Don't miss my NEW Bossypants review (under Memoirs & Autobiographies)
and The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes review (under the Fiction tab).
(Click on "Book Reviews" tabs on right)

Memoir Autobiography Reviews

By Tina Fey

Spunky. Quirky. Blatantly honest.  I loved this book -- a straight-up portrayal of Tina Fey’s road to success.  It’s full of vim and vigor and self-deprecating humor.  During her school years, Fey claims to have been a bit awkward and gawky (who wasn’t?).  In her college days, she states, “What nineteen year old Virginia boy doesn’t want a wide-hipped sarcastic Greek Girl with short hair that’s permed on top?”  Comedy and SNL was mostly dominated by male roles back in the 80’s with women playing the ladylike girly sidekicks.  Securing a place in this world took some real guts and kahones.  But apparently she had enough of her dad, Don Fey, in her to be able to step up on stage after stage, fare the wins and losses and still come out for another round.  She has quite the father and a mother and husband who obviously embrace her unconditionally. There’s no doubt that Tina Fey took her share of punches (no pun intended) and ended up on the funny side.  When Amy Poehler joined SNL, she found a partner in crime and a dear friend.  Amy didn’t pull any punches with the men and Tina finally felt as if she wasn’t alone anymore.  With her loving father, mother, husband and friends, Tina grew into a mogul with her infamous 30 Rock series, the SNL skits including her infamous Sarah Palin impersonation.  Her odd compilation of visual aids (photos, drawings and sketches) gave her storytelling breadth and depth.  Be sure to read all the footnotes.  Every woman should not pass by her “Twelve Tenets of Looking Amazing Forever” and her stance on Photoshop usage in magazines. This is not your every day memoir.  Dysfunctional?  Certainly.  When Fey balances family (including her adorable baby), work and life, the outcome is a bit warped and twisted, but it’s real.  It’s real funny.  And it’s as sweet as can be.  Fey is definitely laughing all the way to the bank.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
By Maya Angelou

Little Maya and her younger brother Bailey are left on their grandmother’s doorstep after their parents divorce.  It’s the 1930’s in rural Stamps, Arkansas.  Their grandmother “Momma” runs the only black-owned general store in the area.  Momma’s strict southern ways and her tight-knit black community builds a strong foundation for both Maya and Bailey. When Maya is 8, her father arrives unexpectedly to take the children to St. Louis, Missouri to stay with their mother, Vivian.  Their mother is beautiful and worldly -- mesmerizing both of the children.  There Maya is sexually abused.  In response, she quits speaking to everyone.  Shipped back home to Stamps with her brother, Maya begins her healing journey.  As she matures she faces many hardships, overcomes many obstacles, and through more visits, strives to understand her relationship with her mother and her father.  This autobiography rolls along in slow southern style.  It’s earthy and warm and most important, it opens the mind and enlightens the heart.    

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress
A Memoir of Going Home
By Rhoda Janzen

Sometimes one has to go back to their roots to remember who they are and where they came from. Rhoda Janzen takes a therapeutic journey home and reconnects with the important things in her life. After an emotionally exhausting 15 year marriage, her husband Nick leaves her for Bob from The same week he leaves, she has a horrible car accident and is recovering from serious injury. Armed with packed bags and a dry sense of humor, Rhoda goes home to nurse her wounds. Based on the cover of the book, reviews claim the book to be "hilarious" and "laugh out loud". To me, it felt sad, hopeful and humorous at times. Occasionally, Rhoda’s academic vocabulary made the reading a bit heavy and took you away from the story. Rhoda loves Nick through the end of the book even though he treated her deplorably. The best part of the book was looking at her Mennonite upbringing including getting to know her ever-positive down-to-earth mother, her practical friend Lola and her loving sister Hannah. The reminiscing about home cooking, childhood stories, and family values made me smile and think fondly back on my childhood upbringing. As Rhoda goes through her own 12 Step process.  By the end of the book, she believes that she is far along in the process.  I felt that maybe she was just at the starting point on her road to recovery.
Memoirs Worth Considering...
These are piece-meal reviews...just a few thoughts about each book.  I would have to re-read each book to do a thorough review.  So in the meantime, here are just some basic thoughts on a number of books in my library:

A Million Little Pieces, by James Fray
Self-proclaimed memoir, proved otherwise by Oprah.  Reads like a memoir.  If the author says it's a memoir, then it's a memoir to me.  Wouldn't any of our stories be our "perception" of which there is a fine line between fact & fiction? If even 50% of this story is true, it would be a sad miserable existence.  Very realistic.  Graphic.  The ugly truth behind addiction.  Not for the faint of heart. 

Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt
This and The Glass Castle are tops on my list.  Angela’s Ashes  is a poignant autobiography of young Frank’s upbringing in Ireland 1935 to his coming to America. It is a raw, harsh account of Frank’s reality – including issues such as poverty, alcoholism, famine, unemployment, and neglect. Yet, against all these obstacles, there is weaved throughout a very fine fragile thread of hope. When I read Angela’s Ashes, I found a renewed sense of empathy. I reminded myself, that even with my issues and problems, I do have extra money, extra food, extra clothes, and extra time to offer to those less fortunate than I. Little Frank McCourt’s story is more than a window to look through. It’s a mirror for self-reflection.

The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
This and Angela's Ashes are tops on my list of memoirs.  From the start, when the author drives by and sees her homeless mother squandering for food, the story grabs you and takes you to places you cannot even imagine.  The author's humor was tender and sweet.  Again, if I could, I would reach in and hug these children.  They found the joy and good in a life consumed by poverty and all that goes with it.  They amazingly remained forgiving and loving and could laugh in spite of everything.  Proof that children are resilient.  Everyone should read this book to put their lives in order.  My personal priorities have been changed and re-arranged based on this must-read memoir. 

I then ran out and read Half-broke Horses...the fiction counterpart.  Another beautifully written story , but it is not The Glass CastleThe Glass Castle is a one and only.

Freedom, the Story of My Second Life, by Malika Oufkir
Living the life of privilege, her family resides in a palace. When she's a girl, Malika's family finds themselves entangled in a deadly political situation. Her father is executed in 1972 and her mother and all the children are incarcerated in a Moroccan prison. They remain imprisoned for 20 years!  After a daring escape, Malika's family returns to their lost lives.  How does one adjust from 20 years in a prison where you only have some of your family to talk to, no access to the world, and being treated as a prisoner?  How does one adjust to a world with 20 years of changes?  Malika bravely yet timidly marries and begins to step out trying to understand this new world.  Overwhelmed by crowds, changing technology and too much stimuli, Malika struggles with regaining some type of a life.  This story is about trying to find a place in a strange world.  A touching story of survival.  

No comments:

Post a Comment