Monday, July 9, 2012

What Are You Reading? Memoir Edition

For some reason, I've been drawn to memoirs this summer.  Without really realizing, I've read several modern memoirs back to back (to back to back).  I find it hard to critique a memoir because while each one has been, at times, fascinating, heartbreaking, touching, and hilarious...each also has elements that make me cringe.  Whether it be bad language, differing life philosophies, or opposing religious beliefs, I have to remind myself (and you, if you choose to read one of the following books) that I cannot expect the lost to act found

So... read with fascination, but also read with warning. 

Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman was written by a young, 20-something woman who entered an arranged marriage and had a child before leaving her strict, Hasidic Jewish community in New York City.  She shares details of her life from the time she was a small child, abandoned by both parents, to her first year on her own in a new world.  While I was so into this book that I couldn't put it down, I was saddened by the conclusions she made about God. 

Heaven Is Here by Stephanie Nielson was written by a young mom about my age who was raising  four young children when she was badly burned in a private plane crash.  This book chronicles her life before and after the crash, delving into her feelings towards her new "look" and feelings of guilt and inadequacy in the months when she was unable to see or care for her children. This book was also riveting, but her religious views, though only a minor element of the book, were very different from my own.

Bloom by Kelle Hampton recounts the minutes and days and months after the author birthed a baby daughter with Down's Syndrome.  She shares her periods of mourning and grief and how she changed her thinking to embrace joy.  Filled with page after page of color photographs, the visual element of the book was almost as interesting as the text, but the conversational language was rougher than I would prefer. 

I hesitate to mention this book at all.  Arms Wide Open: A Midwife's Journey by Patricia Harman follows the author through her early years of learning to be  midwife.  A self-proclaimed hippie, her accounts of life on a commune with a loose-moral standard was bothersome.  This book is the sequel to The Blue Cotton Gown: A Midwife's Memoir , a chronicle of the author's current life as a nurse-midwife which I enjoyed infinitely more, but was also rougher than my normals reads. 

Next on my list are Two Kisses for Maddy by Matthew Logelin and Dan Gets a Minivan by Dan Zevin.  If anyone has read either and can shed some light on them, please do so! 

And speaking of memoirs, in between books I've been enjoying the short stories from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes which actually comes first)  that I downloaded for free on my Kindle. 

So...what are you reading?


  1. I have to ask- have you read Unbroken or The End of the Spear? Or Through Gates of Splendor? Those may be my top three biography/memoirs of all time. I read Unbroken to my boys this winter, and am reading The End of the Spear to them now, but I read them myself first, and couldn't stop thinking or talking about them.

    Thanks for sharing! I added The Blue Cotton Gown to my wishlist! :)

  2. Thanks for the book reviews! I'm intrigued by Unorthodox, and I've been really curious about Heaven is Here since I occasionally read her blog. Looks like I've got more books to add to my list!


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