Monday, November 18, 2013

Memoirs I Loved

Memoirs are one of my favorite genres to read.  Well-written ones can flow just like a novel, and because the stories are true, it hits that much closer to home.  Here are some of my favorites.  (All images from Goodreads).

The Boy Who Loved Tornadoes - Randi Davenport
This was a memoir about the author's severely developmentally disabled son and her struggle to find a place that would treat him.  Specialists are unsure whether her son Chase's psychosis is a result of schizophrenia or extreme autism, but virtually EVERYONE refuses to treat him.  I found it absolutely heartbreaking, very well researched, and full of insight on the state of our broken mental health system.  I could feel the mother's frustration as doctors struggled to diagnose Chase, and as hospital after hospital turned him down.  This memoir was very affecting and well-written.

January First - Michael Schofield
Another memoir concerning mental illness in a child, I found this to be equal parts fascinating and disturbing.  January, the daughter of the author, is only six years old and has been diagnosed with a severe case of schizophrenia.  The health care system has, once again, failed, and January is virtually unresponsive to every medication she is given, and she is estimated to be hallucinating 95% of the time.  Because she continues to attack her baby brother, her parents have been forced to live in separate apartments to ensure everyone's safety.  It's basically about the struggle Jani's parents go through to help their daughter.  I found this pretty difficult to read and had to take multiple breaks because the story was just so awful and honest...but I will never forget this book, that's for sure.

The Orchard - Theresa Weir
A memoir about living on an apple orchard sounds anything but interesting.  Add in the effects of pesticides on farming and I could fall asleep.  However, I gave this book a chance, and the payoff was awesome.  The author has married into a huge apple orchard-ing family, and she finds herself in unfamiliar territory.  Her life with her husband, mama's boy Adrian (who I HATED), is tumultuous and dangerous, and the memoir is about her struggle to be accepted by his family and risk losing herself in the process.  Surprisingly awesome!

The Unlikely Disciple - Kevin Roose
This author is himself an agnostic, but for the purpose of research, he spent a semester at Liberty University, an extremely conservative Baptist college.  The culture gap between Kevin and the rule-abiding students was enormous, but he decided to join them and see what their lives were like.  Anti-gay comments run rampant at this college, and there are rules that seem crazy - for example, if you are caught kissing another person, you will be kicked out.  This was fascinating to me - a perfect blend of research and humor.  At times I found myself getting angry, specifically during the many class discussions concerning evolution versus creationism.  So good.

Not Without My Daughter - Betty Mahmoody
This memoir was widely criticized for its "stereotypes" of Iran; however, I loved it.  Betty and her husband Moody bring their daughter to Iran for a short stay with Moody's family.  Appalled by the conditions and ways of the culture (especially the way women are treated), Betty wants to go back home, but Moody refuses.  After months pass, he becomes violent and virtually imprisons her and their daughter; they are trapped in a country which, due to Iran laws, they are unable to escape.  I thought this was terrifying, and I couldn't put it down.

By the Iowa Sea - Joe Blair
A poetically written memoir about marriage and fatherhood, this book didn't have much action.  However, the way it was written was absolutely beautiful.  The author's marriage is crumbling, and his four children (one of whom is autistic) are struggling.  It takes a flood to change their lives - literally.  Set in small-town Iowa (which I loved), I found this memoir to be heartbreakingly honest and emotional without being sentimental.  Loved.

The Spark - Kristine Barnett
I'm sensing a theme here.  This was an amazing and inspiring memoir about a mother fighting for her autistic son.  Jake, according to his doctors, has autism so severe that he shouldn't even be able to tie his own shoelaces.  But at the age of 9, he has already taught himself calculus and is attending college.  Jake had been making no progress with the specialists treating him, so his mother took matters into her own hands, pulling him out of special ed and preparing him for kindergarten herself.  This was such an incredible, unbelievable story.

So apparently memoirs involving the mental health system are my favorite!  :)  Get reading!


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