All happy families are alike;
each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Well, no offense to Leo Tolstoy, but I’m calling shenanigans. Even the happiest families I know have their own unique dynamics that, while lending mostly to a sense of love and support, can end up being a hurdle its members have to clear in their quest to live their own best lives. As part of a very loving but very complicated family myself, I gravitate towards stories about parents with a lot of love to give… with a side of drama.
Here are a few memoirs that heavily feature loving families that still serve as an obstacle with which the author has to contend. These families are supremely loving but these families are made of human beings. The Cleavers, they are not.
The Clancys of Queens: A Memoir by Tara Clancy
I discovered Tara Clancy on a panel about humor in writing at Book Riot Live 2016. She was loud and brash and funny as hell. I couldn’t wait to hear more about her equally loud, brash, and funny family. Clancy’s eventual coming out takes this humorous story into more serious depths.
Verdict: Buy. With a not-so-subtle push that your purchase of this book be made in audio form. Her accent only serves to enhance the experience as she takes the reader through her life growing up in Queens.
A loving Portuguese family grows into the truth of their only son… that he is a gay man with bipolar disorder who spends the majority of his life fighting those realities to the detriment of many jobs and relationships. Leite’s sense-of-humor and insight into the minds of his parents takes his story from something that could be seen as dark to a tale of hope and the ultimate triumph of love.
Verdict: Buy. There are so many elements that coalesce in Leite’s story to form a great portrait of a life. This is a good one to purchase a copy of for those people in your life who are foodies, struggle with mental illness, sexuality, family, weight, relationships, careers. It speaks to humanity in general.
I’m Supposed To Protect You From All This: A Memoir by Nadja Spiegelman
Having a mother who is a force to be reckoned with can be inspirational but it can also be intimidating to a young girl looking to find her own place in her world. Spiegelman’s memoir is a classic tale of coming to terms with your parents flaws and making your own space to re-imagine your relationship.
Verdict: Borrow. The writing is compelling and the complicated relationship between mother and daughter is definitely worth potential late library fines.
In The Country We Love: A Family Divided by Diane Guerrero
Immigration tears apart a previously happy family. Resentments take root and years pass before those scars are mended. The family finds happiness in different forms but learns to use the memories of their past contentment to move on and build new relationships.
Verdict: Buy. In 2017, this book and its commentary on the realities of immigration law is more important than ever. Give it to anyone who likes talking about building walls.