent before her two big breaks: the TV sitcom Fresh Off the Boat and the hit film Crazy Rich Asians.
Through raw and relatable essays, Constance shares private memories of childhood, young love and heartbreak, sexual assault and harassment, and how she ‘made it’ in Hollywood. Her stories offer a behind-the-scenes look at being Asian American in the entertainment industry and the continuing evolution of her identity and influence in the public eye. Making a Scene is an intimate portrait of pressures and pleasures of existing in today’s world.
By Brooke Siem
An unforgettable memoir about the turmoil of antidepressant withdrawal and the work it takes to unravel the stories we tell ourselves to rationalize our suffering. Brooke Siem was among the first generation of minors to be prescribed antidepressants. Initially diagnosed and treated in the wake of her father’s sudden death, this psychiatric intervention sent a message that something was pathologically wrong with her and that the only ‘fix’ was medication. As a teenager, she stepped into the hazy world of antidepressants just at the time when she was forming the foundation of her identity. For the following fifteen years, every situation she faced was seen through the lens of brokenness.
A decade and a half later, still on the same cocktail of drugs, Brooke found herself hanging halfway out her Manhattan high-rise window, calculating the time it would take to hit the ground. As she looked for breaks in the pedestrian traffic patterns, a thought dawned on her: ‘I’ve spent half my life—and my entire adult life—on antidepressants. Who might I be without them?’
Unfurled against a global backdrop, May Cause Side Effects is the gripping story of what happened when, after fifteen years and 32,760 pills, Brooke was faced with a profound choice that plunged her into a year of excruciating antidepressant withdrawal and forced her to rebuild her entire life.
An illuminating memoir for those who take, prescribe, or are considering psychiatric drugs, May Cause Side Effects is an honest reminder that the road to true happiness is not mapped on a prescription pad. Instead, Brooke’s story reveals the messy reality of how healing begins at the bottomless depth of our suffering, in the deep self-work that pushes us to the edges of who we are.”
*It is important to note that, should one be diagnosed with a psychiatric condition, they should consult with their doctor before starting or stopping any form of medication—antidepressants are not always necessary, like in Brooke’s case … but they are in other cases, like my own.
By Danielle Prescod
Racial identity, pop culture, and delusions of perfection collide in an eye-opening and refreshingly frank memoir by fashion and beauty insider Danielle Prescod. Danielle Prescod grew up Black in an elite and overwhelmingly white community, her identity made more invisible by the whitewashed movies, television, magazines, and books she and her classmates voraciously consumed. Danielle took her cue from the world around her and aspired to shrink her identity into that box, setting increasingly poisonous goals. She started painful and damaging chemical hair treatments in elementary school, began depriving herself of food when puberty hit, and tried to control her image through the most unimpeachable, impeccable fashion choices.
Those obsessions led her to relentlessly pursue a career in beauty and fashion–the eye of the racist and sexist beauty standard storm. Assimilating was hard, but she was practiced. And she was an asset. Their ‘Token Black Girl.’ Toxic, sure. But Danielle was striving to achieve social cache and working her way up the ladder of coveted media jobs, and she looked great, right? So what if she had to endure executives’ questions, like ‘What was it like to drive to school from the ghetto?’ Or coworkers’ eager curiosity to know if her parents were on welfare. But after decades of burying her emotions, resentment, and true self, Danielle turned a critical eye inward and confronted the factors that motivated her self-destructive behaviors.
Sharp witted and bracingly candid, Token Black Girl unpacks the adverse effects of insidious white supremacy in the media–both unconscious and strategic–to tell a personal story about recovery from damaging concepts of perfection, celebrating identity, and demolishing social conditioning.
By Beverly Lowry
The stunning true story of a murder that rocked the Mississippi Delta and forever shaped one author’s life and perception of home.
In 1948, in the most stubbornly Dixiefied corner of the Jim Crow south, society matron Idella Thompson was viciously murdered in her own home: stabbed at least 150 times and left face-down in one of the bathrooms. Her daughter, Ruth Dickins, was the only other person in the house. She told authorities a Black man she didn’t recognize had fled the scene, but no evidence of the man’s presence was uncovered. When Dickins herself was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, the community exploded. Petitions pleading for her release were drafted, signed, and circulated, and after only six years, the governor of Mississippi granted Ruth Dickins an indefinite suspension of her sentence, and she was set free.
In Deer Creek Drive, Beverly Lowry—who was ten at the time of the murder and lived mere miles from the Thompsons’ home—tells a story of white privilege that still has ramifications today, and reflects on the brutal crime, its aftermath, and the ways it clarified her own upbringing in Mississippi.
By Amanda Held Opelt
When did we forget how to grieve well?
When Amanda Held Opelt suffered a season of loss—including three miscarriages and the unexpected death of her sister, New York Times bestselling writer Rachel Held Evans—she was confronted with sorrow she didn’t know to how face. Opelt struggled to process her grief and accept the reality of the pain in the world. She also wrestled with some unexpectedly difficult questions: What does it mean to truly grieve and to grieve well?Why is it so hard to move on? Why didn’t my faith prepare me for this kind of pain? And what am I supposed to do now?
Her search for answers led her to discover that past generations embraced rituals that served as vessels for pain, aiding in the process of grieving and healing. Today, many of these traditions have been lost as religious practice declines, cultures amalgamate, death is sanitized, and pain is averted.
In this raw and authentic memoir of bereavement, Opelt explores the history of human grief practices and how previous generations have journeyed through periods of suffering. She explores grief rituals and customs from various cultures, including:
• the Irish tradition of keening, or wailing in grief, which teaches her that healing can only begin when we dive headfirst into our grief
• the Victorian tradition of post-mortem photographs, and how we struggle to recall a loved one as they were
• the Jewish tradition of sitting shiva, which reminds her to rest in the strength of her community even when God feels absent
• the tradition of mourning clothing, which set the bereaved apart in society for a time, allowing them space to honor their grief
As Opelt explores each bereavement practice, it gives her a framework for processing her own pain. She shares how, in spite of her doubt and anger, God met her in the midst of sorrow and grieved along with her, and shows that when we carefully and honestly attend to our losses, we are able to expand our capacity for love, faith, and healing.
Brown Enough: True Stories About Love, Violence, The Student Loan Crisis, Hollywood, Race, Familia, And Making It In America
By Christopher Rivas
These pages are full of honest explorations of love, sex, fake-it-till-you-make-it ambition, bad Spanish, color, codeswitching, white-washing, scandal, Hollywood, and more. This memoir navigates these necessary and often revealing topics through fourteen chapters, each a distinct moment where Rivas explores his Brownness and how to own it.
Brown Enough opens with a moment that forever changed Christopher Rivas’s life, the night Ta-Nehisi Coates shared, in an intimate gathering in downtown L.A., the Brown man’s role in the race conversation.
‘All I hear is black and white. As a Brown man, a Latin man, where does that leave me?’
Coates took a short breath and responded, ‘Not in it.’
Like a reprimanded child, Rivas took his seat and remained silent for much of the event. But the effects didn’t end there. This conversation pushed Rivas to contemplate and rethink how whiteness and Blackness had impacted his sense of self and worth.
‘Why is Brown not in it?’ became the unspoken question for the rest of his life, and a thread moving through this collection. Eventually, in every conversation, during every date, at every job, Rivas began to ask, ‘What are the consequences of not being in the conversation?’
‘What does it take to be in it?’
Brown Enough is the quest to find an answer.
By Nicholas Montemarano
On January 6, 2021, at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in America, while the U.S. Capitol is under attack, Nicholas Montemarano drives six hundred miles to see his mother, who is hospitalized with COVID pneumonia and in a critical state. For ten days he lives in a hotel minutes from the hospital, alternating between hope and helplessness.
This is the story of those ten days. It is the story of the pandemic told through the intimate prism of one family’s loss. Written with visceral urgency in the earliest days of grief, If There Are Any Heavens resists categorization: it is a memoir, a poem, a mournful but loving song. Its form asks readers to slow down and breathe between each broken line.
At other moments, a chorus of voices–anti-maskers, COVID-deniers, and doctors–causes the reader to become breathless. It is an almost real-time account of the anxiety, uncertainty, and sorrow brought on by this pandemic. It is also, finally, a devastating homage to a family’s love in a time of great loss.
Now, and many years from now, when people want to understand the personal cost of the COVID-19 pandemic, they will turn to this intimate and spare elegy from a son to his mother.
By Ahed Tamimi And Dena Takruri
A Palestinian activist jailed at sixteen after a confrontation with Israeli soldiers illuminates the daily struggles of life under occupation in this moving, deeply personal memoir.
‘What would you do if you grew up seeing your home repeatedly raided? Your parents arrested? Your mother shot? Your uncle killed? Try, for just a moment, to imagine that this was your life. How would you want the world to react?’
Ahed Tamimi is a world-renowned Palestinian activist, born and raised in the small West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, which became a center of the resistance to Israeli occupation when an illegal, Jewish-only settlement blocked off its community spring. Tamimi came of age participating in nonviolent demonstrations against this action and the occupation at large. Her global renown reached an apex in December 2017, when, at sixteen years old, she was filmed slapping an Israeli soldier who refused to leave her front yard. The video went viral, and Tamimi was arrested.
But this is not just a story of activism or imprisonment. It is the human-scale story of an occupation that has riveted the world and shaped global politics, from a girl who grew up in the middle of it. Tamimi’s father was born in 1967, the year that Israel began its occupation of the West Bank, and he grew up immersed in the resistance movement. One of Tamimi’s earliest memories is visiting him in prison, poking her toddler fingers through the fence to touch his hand. She herself would spend her seventeenth birthday behind bars. Living through this greatest test and heightened attacks on her village, Tamimi felt her resolve only deepen, in tension with her attempts to live the normal life of a daughter, sibling, friend, and student. An essential addition to an important conversation, They Called Me a Lioness shows us what is at stake in this struggle and offers a fresh vision for resistance. With their unflinching, riveting storytelling, Ahed Tamimi and Dena Takruri shine a light on the humanity not just in occupied Palestine, but also in the unsung lives of people struggling for freedom around the world.
By David Milch
The creator of Deadwood and NYPD Blue reflects on his tumultuous life, driven by a nearly insatiable creative energy and a matching penchant for self-destruction. Life’s Work is a profound memoir from a brilliant mind taking stock as Alzheimer’s loosens his hold on his own past.
‘I’m on a boat sailing to some island where I don’t know anybody. A boat someone is operating and we aren’t in touch.’ So begins David Milch’s urgent accounting of his increasingly strange present and often painful past. From the start, Milch’s life seems destined to echo that of his father, a successful if drug-addicted surgeon. Almost every achievement is accompanied by an act of self-immolation, but the deepest sadness also contains moments of grace.
Betting on racehorses and stealing booze at eight years old, mentored by Robert Penn Warren and excoriated by Richard Yates at twenty-one, Milch never did anything by half. He got into Yale Law School only to be expelled for shooting out streetlights with a shotgun. He paused his studies at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop to manufacture acid in Cuernavaca. He created and wrote some of the most lauded television series of all time, made a family, and pursued sobriety, then lost his fortune betting horses just as his father had taught him.
Like Milch’s best screenwriting, Life’s Work explores how chance encounters, self-deception, and luck shape the people we become, and wrestles with what it means to have felt and caused pain, even and especially with those we love, and how you keep living. It is both a master class on Milch’s unique creative process, and a distinctive, revelatory memoir from one of the great American writers, in what may be his final dispatch to us all.
By Edward Enniful
From one of our culture’s most important change-makers, a memoir of breaking barriers.
When Edward Enninful became the first Black editor-in-chief of British Vogue, few in the world of fashion wanted to confront how it failed to represent the world we live in. But Edward, a champion of inclusion throughout his life, rapidly changed that.
Now, whether it’s putting first responders, octogenarians or civil rights activists on the cover of Vogue, or championing designers and photographers of colour, Edward Enninful has cemented his status as one of the industry’s most important change-makers. A Visible Man traces an astonishing journey into one of the world’s most exclusive industries. Edward candidly shares how as a Black, gay, working-class refugee, he found in fashion not only a home, but the freedom to share with people the world as he saw it. Written with style, grace, and heart, A Visible Man shines a spotlight on the career of one of the greatest creative minds of our times. It is the story of a visionary who changed not only an industry, but how we understand beauty.
By Qian Julie Wang
In Chinese, the word for America, Mei Guo, translates directly to ‘beautiful country.’ Yet when seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York City in 1994 full of curiosity, she is overwhelmed by crushing fear and scarcity. In China, Qian’s parents were professors; in America, her family is ‘illegal’ and it will require all the determination and small joys they can muster to survive.
In Chinatown, Qian’s parents labor in sweatshops. Instead of laughing at her jokes, they fight constantly, taking out the stress of their new life on one another. Shunned by her classmates and teachers for her limited English, Qian takes refuge in the library and masters the language through books, coming to think of The Berenstain Bears as her first American friends. And where there is delight to be found, Qian relishes it: her first bite of gloriously greasy pizza, weekly ‘shopping days,’ when Qian finds small treasures in the trash lining Brooklyn’s streets, and a magical Christmas visit to Rockefeller Center—confirmation that the New York City she saw in movies does exist after all.
But then Qian’s headstrong Ma Ma collapses, revealing an illness that she has kept secret for months for fear of the cost and scrutiny of a doctor’s visit. As Ba Ba retreats further inward, Qian has little to hold onto beyond his constant refrain: Whatever happens, say that you were born here, that you’ve always lived here.
Inhabiting her childhood perspective with exquisite lyric clarity and unforgettable charm and strength, Qian Julie Wang has penned an essential American story about a family fracturing under the weight of invisibility, and a girl coming of age in the shadows, who never stops seeking the light.
By Daniella Mestyanek Young
Behind the tall, foreboding gates of a commune in Brazil, Daniella Mestyanek Young was raised in the religious cult The Children of God, also known as The Family, as the daughter of high-ranking members. Her great-grandmother donated land for one of The Family’s first communes in Texas. Her mother, at thirteen, was forced to marry the leader and served as his secretary for many years. Beholden to The Family’s strict rules, Daniella suffers physical, emotional, and sexual abuse–masked as godly discipline and divine love–and is forbidden from getting a traditional education.
At fifteen years old, fed up with The Family and determined to build a better and freer life for herself, Daniella escapes to Texas. There, she bravely enrolls herself in high school and excels, later graduating as valedictorian of her college class, then electing to join the military to begin a career as an intelligence officer, where she believes she will finally belong. But she soon learns that her new world–surrounded by men on the sands of Afghanistan–looks remarkably similar to the one she desperately tried to leave behind.
Told in a beautiful, propulsive voice and with clear-eyed honesty, Uncultured explores the dangers unleashed when harmful group mentality goes unrecognized, and is emblematic of the many ways women have to contort themselves to survive.
By Alora Young
An extraordinary young poet traces the lives of her foremothers in West Tennessee, from those enslaved centuries ago to her grandmother, her mother, and finally herself, in this stunning debut celebrating Black girlhood and womanhood throughout American history.
Walking Gentry Home tells the story of Alora Young’s ancestors, from the unnamed women forgotten by the historical record but brought to life through Young’s imagination; to Amy, the first of Young’s foremothers to arrive in Tennessee, buried in an unmarked grave, unlike the white man who enslaved her and fathered her child; through Young’s great-grandmother Gentry, unhappily married at fourteen; to her own mother, the teenage beauty queen rejected by her white neighbors; down to Young in the present day as she leaves childhood behind and becomes a young woman.
The lives of these girls and women come together to form a unique American epic in verse, one that speaks of generational curses, coming of age, homes and small towns, fleeting loves and lasting consequences, and the brutal and ever-present legacy of slavery in our nation’s psyche. Each poem is a story in verse, and together they form a heart-wrenching and inspiring family saga of girls and women connected through blood and history.
Informed by archival research, the last will and testament of an enslaver, formal interviews, family lore, and even a DNA test, Walking Gentry Home gives voice to those too often muted in America: Black girls and women.
By Elizabeth Crane
Rachel Cusk meets Nora Ephron in this intimate and evolving portrait about the end of a marriage and how life can fall apart and be rebuilt in wonderful and surprising ways.
One minute Elizabeth Crane and her husband of fifteen years are fixing up their old house in Upstate New York, finally setting down roots after stints in Chicago, Texas, and Brooklyn, when his unexpected admission—I’m not happy—changes everything. Suddenly she finds herself separated and in couples’ therapy, living in an apartment in the city with an old friend and his kid. It’s understood that the apartment and bonus family are temporary, but the situation brings unexpected comfort and much-needed healing for wounds even older than her marriage.
Crafting the story as the very events chronicled are unfolding, Crane writes from a place of guarded possibility, capturing through vignettes and collected moments a semblance of the real-time practice of healing. At turns funny and dark, with moments of poignancy, This Story Will Change is an unexpected and moving portrait of a woman in transformation, a chronicle of how even the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are bound to change.
By David Ambroz
There are millions of homeless children in America today and, in A Place Called Home, award-winning child welfare advocate David Ambroz writes about growing up homeless in New York for eleven years and his subsequent years in foster care, offering a window into what so many kids living in poverty experience every day.
When David and his siblings should be in elementary school, they are instead walking the streets seeking shelter while their mother is battling mental illness. They rest in train stations, 24-hour diners, anywhere that’s warm and dry; they bathe in public restrooms and steal food to quell their hunger. When David is placed in foster care, at first it feels like salvation but soon proves to be just as unsafe. He’s moved from home to home and, in all but one placement, he’s abused.
His burgeoning homosexuality makes him an easy target for other’s cruelty. David finds hope and opportunities in libraries, schools, and the occasional kind-hearted adult; he harnesses an inner grit to escape the all-too-familiar outcome for a kid like him.
Through hard work and unwavering resolve, he is able to get a scholarship to Vassar College, his first significant step out of poverty. He later graduates from UCLA Law with a vision of using his degree to change the laws that affect children in poverty.
Told with lyricism and sparkling with warmth, A Place Called Home depicts childhood poverty and homelessness as it is experienced by so many young people who have been systematically overlooked and unprotected. It’s at once a gripping personal account of deprivation—how one boy survived it, and ultimately thrived—and a resounding call for readers to move from empathy to action.
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Article originally Published in the August / September 2022 Issue: Indie Debuts.