Memoir

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Better, Not Bitter: Living on Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice
Salaam, Yusef. Better, Not Bitter: Living on Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2021. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
"They didn't know who they had. So begins Yusef Salaam telling his story. No one's life is the sum of the worst things that happened to them, and during Yusef Salaam's seven years of wrongful incarceration as one of the Central Park Five, he grew from child to man, and gained a spiritual perspective on life. Yusef learned that we're all "born on purpose, with a purpose." Despite having confronted the racist heart of America while being "run over by the spiked wheels of injustice," Yusef channeled his energy and pain into something positive, not just for himself but for other marginalized people and communities. Better Not Bitter is the first time that one of the now Exonerated Five is telling his individual story, in his own words. Yusef writes his narrative: growing up Black in central Harlem in the '80s, being raised by a strong, fierce mother and grandmother, his years of incarceration, his reentry, and exoneration. Yusef connects these stories to lessons and principles he learned that gave him the power to survive through the worst of life's experiences. He inspires readers to accept their own path, to understand their own sense of purpose. With his intimate personal insights, Yusef unpacks the systems built and designed for profit and the oppression of Black and Brown people. He inspires readers to channel their fury into action, and through the spiritual, to turn that anger and trauma into a constructive force that lives alongside accountability and mobilizes change. This memoir is an inspiring story that grew out of one of the gravest miscarriages of justice, one that not only speaks to a moment in time or the rage-filled present, but reflects a 400-year history of a nation's inability to be held accountable for its sins. Yusef Salaam's message is vital for our times, a motivating resource for enacting change. Better, Not Bitter has the power to soothe, inspire and transform. It is a galvanizing call to action"–
The Wrong End of the Table: A Mostly Comic Memoir of a Muslim Arab American Woman Just Trying to Fit in
Salman, Ayser. The Wrong End of the Table: A Mostly Comic Memoir of a Muslim Arab American Woman Just Trying to Fit in. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2019. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract

"You know that feeling of being at the wrong end of the table? Like you’re at a party but all the good stuff is happening out of earshot (#FOMO)? That’s life—especially for an immigrant.

What happens when a shy, awkward Arab girl with a weird name and an unfortunate propensity toward facial hair is uprooted from her comfortable (albeit fascist-regimed) homeland of Iraq and thrust into the cold, alien town of Columbus, Ohio—with its Egg McMuffins, Barbie dolls, and kids playing doctor everywhere you turned?

This is Ayser Salman’s story. First comes Emigration, then Naturalization, and finally Assimilation—trying to fit in among her blonde-haired, blue-eyed counterparts, and always feeling left out. On her journey to Americanhood, Ayser sees more naked butts at pre-kindergarten daycare that she would like, breaks one of her parents’ rules (“Thou shalt not participate as an actor in the school musical where a male cast member rests his head in thy lap”), and other things good Muslim Arab girls are not supposed to do. And, after the 9/11 attacks, she experiences the isolation of being a Muslim in her own country. It takes hours of therapy, fifty-five rounds of electrolysis, and some ill-advised romantic dalliances for Ayser to grow into a modern Arab American woman who embraces her cultural differences.

Part memoir and part how-not-to guide, The Wrong End of the Table is everything you wanted to know about Arabs but were afraid to ask, with chapters such as “Tattoos and Other National Security Risks,” “You Can’t Blame Everything on Your Period; Sometimes You’re Going to Be a Crazy Bitch: and Other Advice from Mom,” and even an open letter to Trump. This is the story of every American outsider on a path to find themselves in a country of beautiful diversity." --Publisher description.

Persepolis
Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis. New York: Pantheon Books, 2003. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
An intelligent and outspoken only child, Satrapi--the daughter of radical Marxists and the great-granddaughter of Iran's last emperor--bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country. Originally published to wide critical acclaim in France, where it elicited comparisons to Art Spiegelman's Maus, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi's wise, funny, and heartbreaking memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah's regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran's last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country. Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran: of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life and of the enormous toll repressive regimes exact on the individual spirit. Marjane's child's-eye-view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a stunning reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, through laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.
Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return
Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return. New York: Pantheon Books, 2004. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
The great-granddaughter of Iran's last emperor and the daughter of ardent Marxists continues her description of growing up in Tehran--a country plagued by political upheaval and vast contradictions between public and private life.
Not Quite Not White: Losing and Finding Race in America
Sen, Sharmila. Not Quite Not White: Losing and Finding Race in America. New York: Penguin Books, 2018. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
At the age of 12, Sharmila Sen emigrated from India to the U.S. The year was 1982, and everywhere she turned, she was asked to self-report her race: on INS forms, at the doctor's office, in middle school. Never identifying with a race in the India of her childhood, she rejects her new "not quite" designation: not quite white, not quite black, not quite Asian, and spends much of her life attempting to blend into American whiteness. But after her teen years trying to assimilate, watching shows like General Hospital and The Jeffersons, dancing to Duran Duran and Prince, and perfecting the art of Jell-O no-bake desserts, she is forced to reckon with the hard questions: What does it mean to be white, why does whiteness retain the magic cloak of invisibility while other colors are made hypervisible, and how much does whiteness figure into Americanness?
Assata: An Autobiography
Shakur, Assata. Assata: An Autobiography. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2001. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract

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"On May 2, 1973, Black Panther Assata Shakur, aka JoAnne Chesimard, lay in a hospital, close to death, handcuffed to her bed, while local, state, and federal police attempted to question her about the shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike that claimed the life of a white state trooper. Long a target of J. Edgar Hoover's campaign to defame, infilitrate, and criminalize Black nationalist organizations and their leaders, Shakur was incarcerated for four years prior to her conviction on flimsy evidence in 1977 as an accomplice to murder. ... Two years after her conviction, Assata Shakur escaped from prison. She was given political asylum by Cuba, where she now resides." From the bookjacket.

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth
Smarsh, Sarah. Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth. New York: Scribner, 2018. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
"During Sarah Smarsh's turbulent childhood in Kansas in the 1980s and 1990s, the country's changing economic policies solidified her family's place among the working poor. By telling the story of her life and the lives of the people she loves, Smarsh challenges us to examine the class divide in our country and the myths about people thought to be less because they earn less. Her personal history affirms the corrosive impact intergenerational poverty can have on individuals, families, and communities, and she explores this idea as lived experience, metaphor, and level of consciousness. Born a fifth-generation Kansas wheat farmer on her paternal side and the product of generations of teen mothers on her maternal side, Smarsh grew up in a family of laborers trapped in a cycle of poverty. Whether working the wheat harvest, helping on her dad's construction sites, or visiting her grandma's courthouse job, she learned about hard work. She also absorbed painful lessons about economic inequality. Through her experience growing up as the child of a dissatisfied teenage mother--and being raised predominantly by her grandmother on a farm thirty miles west of Wichita--she gives us a unique, essential look into the lives of poor and working-class Americans living in the middle of our country. Combining memoir with powerful analysis and cultural commentary, Heartland is an uncompromising look at class, identity, and the particular perils of having less in a country known for its excess. "--Dust jacket.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
Stevenson, Bryan. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015. eBook @ Harvard Library [Harvard Key required]Abstract

"From one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time comes an unforgettable true story about the redeeming potential of mercy. Bryan Stevenson was a gifted young attorney when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending the poor, the wrongly condemned, and those trapped in the furthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man sentenced to die for a notorious murder he didn't commit. The case drew Stevenson into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship - and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever."--Back cover.

Find the Print Book in HOLLIS. (Record #1 and Record #2)

In the Country of Women: A Memoir
Straight, Susan. In the Country of Women: A Memoir. New York: Catapult, 2019. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
"In inland Southern California, near the desert and the Mexican border, Susan Straight, a self-proclaimed book nerd, and Dwayne Sims, an African American basketball player, started dating in high school. After college, they married and drove to Amherst, Massachusetts, where Straight met her teacher and mentor, James Baldwin, who encouraged her to write. Once back in Riverside, at driveway barbecues and fish fries with the large, close-knit Sims family, Straight--and eventually her three daughters--heard for decades the stories of Dwayne's female ancestors. Some women escaped violence in post-slavery Tennessee, some escaped murder in Jim Crow Mississippi, and some fled abusive men. Straight's mother-in-law, Alberta Sims, is the descendant at the heart of this memoir. Susan's family, too, reflects the hardship and resilience of women pushing onward--from Switzerland, Canada, and the Colorado Rockies to California. A Pakistani word, biraderi, is one Straight uses to define a complex system of kinship and clan--those who become your family. An entire community helped raise her daughters. Of her three girls, now grown and working in museums and the entertainment industry, Straight writes, "The daughters of our ancestors carry in their blood at least three continents. We are not about borders. We are about love and survival." In the Country of Women is a valuable social history and a personal narrative that reads like a love song to America and indomitable women." -- from Jacket.
My War at Home
Sultan, Masuda. My War at Home. New York: Washington Square Press, 2006. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
Review: "Born in Kandahar in 1978, Masuda Sultan fled to the United States at age five with her family. Raised in Brooklyn and Flushing, Queens, Sultan saw her life change when she was married by arrangement at the young age of seventeen to a virtual stranger fourteen years her senior - a marriage that she struggled to maintain and then hastily fought, eventually (after three years) being granted a divorce. This very divorce would become one of the first in her close-knit Afghan community, where the subject is considered rare and taboo."

"Sultan went on to graduate from college summa cum laude with a degree in economics, and in July 2001, she returned to Kandahar, to explore her family roots and find herself. There she met her relatives and surveyed the conservative provincial town where she was born. On return visits to Afghanistan, she discovered the tragic death of her relatives at the hands of American troops and began to seek answers."

"My War at Home is her memoir of self-discovery, family tradition, and life as a Muslim and feminist with political ideals. It speaks to the younger generation of Muslims in America as they struggle to resolve the ever-present inner conflict about what it means to be an American and a Muslim, while also examining the Muslim-American identity at both personal and political levels."--Jacket.

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They Called Us Enemy
Takei, George, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker. They Called Us Enemy. Marietta, GA: Top Shelf Productions, 2019. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
"A stunning graphic memoir recounting actor/author/activist George Takei's childhood imprisoned within American concentration camps during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon -- and America itself -- in this gripping tale of courage, country, loyalty, and love. George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father's -- and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future. In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten 'relocation centers', hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard. They Called Us Enemy is Takei's firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother's hard choices, his father's faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future. What is American? Who gets to decide? When the world is against you, what can one person do?"-- Provided by publisher.
Fairest: A Memoir
Talusan, Meredith. Fairest: A Memoir. New York: Viking, 2020. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract

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"A heartrending immigrant memoir and a uniquely intersectional coming-of-age story of a life lived in duality and the in-between, and how one navigates through race, gender, and the search for love."

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The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male
Valerio, Max W. The Testosterone Files: My Hormonal and Social Transformation from Female to Male. Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 2006. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract

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Review: "Max Wolf Valerio's observations about transitioning from a lesbian to a heterosexual male both challenge and confirm our assumptions about gender. As Valerio undergoes the physical and emotional changes associated with testosterone treatment, he is intrigued by his eye-opening discoveries about the nature of masculinity and femininity. The Testosterone Files offers a perspective on men and women that only someone who's lived in both skins can speak to with such insight and eloquence."--BOOK JACKET.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
Vance, J. D. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. New York, NY: Harper, 2016. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class. A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.
Love Thy Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor's Struggle for Home in Rural America
Virji, Ayaz, and Alan Eisenstock. Love Thy Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor's Struggle for Home in Rural America. New York: Convergent, 2019. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
"A powerful true story about a Muslim doctor's service to a small town and the hope of overcoming our country's climate of hostility and fear. In 2013, Dr. Ayaz Virji left a comfortable job at an East Coast hospital and moved to a town of 1,400 in Minnesota, feeling called to address the shortage of doctors in rural America. But in 2016, this decision was tested when the reliably blue, working-class county swung for Donald Trump. Virji watched in horror as his children faced anti-Muslim remarks at school and some of his most loyal patients began questioning whether he belonged in the community. Virji wanted out. But in 2017, just as he was lining up a job in Dubai, a local pastor invited him to speak at her church and address misconceptions about what Muslims practice and believe. That invitation has grown into a well-attended lecture series that has changed hearts and minds across the state, while giving Virji a new vocation that he never would have expected. In [this book], Virji relates this story in a gripping, unforgettable narrative that shows the human consequences of our toxic politics, the power of faith and personal conviction, and the potential for a renewal of understanding in America's heartland."–Dust jacket
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My Body is a Book of Rules
Washuta, Elissa. My Body is a Book of Rules. Pasadena, CA: Red Hen Press, 2014. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
As Elissa Washuta makes the transition from college kid to independent adult, she finds herself overwhelmed by the calamities piling up in her brain. When her mood-stabilizing medications aren't threatening her life, they're shoving her from depression to mania and back in the space of an hour. Her crisis of American Indian identity bleeds into other areas of self-doubt; mental illness, sexual trauma, ethnic identity, and independence become intertwined. Sifting through the scraps of her past in seventeen formally inventive chapters, Washuta aligns the strictures of her Catholic school education with Cosmopolitan's mandates for womanhood, views memories through the distorting lens of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and contrasts her bipolar highs and lows with those of Britney Spears and Kurt Cobain. Built on the bones of fundamental identity questions as contorted by a distressed brain, My Body Is a Book of Rules pulls no punches in its self-deprecating and ferocious look at human fallibility.
Educated: A Memoir
Westover, Tara. Educated: A Memoir. New York: Random House, 2018. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
"Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag." In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent. As a way out, Tara began to educate herself, learning enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University. Her quest for knowledge would transform her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Tara Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes, and the will to change it."–Provided by publisher
Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race
Williams, Thomas Chatterton. Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race. New York: W.W. Norton, 2019. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
"A meditation on race and identity from one of our most provocative cultural critics. A reckoning with the way we choose to see and define ourselves, Self-Portrait in Black and White is the searching story of one American family's multigenerational transformation from what is called black to what is assumed to be white. Thomas Chatterton Williams, the son of a 'black' father from the segregated South and a 'white' mother from the West, spent his whole life believing the dictum that a single drop of 'black blood' makes a person black. This was so fundamental to his self-conception that he'd never rigorously reflected on its foundations – but the shock of his experience as the black father of two extremely white-looking children led him to question these long-held convictions. 'It is not that I have come to believe that I am no longer black or that my daughter is white,' Williams writes. 'It is that these categories cannot adequately capture either of us.' Beautifully written and bound to upset received opinions on race, Self-Portrait in Black and White is an urgent work for our time." (Publisher's description)
Outside the XY: A Bklyn Boihood Anthology
Willis, Morgan Mann, ed. Outside the XY: A Bklyn Boihood Anthology. Riverdale, NY: Riverdale Avenue Books, 2016. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
An anthology of more than 50 stories, memoirs, poems, ideas, essays and letters–all examining what it looks like, feels like, and is like to inhabit masculinity outside of cisgender manhood as people of color in the world.
A Wild and Precious Life: A Memoir
Windsor, Edie. A Wild and Precious Life: A Memoir. First edition. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2019. Book @ Harvard LibraryAbstract
"A lively, intimate memoir from an icon of the gay rights movement, describing gay life in 1950s and 60s New York City and her longtime activism which opened the door for marriage equality. Edie Windsor became internationally famous when she sued the US government, seeking federal recognition for her marriage to Thea Spyer, her partner of more than four decades. The Supreme Court ruled in Edie's favor, a landmark victory that set the stage for full marriage equality in the US. Beloved by the LGBTQ community, Edie embraced her new role as an icon; she had already been living an extraordinary and groundbreaking life for decades. In this memoir, which she began before passing away in 2017 and completed by her co-writer, Edie recounts her childhood in Philadelphia, her realization that she was a lesbian, and her active social life in Greenwich Village's electrifying underground gay scene during the 1950s. Edie was also one of a select group of trailblazing women in computing, working her way up the ladder at IBM and achieving their highest technical ranking while developing software. In the early 1960s Edie met Thea, an expat from a Dutch Jewish family that fled the Nazis, and a widely respected clinical psychologist. Their partnership lasted forty-four years, until Thea died in 2009. Edie found love again, marrying Judith Kasen-Windsor in 2016. A Wild and Precious Life is remarkable portrait of an iconic woman, gay life in New York in the second half of the twentieth century, and the rise of LGBT activism"-- Provided by publisher.

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