I’d like to think I read pretty widely, genre-wise. My monthly reading tallies are often a mix of fiction and nonfiction, with a smattering of different genres. But of all the options, I think memoir is probably my favorite. I love the way memoir has been evolving and changing — no longer is it necessarily a linear story of a life; there are different approaches and styles, and the creativity of writers never fails to astound me.
There’s just something about getting to peek into someone else’s life, getting to listen to their thoughts and going with them on a journey of sorts. I find people endlessly fascinating: it’s what initially drew me to psychology, and then public health. Their experiences and stories are something of which I never tire.
When I hear about new memoirs coming out, I always get excited — and in the last few months, this summer, and early fall, there are so many great memoirs to look forward to, including some subversive and surprising perspectives. I’ve put together a list of just a few of them to add to your TBR lists.
Koshersoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew by Michael W. Twitty (August 9th)
If you’ve read Twitty’s The Cooking Gene, followed his Instagram, or even his tweets, you know that you don’t want to miss a thing he writes. In this memoir, he looks at two of the most distinct food cultures and traditions in the world: that of the African Atlantic, and that of the global Jewish diaspora. African-Jewish cooking, then, is a complex and constant conversation about journeys, diasporas, and the possibility of invention and creation. He explores not only the food, but how the food factors into the people, and how each culinary culture influenced him and guided his journeys. Not only is it a great read, but there also dozens of recipes you’ll be eager to try.
Bookends: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Literature by Zibby Owens
If you love books and turn to them throughout your life, you’ll want to pick up this memoir. Owens, perhaps best known for her podcast Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, shares about losing her closest friend on 9/11 and the stresses of motherhood — and then how she turned to books to cope. This is truly a love letter to books and the power they have in our lives, the relationships we build with others, and finding our way.
A Life in Light: Meditations on Impermanence by Mary Pipher
I just love Mary Pipher (you can read more on that in my essay about Reviving Ophelia). She writes a lot about the psychology of teenage girls and older women. She specializes in the psychology of women, trauma, and how culture affects our mental health — but in this book, she looks at her own life. She writes honestly about her childhood and its hardships, the multiple separations from her parents for periods of time, and how her upbringing shaped her. But Pipher also identifies the things that kept her afloat throughout her life, the joys she held onto, and what helped her cope and survive. She muses about what life is really about, the impermanence of so much of it, and what she’s learned in the darkest of times.
When They Tell You to Be Good: A Memoir by Prince Shakur (October 4th)
In this forthcoming memoir, Shakur writes about his family immigrating to America from Jamaica, the murder of his biological father, the family secrets that subsequently come to light, and the effects of intergenerational trauma. He writes about coming of age as a closeted queer kid and his journey to becoming a political activist and organizer, writer, and traveler. This is an urgent and timely book that explores identity and breaking free of any expectations or limitations put upon us.
Knocking Myself Up: A Memoir of my (In)fertility by Michelle Tea (August 2nd)
If you’re looking for a different kind of motherhood memoir, here it is: Tea’s journey to pregnancy and parenting as a 40-year-old single, queer, uninsured woman. You might remember her column about her journey on xojane — now here’s her memoir. While on the journey, she falls in love with a genderqueer partner 10 years younger than her. This is a funny and honest story about going through the infertility maze and the healthcare system, and I hope it opens many conversations about what family can be — what family is.
Fruit Punch: A Memoir by Kendra Allen (August 9th)
This is a strong, unflinching memoir about Allen’s life growing up as a young Black girl and teen in Dallas in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Using both poetry and prose, she details the tumultuous relationship of her parents, the codependent relationship with her mother, and the violence, chaos, religion, and relationships that shaped her childhood. Allen explores sex and relationships, race, and religious rules, and how all of this impacted how she saw herself as a woman.
Year of the Tiger: An Activist’s Life by Alice Wong (September 6th)
Wong, the founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project, has written a memoir that is incisive, joyful, angry, and passionate. It’s a collection of essays, conversations, and art — to name just a few — that chronicle her life as an Asian American disabled activist, artist, and community organizer. She not only tells her origin story and about her life, but she also writes about the pandemic, mortality, systemic ableism, and the future. This is as much her personal story as it is one about finding and creating community, as well as disability justice.
Good Grief by E.B. Bartels (August 2nd)
This isn’t your typical memoir — which is exactly why you should read it! If you’ve ever had a pet, or loved a pet, this is a must-read. Bartels examines the concept of owning, loving, and losing a pet. But whereas with humans there is a grieving pattern and tradition, this doesn’t exist here for pets. She looks at cultures around the world and in history at the death and grieving process for pets, weaving in her own stories and experiences of loving and losing her pets. It’s a gentle, insightful, funny book that reminds us why we open ourselves up to the animals in our lives.