Inclusive Reading Recommendations — Memoir/Autobiography

In this inclusive reading recommendations post, we’re focusing on biographies and memoirs. As always, we’d love to hear your own recommendations or experiences with these or other books in the comments.

  1. Becoming by Michelle Obama
    • In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America, she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private. A deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations.
  2. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
    • Noah’s path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother, at the time such a union was punishable by five years in prison. As he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist, his mother is determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life. With an incisive wit and unflinching honesty, Noah weaves together a moving yet funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time.
  3. Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock
    • In 2011, Marie Claire magazine published a profile of Janet Mock in which she publicly stepped forward for the first time as a trans woman. Since then, Mock has gone from covering the red carpet for People.com to advocating for all those who live within the shadows of society. Redefining Realness offers a bold new perspective on being young, multiracial, economically challenged, and transgender in America. Welcomed into the world as her parents’ firstborn son, Mock set out early on to be her own person–no simple feat for a young person like herself. She struggled as the smart, determined child in a deeply loving, yet ill-equipped family that lacked money, education, and resources. Mock had to navigate her way through her teen years without parental guidance but luckily with a few close friends and mentors she overcame extremely daunting hurdles.
  4. The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui
    • Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.
  5. When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
    • A poetic and powerful memoir about what it means to be a Black woman in America–and the founding of a movement that demands restorative justice for all in the land of the free. Raised by a single mother in an impoverished neighborhood In Los Angeles, Patrisse Khan-Cullors experienced firsthand the prejudice and persecution Black Americans endure at the hands of law enforcement. For Patrisse, the most vulnerable people in the country are Black people. Deliberately and ruthlessly targeted by a criminal justice system serving a white privilege agenda, Black people are subjected to unjustifiable racial profiling and police brutality. In 2013, when Trayvon Martin’s killer went free, Patrisse’s outrage led her to co-found Black Lives Matter with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi.
  6. Crazy Brave: A Memoir by Joy Harjo
    • A memoir from the Native American poet describes her youth with an abusive stepfather, becoming a single teen mom, and how she struggled to finally find inner peace and her creative voice.
  7. Calling Dr. Laura by Nicole Georges
    • When Nicole Georges was two years old, her family told her that her father was dead. When she was twenty-three, a psychic told her he was alive. Her sister, saddled with guilt, admits that the psychic is right and that the whole family has conspired to keep him a secret. Sent into a tailspin about her identity, Nicole turns to radio talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger for advice– Calling Dr. Laura tells the story of what happens to you when you are raised in a family of secrets, and what happens to your brain (and heart) when you learn the truth from an unlikely source.
  8. I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
    • When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize. I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.
  9. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    • For Ta-Nehisi Coates, history has always been personal. At every stage of his life, he’s sought in his explorations of history answers to the mysteries that surrounded him–most urgently, why he, and other black people he knew, seemed to live in fear … In [this book], Coates takes readers along on his journey through America’s history of race and its contemporary resonances through a series of awakenings–moments when he discovered some new truth about our long, tangled history of race, whether through his myth-busting professors at Howard University, a trip to a Civil War battlefield with a rogue historian, a journey to Chicago’s South Side to visit aging survivors of 20th century America’s ‘long war on black people,’ or a visit with the mother of a beloved friend who was shot down by the police
  10.  Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride
    • Informative, heartbreaking, and profoundly empowering, Tomorrow Will Be Different is McBride’s story of love and loss and a powerful entry point into the LGBTQ community’s battle for equal rights and what it means to be openly transgender. From issues like bathroom access to health care to gender in America, McBride weaves the important political and cultural milestones into a personal journey that will open hearts and change minds. As McBride urges: ‘We must never be a country that says there’s only one way to love, only one way to look, and only one way to live.’ The fight for equality and freedom has only just begun.
  11. Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog and Richard Erdoes
    • Mary Brave Bird grew up fatherless in a one-room cabin, without running water or electricity, on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Rebelling against the aimless drinking, punishing missionary school, narrow strictures for women, and violence and hopeless of reservation life, she joined the new movement of tribal pride sweeping Native American communities in the sixties and seventies. Mary eventually married Leonard Crow Dog, the American Indian Movement’s chief medicine man, who revived the sacred but outlawed Ghost Dance.
  12.  The Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
    • A memoir that examines rural poverty and the lingering strains of racism in the South by the author of Salvage the bones.
  13. The Ministry of Guidance Invites You To Not Stay: An American Family in Iran by Hooman Majd
    • With U.S.-Iran relations at a thirty-year low, Iranian-American writer Hooman Majd dared to take his young family on a year-long sojourn in Tehran. ‘The Ministry of Guidance Invites You to Not Stay’ traces their domestic adventures and closely tracks the political drama of a terrible year for Iran’s government. It was an “annus horribilis” for Iran’s Supreme Leader. The Green Movement had been crushed, but the regime was on edge, anxious lest democratic protests resurge. International sanctions were dragging down the economy while talk of war with the West grew. Hooman Majd was there for all of it.
  14. In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri; translated by Ann Goldstein
    • A series of reflections on the author’s experiences learning a new language and living abroad, in a dual-language edition.
  15. Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember: The Stroke That Changed My Life by Christine Hyung-Oak Lee
    • Christine Hyung-Oak Lee woke up with a headache on New Years Eve 2006. By that afternoon, she saw the world quite literally upside down. By New Years Day, she was unable to form a coherent sentence. And after hours in the ER, days in the hospital, and multiple questions and tests, she learned that she had had a stroke. For months, Lee outsourced her memories to her notebook. It is from these memories that she has constructed this frank and compelling memoir.
  16. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
    • On the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. Kalanithi chronicles his transformation from a naïve medical student into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.
  17. The Grace of Silence: A Family Memoir by Michele Norris
    • The cohost of National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” set out, through original reporting, to write a book about “the hidden conversation on race” that is going on in this country. Along the way she unearthed painful family secrets that compelled her to question her own self-understanding; she traveled extensively to explore her own complex racial legacy. Her exploration is informed by hundreds of interviews with ordinary Americans and their observations about evolving attitudes toward race in America.
  18. Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran by Azadeh Moaveni
    • An Iranian-American journalist, who grew up as a California girl living in two worlds, returns to Tehran and discovers not only the oppressive and decadent life of her Iranian counterparts who have grown up since the revolution, but the pain of searching for identity between two cultures, and for a homeland that may not exist. The landscape of her Tehran–ski slopes, fashion shows, malls and cafes–is populated by a cast of young people whose exuberance and despair brings the modern reality of Iran to vivid life.
  19. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Baeh
    • This is how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. Children have become soldiers of choice. In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived. Ishmael Beah, now 25 years old, tells how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts.
  20. In the Absence of Sun: A Korean American Woman’s Promise to Reunite Three Lost Generations of Her Family by Helie Lee
    • Describes the attempt of Helie Lee to reunite her grandmother with her uncle who was lost decades ago during an escape from North Korea.

*Note: This is NOT a comprehensive list. Help us make it more comprehensive by adding books you like in the comments!

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