2015 is the year of the young adult memoir. At least for me. Mine is finally finished and being shopped to agents and publishers as we speak. Which means I have to keep writing, and it turns out I have more to say in the YA memoir genre.
Because of the experiences I’ve had (sexual abuse, neglect, fun stuff like that), I tend to be drawn to books that tales similar to mine. I started off the year with A Child Called It: One Child’s Courage to Survive by Dave Pelzer, Come Back: A Mother and Daughter’s Journey Through Hell and Back by Claire and Mia Fontaine and It Happened to Nancy: By an Anonymous Teenager, A True Story from Her Diary by Anonymous (AKA Beatrice Sparks). You can read about what I thought of them here.
Then I moved on to some slightly lighter fare (or at least less sex and drugs) with King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography by Chris Crutcher and The Other Side of the Sky: A Memoir by Farah Ahmedi. Those are detailed in this post.
Finishing up the first 5 months of 2015, these books made their way through my reading lists (from want to read, to reading, to read):
The Lost Boy by David Pelzer
This book is the second installment of Dave’s incredible journey from an abusive childhood into adulthood. Some of it seems a bit overdone but, then, I didn’t live this experience. After I finished the book, I read some interviews about the author that made me wonder–not about the veracity of the book–but about his ability to truly move beyond it. Telling these stories–and selling his books–seems to have become his way of life. But perhaps if it shines the spotlight on child abuse and the need for good foster families that’s OK. I’m not in a place to judge.
Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You by Sue William Silverman
I was afraid of reading this book (which I read hard copy, as I couldn’t borrow a digital version–I don’t like to buy physical books as then I have to find a place to put them. Ebooks/kindle books I can keep a huge library of easily). I worried I wouldn’t be able to make it through it, or that it’d scar me. It didn’t.
What it did was help me realize the truth about some of my own experiences. I had an ah-ha lightbulb moment during the course reading of one passage that shed light on a memory that’s still half-buried. Plus, it helped me realize that writing about the trauma and abuse I experienced is OK–even if other people don’t want you to. It’s part of the healing, for me and for others.
The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway
I looked forward to reading this book to learn about how she described her culture and country in ways that make it come alive. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it past the first chapter. It was dense with description and I’ve never had a head for reading description. I confess, I’m a skimmer until it gets to the action and the dialogue and there wasn’t much of that. So I put it down and returned it to the library.
Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Asperger’s by John Elder Robinson
Why are we often so crappy to kids who are, for whatever reason, different and outside of the social norms and expectations? I like to think we’re getting better overall.
This is a fascinating book about the author’s experiences growing up with Asperger’s (although he didn’t have a diagnosis at the time). Parts were heartbreaking, others were truly funny. I saw aspects of my own personality in how he described his outlook and nodded along. Other descriptions of his interactions with people, especially how he viewed his own son at times, were possibly unintentionally hysterical. It gave me good insight into his mind and was a great read.
Not young adult memoir, but…
These books aren’t young adult memoir. I’m not sure some are even memoir, but I don’t think of them as strictly non-fiction, either.
Let the Tornado Come: A Memoir by Rita Zoey Chin
Cheryl Strayed recommended this book and linked to an interview with Rita Zoey Chin on her Facebook page. So I bought it.
I’m not sure it quite fits into the YA category, but it’s definitely memoir. She tells her tale of growing up as a runaway, full of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, alongside her current experiences of debilitating panic attacks that threaten to destroy the quiet, solid life she’s built for herself. It’s a well-crafted book full of beautiful language and intense experiences.
That Bear Ate My Pants! by Tony James Slater
This is an adventure travel non-fiction book more than a memoir, but it was funny and I heard my brother’s voice in my head the entire time I read it. The author reminds me a lot of him with his gypsy ways and love of travel to exotic places. I did that as a kid and am now happy with a settled, mundane life.
Smell the Blue Sky: young, pregnant and widowed by Valerie Willman
I know Valerie, she’s a local author and heads up the local chapter of Willamette Writers. So I was admittedly excited, yet trepidatious (apparently a new word) to read it. What if I didn’t like it? What would I say to Valerie the next time I saw her (I told her I bought her book and was going to read it next the last time I saw her at an author lunch.)
Fortunately, I can email her and tell her I loved it. I loved getting to know her more and learn about her journey to where she is now. There were so many things that resonated with me throughout the book that I didn’t expect to. And the surprises were great.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Is this a memoir or a book about writing? Both. There are a few Stephen King books I’ve really gotten into–mostly the The Dark Tower series as a teenager. There are a couple of Stephen King books I’ve read that I wish I hadn’t, as the imagery has stayed with me (I’m impressionable. I should probably only ever read or watch things about puppies, unicorns and rainbows). Even if I don’t want to live inside Stephen King’s brain, I respect his ethic as a writer and ability to produce readable books that sell well.
This book was no exception. I enjoyed it, it was useful, easy to read, and I got something deeper from it than I expected.
Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott
Oh, Anne. Sometimes I worry that Anne Lamott will come across as being too preachy (or maybe that’s really a worry I have for myself). But she doesn’t. She’s warm, earthy, loving, flawed. Like most of us. She takes humanity and our shared experiences and turns them into stories, finding the essence of what moves us. Maybe one day I’ll have that talent. And an agent.