I wrote this article for 'We Love Memoirs Day' which apparently happens every year on 31st August! It features some of my favourite memoirs by women writers, from Audre Lorde to Raynor Winn. I hope you enjoy reading...
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson: Quirky Lesbian Coming-of-Age Tale
Rating: 3 stars Genre: Literary, Semi-autobiographical Summary: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a semi-autobiographical bildungsroman novel that draws upon the author's own childhood and life experiences. In a small Northern town in the 1950s and 60s, Jeanette is being raised by her formidable mother as a good Christian girl who dreams of becoming a missionary. However, after falling in love with one of her female converts, Jeanette embarks on a series of lesbian love affairs that will force her to confront the darker sides of her community. Determined not to choose between her love of women and her calling as a preacher, she must fight to retain her identity, sexuality, and faith intact.
An Improbable Life by Trevor McDonald: Astonishing Journalist’s Memoir
Rating: 3.5 stars
Category: Non-fiction, Autobiography, Memoir
Synopsis: Sir Trevor McDonald's career as a journalist began at Radio Trinidad in his home country, where he tried his hand at everything from reading the news to commentating on water polo! When he moved to London to take a job at the BBC World Service, he had no idea that he was soon to become one of the top journalists of his day.
Working for ITN and Channel 4, his reporting work has taken him from a South Africa stricken by Apartheid to Barack Obama's inauguration in Washington, and he has interviewed people as diverse as death row inmates and the dictator Saddam Hussein.
Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood: Rich Yet Unsettling Portrayal of 1930s Berlin
Rating: 3.5 stars
Category: Short stories, literary fiction
Synopsis: Christopher Isherwood, an English tutor and novelist, is rootless. Yet it is this quality of rootlessness that allows him to seamlessly drift between the high and low of Berlin society, from decadent lakeside houses to cramped attic rooms shared by entire families.
Goodbye to Berlin is a semi-autobiographical collection of episodes that portray life in 1930s Berlin. Poverty, suffering and the rise of Nazism is beginning to give a threatening edge to all of the rich possibilities of the city.
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn: Candid Memoir and Enduring Force for Change
It is hard to imagine two worse things that could happen to someone, let alone happen within days of one another. Ray's husband has been diagnosed with a rare terminal illness. The couple has also lost their cherished family home and business following a financial catastrophe.
With nothing left besides their independence and connection to nature, they decide to walk the South Coast Path from Minehead to Land's End. Ray tells the story of their journey in this potent, emotional memoir. Following the path becomes their only purpose, as the two prepare to face whatever it is leading them towards.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou: Compelling, Moving and Perceptive Memoir
Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis: ‘Memoir’ seems far too simple a word to describe I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Maya Angelou, a writer and civil rights activist (among numerous other careers) recounts her childhood experiences growing up first with her grandmother in the poor, isolated small-town Stamps and later with her mother in the lively glamour of San Francisco. However, she also relates these experiences to much wider issues from oppression to women’s sexuality. Someone asked me what the book is about and I found it so hard to summarise – it is a kaleidoscope of social exploration, perception, complex relationships, powerful moments and wisdom.