Still reading: Young Adult memoirs

In my continuing quest for knowledge on how to write a fantastic memoir, I keep reading other memoirs, particularly ones aimed at an young adult audience. Since my last post about what I’ve been reading, I’ve finished two books: King of the Mild Frontier by Chris Crutcher and The Other Side of the Sky: A Memoir by Farah Ahmedi.

Both are good, and yet very different from each other in terms of writing style and content.

king of the mild frontierKing of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography by Chris Crutcher

I haven’t read any of Chris Crutcher’s other books, but they’re now on my reading list once I get back into fiction again. I’m not sure if this book was suggested as a YA memoir to read because he’s a YA author, but I suspect I wouldn’t have appreciated this book as much as a teenager as I did reading it as a (somehow) fully-fledged adult.

It covers his growing-up years in Cascade, Idaho — a time and place I can barely relate to and am incredibly glad I didn’t grow up in — told through stories that are hilarious and heart-breaking. It’s open, honest and extremely well-written. I can only hope to someday be this funny and poignant.

the other side of the skyThe Other Side of the Sky: A Memoir by Farah Ahmedi

It took me a while to get into this book — partly because I read it in paperback (as opposed to on my kindle) and partly because of the writing style. It’s written as if Farah is telling you the story in person, as it is essentially the transcription of her conversations with Tanim Ansary, who was hired to help her write the book. Once I got further into the book, either the story picked up or I got used to the writing style and I zipped through the last half.

Overall, it’s a moving, eye-opening story about a young Afghani girl who loses most of one leg in a land-mine explosion and eventually emigrates to America with her mother, after losing the rest of her family in war. She is amazingly resilient and refreshingly innocent, even after everything she experiences.

As an immigrant to the U.S. I related to her experiences moving here: the overwhelment of everything moving so fast, the bright lights, the cars, all of the foreign Americanness (I’m making up words now) as well as the feelings of isolation and outsiderness.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any satisfying updates about her life today. She graduated from North Central College in 2010 (the book was published in 2006 when she was about 19), by which time she’d married and had a child. And in 2014, she spoke to a group of high school students about the book and her experiences, so she’s still alive and well, just without much of a public profile. It looks like I got emotionally involved enough to want to know what happened next, after the book’s conclusion.

Next on my reading list:

  • The Lost Boy by David Pelzer — the 2nd installment of his incredible journey (I clearly get sucked into these author’s lives and want to know more).
  • Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You by Sue William Silverman — because apparently I’ve become obsessed with memoirs about the horrible things parents do to their children and I don’t want to sleep at night
  • The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway — I love reading about other places and cultures and am curious how others describe their countries in ways that make it come alive (so hopefully I can do the same with Barbados)