Category Archives: Memoir

Banana Peels on the Tracks by Jason Lockwood

Banana Peels on the Tracks by Jason Lockwood

The author of Banana Peels on the Tracks spent a year (1992-93) teaching English in Slovakia. I’d hardly say he “came of age” in post-communist Slovakia as his book cover says (he was already an adult with college and some years of work under his belt). He spent the year looking down on his students, judging them hard, and traveling, always looking for whatever he could find that was most similar to what’s found in the US (because it is, obviously, far superior to anything local). His attitude toward Slovakians and pretty much anything in Slovakia started out mildly annoying and got downright infuriating by the end. He was just kind of rude (and then spent the last chapter talking about how open minded and accepting he is, particularly compared to his friends who only think they are, which just made me laugh because of the incredible lack of self-awareness). He described most of his younger, high school age, female students as “pretty” which was a bit creepy given the age difference. Some of his reasons for disliking Slovakians included things that happen in the US as well (a woman being dragged by her husband/boyfriend, a man being assaulted in a subway tunnel). As with many memoirs, he did not seem to know how to end it and went on for about two chapters too long. Some things in the book are interesting enough, but I definitely wouldn’t go out of my way to read it.

2 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2022: 113
Pages Read in 2022: 39,266
Graphic Novels: 4

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Filed under Memoir, Reason: Grim Readers, Reason: LitHub Bingo

Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres

Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres

Julia and David were raised as virtual twins. Julia is white and David was black. I found the treatment of David (and their other adopted brother Jerome) horrifying. The parents were racist white saviors who enjoyed looking extra pious to their church community for raising these boys “as if” they were family. The author’s writing is very engaging and paints a terrible picture of a few terrible lives. The treatment of the boys and the religious abuse are very triggering. I recommend this book to adults who enjoy memoirs, but be aware of those triggers before reading.

4 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2022: 92
Pages Read in 2022: 32,754
Graphic Novels: 2

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Filed under Memoir, Reason: The Coven of Forbidden Books

The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn R. Saks

The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn R. Saks

Elyn Saks is a very successful woman. She is married, holds a rather impressive job, and has been published multiple times. She also has schizophrenia. The Center Cannot Hold is her story. She talks about her struggles with accepting that she needs medication and even accepting that she has a mental illness. Many times she quit taking her medication or reduced it thinking she could just try harder. The descriptions of psychosis and her delusions are vivid. Her writing is engaging even when discussing the more clinical aspects of her illness. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in mental illness.

5 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2022: 90
Pages Read in 2022: 31,629
Graphic Novels: 2

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Filed under Memoir, Reason: Book Club

The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting by Evanna Lynch

The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting by Evanna Lynch

Before Evanna Lynch became Luna Lovegood, she battled anorexia. This book is mostly about that battle. It’s also about Harry Potter and her life since then, but it always comes back to anorexia. It’s a thing she battles all the time on her path to accepting her body. The writing is engaging and puts you right into what was happening and how she was feeling. This is an extremely honest memoir. I’ve read many that paint themselves in the most positive light possible. Evanna doesn’t even try to do that (and, ultimately, I think she doesn’t give herself enough credit, but such is the way when you are your own worst bully). I quite enjoyed it and recommend it to adults who are Harry Potter fans and maybe those who have battled anorexia themselves with a huge trigger warning to be sure they have completely prepared themselves before reading it.

5 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2022: 74
Pages Read in 2022: 26,880
Graphic Novels: 1

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Filed under Memoir, Reason: We Be Book'N

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

Donald Miller learned a lot about making your story the story you want it to be while working on adapting his memoir into a movie and decided to share those lessons in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. In the process of intentionally choosing his own story, he lived a full life. In addition to his own experiences, there are lots of anecdotes from others who intentionally created their own story with their lives. It’s a quick read and a good reminder to really live your life rather than letting life pass you by. I recommend it to all adults.

4 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2022: 37
Pages Read in 2022: 13,181
Graphic Novels: 1

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Filed under Memoir, Reason: Book Club, Self-Help/Motivation

Spilled Milk by KL Randis

Spilled Milk by KL Randis

Spilled Milk is a fictionalized memoir. The events that happened to the main character happened to the author. She blurred some of the line between fiction and nonfiction when it comes to some of the other people, particularly her siblings, due to being at different points in their healing from their father’s abuse. Writing this way also puts a little more space between the author and all the heavy things she went through. Sometimes it seems like she was just telling random stories but each one is included for a purpose to really give a good view of what was going on in her home and life. It reads super fast. I finished it in two days; I had trouble putting it down. It really shows how the same situation can affect people very differently. It also explains very well why some kids don’t tell anyone, or try to but aren’t understood, when they are in a very hard place. I could see elements of friends’ stories in hers so it rang very true. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has anything to do with children was have been abused, or were abused themselves, with a huge trigger warning for sexual and physical abuse.

5 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2022: 3
Pages Read in 2022: 739

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Filed under Memoir, Realistic Fiction, Reason: We Be Book'N, True Crime

Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi

Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi

Sara came to America from Iran when she was 2 years old on a visitor’s visa. Her parents applied for political asylum, but discovered a couple years later their application had been lost. They applied for an adjustment of status, but remained undocumented for many years. She didn’t learn of her status until she was nearly 13 and spent almost a decade worried she would be deported back to Iran at any moment.

This memoir is super funny. I found myself laughing out loud or finding someone to read a few lines to several times while reading. Some examples:
*Iran has dealt with its fair share of strife and political unrest. And while I’m not one to point fingers or lay blame… the United States and Britain were totally at fault.
*My sister and I tried to find common ground with our half-American cousins, but that took a while to pan out. It didn’t help that we’d infiltrated their space AND that my sister’s favorite pastime was sending me off to bite them. I guess the rumors are true. Illegal immigrants are violent and dangerous.
*I was also the student body president of our elementary school. Yeah, I was an undocumented immigrant who’d been elected to public office. How you like me now, ICE?
*My dad even tried to impress him by telling him that my parents had seen Ozzy Osbourne in concert.
“Really?” Slash asked.
“Yeah,” my dad answered. “He was onstage with all his brothers and sisters.”
“Those were the OSMONDS!” my mom corrected.

Each chapter had a different focus, about growing up straddling two cultures or about various family members or about her family’s journey to citizenship (and the little brother who never had to worry about that because he was born in the US). Her political leanings are clear so this is probably not the right book for someone who strongly supports Trump or is opposed to alternative paths to citizenship. I recommend it to adults who are interested in immigration stories and want to laugh at a life the author probably thinks is kind of boring, but definitely isn’t.

4 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2021: 86
Pages Read in 2021: 27,800

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Filed under Memoir, Reason: Vine Review, Reason: We Be Book'N

American Shaolin by Matthew Polly

American Shaolin by Matthew Polly

The author of American Shaolin spent two years learning Kung Fu and kickboxing at the Shaolin Temple in China. In this book he chronicles his experiences from the culture shock to the pain of training to his experiences with the opposite sex. I enjoyed it for the most part, but he could get a bit repetitive on occasion. If you have experience with martial arts, you’ll enjoy this book.

4 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2021: 62
Pages Read in 2021: 19,249

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Filed under Memoir, Reason: LitHub Bingo, Reason: We Be Book'N

Full Circle by Andrea Barber

Full Circle by Andrea Barber

When Andrea Barber was a tween and teen she played Kimmy Gibbler on Full House. Then she dropped out of the acting world for a couple decades, got married, got divorced, and learned she had anxiety and depression. And then she played Kimmy Gibbler once again on Fuller House and so her life came Full Circle. Her memoir is very open and honest. There’s nothing salacious because, one, that just isn’t her style, and, two, she truly enjoyed her time acting and the people she was acting with. Even when she talks about her divorce she’s very honest about her own issues contributing and that they eventually got to the point where they are friendly with each other. Where she’s the most open and vulnerable is talking about her mental illness and learning about how to take care of herself through the highs and lows. The whole time I was reading I felt like I was just sitting with a friend having a chat. It was quite an enjoyable, easy read. I recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Full House as a kid and Fuller House as an adult or who has ever felt like a Kimmy Gibbler because there really is a lot of Andrea in Kimmy.

5 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2021: 57
Pages Read in 2021: 17,760

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Filed under Memoir, Reason: LitHub Bingo, Reason: We Be Book'N

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee

The author of The Girl with Seven Names grew up in North Korea and defected just before she turned 18. She believed all the propaganda about the state of the rest of the world and how wonderful North Korea was. As is typical of defectors, it was a hard adjustment for her to realize the truth and then embrace the outside world. She was very naïve and ended up in some precarious situations, some of her own making, some because she didn’t realize what was happening. The writing style is extremely engaging and honest and I found myself wanting to read just a little more to find out what happened to her and her family. I was a little disappointed there was no more to read when I got to the end. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in North Korea. It’s one of the best defector stories I have ever read.

5 (out of 5) Stars
Books Read in 2021: 55
Pages Read in 2021: 17,139

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Filed under Memoir, Reason: LitHub Bingo, Reason: We Be Book'N