Here is an article I wrote called “Try a New Genre: Top 6 Memoirs Provide Excellent Summer Reading” The article appeared in OUR TOWN JUNE 2017 – Blue (edition.https://issuu.com/ourtownmag/docs/otm_june2017_blue_web)
Autobiographies are now passé; the telling of one’s story is now done in a relatively new genre- the memoir. Over the last decade, there have been some truly amazing memoirs published- many which have the power to completely change the reader. As an English teacher of nearly 23 years, I am always seeking high interest literature for my social-media crazed students. Here is a list of what I consider to be the top six, high-interest memoirs on the market.
- My Lobotomy (Howard Dully) As humans, we have a natural morbid curiosity that compels us to read stories involving traumatic content. This memoir is the heartbreaking story of Howard Dully, who was the youngest victim of Dr. Walter Freeman- a doctor who performed ice pick lobotomies out of the back of his “medical” van. The proverbial evil stepmother comes to life in this tale of dysfunction, disappointment, and abandonment. This is a story that will enrage every reader, and one that is absolutely unforgettable.
- Look Me In the Eye (John Elder Robinson) This New York Times Bestseller is told by a man who grew up with Asperger’s Syndrome but didn’t know it until he was an adult. He is at once socially awkward and gifted, but wholly misunderstood. He was seen as a social deviant- a kid with major behavioral problems. His story, which includes a dysfunctional family life, is one that truly helps the reader better understand the mind of a person with Asperger’s. He was, for instance, always expected to “look people in the eye”, but this is not something that came to him naturally. These are the kind of normalcies that he had to learn throughout his life, often times learning them too late. His life and talents eventually lead him into business with the rock band Kiss, where he worked to create their legendary exploding guitars. This is an endearing, eye-opening memoir, which, as a teacher, truly helped me to better understand this syndrome.
- Proof of Heaven (Eben Alexander) This New York Times #1 Bestseller is a fascinating read for anyone who has ever pondered what happens to us after we die. Dr. Eben Alexander is a neurosurgeon who sees life slip away on a regular basis. In his scientific mind, he has always believed that life simply ends- there is no afterlife. This belief, however, changed when he had a near death experience. He describes what he recalls from this event in vivid detail. His descriptions of his tour of another universe is thought-provoking, and certainly solidifies the beliefs of those who believe in an afterlife.
- Same Kind of Different As Me (Ron Hall & Denver Moore). This memoir, also a New York Times Bestseller, is actually written by two men, offering their perspectives on a unique and unlikely friendship. Deborah Hall, the wife of Ron Hall, a wealthy Texas art dealer, runs a ministry for the homeless in Dallas, TX. She meets Denver Moore, a homeless man with a tormented past, and finds a way to bridge a lifelong relationship between this man and her family in a story that is poignant and uplifting. This is powerful, spiritual, and uplifting.
- Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust (Immaculee Ilibagiza) This is a memoir of one woman’s struggle to stay alive after her entire family was massacred. When I say massacred, I do not mince words. The mass murderers in Rwanda used machetes to kill close to one million Rwandans. As I read this story, about this modern day genocide occurring on our planet in 1994, I was embarrassed by the lack of media coverage this devastation received here in America. Ilibagiza’s bravery, as she hides in a tiny bathroom for over three months, will be a story I will never forget, particularly the tenacity of her human spirit. Parts of this story are very difficult to read, but it is a worthy, important read.
- Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness (Susannah Cahalan) This harrowing New York Times Bestseller is a memoir about a journalist, in her mid-20s, who wakes up strapped to a hospital bed and labeled violent and psychotic. Cahalan recreates her story in journalistic fashion, relying almost solely on the medical staff and family members who witnessed her spiral into madness. She has no recollection of parts of the experience. She moves us through her horrifying tale with a perfect balance of science and compassion, and reminds all readers that we should never be satisfied with the opinion of one doctor. This is a frightening and triumphant story.
Look for additional Top Book Recommendations in future issues of Our Town, including “Top Authors”, “Top Beach Reads”, “Top Humor” and more.