Biographies and memoirs have become a recent favorite genre of mine. By the end of them, I feel like I have made a new friend. I appreciate when someone has the courage to share their story, especially when that story is intimate.
This is a collection of autobiographies and memoirs of women I have come to admire. Their stories are gravely different, but I learned from each of them. I have listed them in no particular order because I think they are all worth a read.
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My Life in France transported me to France and I felt as if I was sipping coffee with Julia as she told me her stories. She describes in detail her love of Paul Child, France and cooking. The movie Julie & Julia was partially based on this memoir. Julia goes in detail of her journey to cooking French food and subsequently writing her famous cookbook. She was a pioneer, being the only woman in her class at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school.
I admire Julia’s joy and determination when facing new challenges and pursuing her passions. It takes a lot of courage to move across the world, especially in a country where you do not speak the language (yet). You can’t help but be inspired by Julia’s love for cooking. She taught me that cooking is a pleasure, not a chore.
Chanel Miller, formerly known as Emily Doe in the high profile People vs. Turner case, survived a sexual assault at Stanford University. Chanel recounts her experience and the institutions that handled her sexual assault case. It is devastating, intimate, immersive, and powerful. I appreciate the intentionality in the title ‘Know My Name’ as Chanel lets us in to her experience when the media coverage on this case was so geared towards the perpetrator in her story.
Chanel lets us in on the everyday grief and trauma of assault and shows that seeking justice can delay and affect healing because the survivor is constantly having to return to the incident. In addition, Victim Impact Statements are powerful and necessary. I have always been a proponent of rehabilitative justice, and Chanel touches on this when discussing the outcome of the sentencing. She teaches that forgiveness doesn’t have to mean there are no consequences for the actions. I think this is an essential read, given 81% of women have experienced some form of sexual harassment/assault in their lifetime. This book will give you a first hand account of the legal process for sexual assault cases as well as an understanding of the devastating healing process that survivors go through.
This book holds a special place in my heart because I happened to stumble upon it while studying abroad in Italy and going through a break-up (cliché I know). I even visited L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele after finishing the book, the pizza was DELICIOUS. I learned so much from this book and I do not think you need to go on a European adventure to find yourself, everyone’s journey to self discovery is going to look different. I learned how important it is to build the life you love, not the life that is expected of you. I appreciated that Elizabeth shared bits of wisdom in this book that she actionably was using in her own life.
I knew very little about Michelle and Barack’s relationship before reading Becoming. Michelle shares her life story in an intimate way, describing the lessons she has learned a long the way. I admire Michelle as a role mode and this book only reiterated that even more. Michelle discusses her career, marriage, personal struggles, and family to give the reader a transparent look into her life. It takes courage to write about that in such detail, especially as a public figure. Michelle is a pioneer and she taught me in this book how important it is to advocate for yourself and becoming your best self means taking care of yourself.
Educated is the story written by Tara Westover on her journey out of an extreme anti-government, anti-science, and religious fundamentalist family to becoming a Cambridge- and Harvard-educated PhD. It is an inspiring story of how she took her traumatic childhood full of abuse and had the courage to escape and pursue her dreams. She went from having no formal education at all, to holding a PhD. I admire her passionate curiosity which propelled her in her studies.
A heart wrenching memoir by Korean American musician Michelle Zauner about mother-daughter love, cancer, grief, and how food connects us. It is an honest and beloved dedication to Michelle’s mother and the many, sometimes complicated, layers of mother-daughter relationships. I enjoyed learning about Korean culture and hearing the details of the Korean dishes. I found myself in tears for many parts, especially where Michelle is so vulnerable with her grief.
What biographies or memoirs have you learned from? I am sure I will be adding to this list as I continue to read and I would love to hear your recommendations!