It’s time to include some non-fiction in your collection
The very first time I read a memoir, it perplexed me. I was a young girl who frequented our school library because I didn’t make friends easily; at home, it was a different story—I was loved. I moved hungrily from book to book and read Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah, a story of an unwanted girl subjected to years of physical and emotional abuse while growing up in China. I read it very early on but still remember harrowing details from the autobiography. How is it possible to be under the same sky and be denied that kind of love?
I still have the copy in one of our bookshelves, while the paper withers and gathers dust. It is my introduction to the dizzying world of non-fiction. It astonishes me how humankind illustrates their resilience in the face of adversity time and time again.
Need true-to-life stories to uplift you during this unbelievably difficult time in history? Read ahead.
RELATED: Books to Read for Difficult Times
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
The Daily Show host, comedian and the son of Patricia, Trevor Noah, chronicles his animated coming-of-age in the time of apartheid—a system of institutionalized racial segregation—when his birth, as a son of a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother, was considered a crime. He narrates his mischievous childhood while he comes to terms with “finding himself” in a world where he should not have existed.
Writer’s note: This is, by far, the most entertaining piece of non-fiction I’ve had the glorious chance of reading.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
The first African American to serve as First Lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama reflects on her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, in her #1 bestselling tell-all.
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
Tara Westover was 17 when she first stepped inside a classroom. Her survivalist parents completely isolated her from mainstream society—she didn’t even have a birth certificate. Lacking any formal education, she became resourceful and started educating herself until her father became more radical and her brother more violent. She knew she had to leave home to discover the life she’s been missing out on.
For a similar read, bookmark I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Pakistani activist Malala Yousafza, the youngest Nobel Prize laureate.
In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park
North Korean defector and human rights activist Yeonmi Park narrates her brutal escape from North Korea to China in 2007 amid hardships she and her family had to face including brainwashing, extreme poverty and sex trafficking. Her resilience, in the face of adversity, has allowed her to tell her story in her searing memoir and deliver internationally acclaimed speeches around the world.
Watch her viral TED talk here.
Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church by Megan Phelps-Roper
The Westboro Baptist Church is one of the most hated congregations in America; members protest against the LGBTQIA+ community, Muslims and Jews. Megan Phelps-Roper is the granddaughter of the church founder, eventually growing up in this community with her unshakable faith. Running the Westboro Twitter account in her early 20’s would make her question their hateful teachings and eventually leave the group. This is her story.
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Winner of the National Book Award, punk rock icon Patti Smith documents her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe during a time of heightened awareness and exploding artistry in her breathtaking memoir. Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy.
Did we miss anything on your list? Send your recommendations in the comments below!
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver