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Coming-of-age memoirs make great gifts

December 17, 2010

Tags: memoirs, gift books, holiday gifts, recommended reading

For those thinking about writing their memoirs, or for book lovers generally, these coming-of-age novels make ideal gifts:
• Allison, Dorothy. Bastard Out of Carolina (semi-fictionalized)
• Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
• Baker, Russell. Growing Up
• Baldwin, James. Notes of a Native Son
• Barber, Phyllis. How I Got Cultured: A Nevada Memoir (a Mormon childhood in Nevada)
• Barnes, Kim. In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country (a warm remembrance of growing up in 1970s Idaho, rebelling against her Pentecostal Christian parents as a teen)
• Beah, Ishmael. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
• Beard, Jo Ann. The Boys of My Youth
• Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Graphic (comic) coming-of-age memoir of comic strip artist whose father was high school school teacher, director of the family-owned funeral home (hence Fun Home), and closeted homesexual.
• Benjamin, David. The Life and Times of the Last Kid Picked (nostalgic memoir of the joys of boyhood in 1950s Wisconsin)
• Caplan, Cynthia. Why I'm Like This: True Stories
• Carr, Mary. The Liar’s Club
• Charyn, Jerome. The Dark Lady of Belorusse (the Bronx in the 1940s)
• Childers, Mary. Welfare Brat (growing up poor in the Bronx in the 1960s)
• Coetzee, J. M.. Boyhood: Scenes from Provincial Life (South Africa)
• Cofer, Judith Ortiz. Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood
• Conroy, Frank. Stop-Time A Memoir
• Conway, Jill Ker. The Road from Coorain
• Cunningham, Laura Shaine. Sleeping Arrangements
• Dillard, Annie. An American Childhood, available in a collection of her three most popular works: Three by Annie Dillard: The Writing Life, An American Childhood, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (the latter, beloved of many who write about nature, described in Bill Harper's Stop Often 'n' Frequent )
• Edise, Faith & Nina Sichel, Eds.. Unrooted Childhoods: Memoirs of Growing Up Global
• Ellroy, James. My Dark Places (crime writer explores mother’s murder)
• Fisher, Antwone Q. Finding Fish: A Memoir
• Fowler, Connie May. When Katie Wakes: A Memoir
• Fuller, Alexandra. Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood
• Gates, Henry Louis. Colored People: A Memoir
• Goodwin, Doris Kearns. Wait Till Next Year (the historians 50s girlhood, bonding with her father over the Brooklyn Dodgers and her mother over books)
• Hampl, Patricia. The Florist's Daughter. "Nothing is harder to grasp than the relentlessly modest life," writes Hampl, about her parents.
• Hickam, Homer. Rocket Boys (luminous memoir of 14-year-old in late 1950s who saw building rockets as a way out of a West Virginia mining town--made into a movie)
• hooks, bell. Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood
• Hotchner, A.E.. King of the Hill (St. Louis during the Depression)
• Jordan, June. Soldier: A Poet’s Childhood
• Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
• Kalish, Mildred Armstrong. Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression
• Kimmel, Haven. A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana (a funny, tender ode to childhood in a tiny town), followed by She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana
• Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts
• Knopp, Lisa. Flight Dreams: A Life in the Midwestern Landscape
• Lauck, Jennifer. Blackbird: A Childhood Lost and Found. Stunning memoir in the amazing, authentic-feeling voice of a child experiencing trauma. Available on CD: talks on memoir writing and to therapists who treat posttraumatic stress disorder (in which Lauck outlines the path she took to process, and transcend, the trauma).
• Lorde, Audre. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
• Lyden, Jackie. Daughter of the Queen of Sheba (NPR journalist's memoir of her mother's manic-depressive episodes)
• Mathebane, Mark. Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa
• McCarthy, Mary. Memories of a Catholic Girlhood
• McCourt, Frank. Angela’s Ashes (Irish poverty)
• McLain, Paula. Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses (foster care)
• Monette, Paul. Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story
• Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi (black in the South in the 1940s and 1950s)
• Murphy, Dervla. Wheels Within Wheels (an only child with a crippled mother and an urgent desire to travel; she wrote many books about her travels, too)
• Nabokov, Vladimir. Speak Memory
• Rios, Alberto. Capirotadas: A Nogales Memoir (an Arizona border town with an interesting cultural mix)
• Rodriguez, Richard. Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez
• Ryan, Terry. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less
• Sartor, Margaret. Miss American Pie: A Diary of Love, Secrets and Growing Up in the 1970s
• Serotte, Brenda. The Fortune Teller's Kiss (growing up the youngest child in a clan of Sephardic (Turkish) Jews in the Bronx, as a child belly dancer who catches polio, as predicted by her fortune-telling grandma)
• Simon, Kate. Bronx Primitive (growing up in a Jewish immigrant family)
• Stevens, lan. On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language (how language and literature shape identity)
• Strauss, Jean. Beneath a Tall Tree (about adoption)
• Stringer, Lee. Sleepaway School (about his years at Hawthorne Cedar Knolls, a school for kids at risk)
• Walls, Jeannette. The Glass Castle
• Webber, Thomas. Flying Over 96th Street: Memoir of an East Harlem White Boy
• Wilsey, Sean. Oh the Glory of It All (Wilsey mines for humor his memoir of growing up lonely in the lap of luxury--his "confusing, bittersweet childhood is, like the book itself, just the right mixture of comic and tragic")
• Wolff, Geoffrey. The Duke of Deception: The Memories of My Father (about their con-man father Duke Wolff)
• Wolff, Tobias. This Boy’s Life (about life with his abusive stepfather)
• Wright, Richard. Black Boy


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Comments

  1. December 20, 2010 7:44 AM EST
    Ah, then you could add my memoir: "News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist," published in September by the University of Minnesota Press. A coming-of-age story of a young journalist during a time of great change in the newsroom. Here's a link: http://www.upress.umn.edu/Books/H/hertzel_news.html
    - Laurie Hertzel
  2. December 20, 2010 12:00 PM EST
    Pat responds: I actually recommended that book in a different list: Memoirs and personal accounts of vocation, avocation, occupation, profession, calling (a reading list)
    - PM