The day after Jennette McCurdy’s book, I’m Glad My Mom Died, hit Amazon, it sold out. McCurdy was a child star who starred in Nickelodeon’s iCarly and the show’s spinoff, Sam & Cat. She made an appearance in the Netflix show Between and had a brief stint as a country music singer. McCurdy is now a director and writer whose work has appeared in The Hollywood Reporter, The Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Florida Film Festival, and others. She has performed an act at the Lyric Hyperion Theatre, and she also has her own podcast – Empty Inside. McCurdy’s memoir recounts her abusive relationship with her mother, her own disordered eating and addictions, and the harsh realities about the treatment of child-actors. There are plenty of reasons to read a memoir: they open our eyes to different human experiences. They are inspiring stories of real life and loss. Through others, we can learn about ourselves. Pick up McCurdy’s memoir or one of these other excellent choices.
1. I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell
Beginning the memoir with Sylvia Plath’s famous line from The Bell Jar, “I Am, I Am, I Am,” O’Farrell’s memoir is about evading death. The book is interestingly organized by body parts. Each chapter begins with the body part which is threatened during each near-death experience O’Farrell faces – the throat, the head, the neck, etc.) O’Farrell manages to narrowly avoid death in her life a multitude of times through a certain degree of luck. This memoir is the inspiring story of a woman who continues to persevere, to overcome, and to survive against all odds.
2. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Jeannette Walls and her three younger siblings grew up with dysfunctional, yet brilliant, parents. The book begins with young Jeanette accidentally lighting herself on fire as her negligent mother allows her to cook on the gas stove while she works on a painting in another room; but Jeanette also writes about the beauty of a nomadic lifestyle. Walls writes about her upbringing as an inspiring, and inhibiting, experience which ultimately led her to a successful journalism career in New York City – the same place where her parents lived on the streets up until her father Rex Walls died of a heart attack.
3. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Poetic in its arrangement, Machado recounts the formation of her own identity through the events of a tumultuous relationship – but she also expands on her private experience to examine some of the harsh realities of lesbian and queer relationships throughout history. The book begins with Machado searching for a house with the two women she is involved with polyamorously. Machado writes on relationship
4. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
Nelson’s work of autotheory – autobiography crossed with critical theory – is narrated through her relationship with the famous artist, Harry Dodge. Nelson’s work is thought provoking and her writing is beautifully poetic. Throughout the narrative, Nelson’s pregnant body transforms alongside Dodge’s (his body undergoes the physical transition from female to male).
5. Greenlights by Mathew McConaughey
In his memoir, McConaughey recounts the highs and lows of his Texas upbringing and Hollywood career. McConaughey writes about his blue-collar parents who divorced and remarried twice, his time as a foreign exchange student in Australia, and his journey of self-discovery that took him from law school to film school, to his first commercial gig as an actor. McConaughey traveled to the Amazon and Africa and found enlightenment and he traveled the country in a trailer. McConaughey’s book is full of inspirational quotes, nuggets of advice, and life lessons.
Jacqui Donaldson is an American writer and teacher. Her work has been published in The Vehicle, Loud Coffee Press, Across the Margin and others. Connect with Jacqui on Instagram and Twitter @Jacquiverse.