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Check out this volume from our Downtown or Parham Road campus libraries.
Once upon a time you did not write a memoir until you were at least past sixty years old. Now that rule no longer applies. People of all ages and experiences share their lives and experiences. Part of what it means to be human is to tell stories. And we like to hear stories, especially when it is a story that actually happened.
One of the latest stories to arrive in the library is It’s easier to reach heaven than the end of the street: a Jerusalem memoir by Emma Williams. I read as much of this as I could stand. I did not finish it. Not because it was poorly written but because the author is an excellent writer and does too good a job. In this memoir of living in Jerusalem during the second intifada, the author does an excellent of conveying just how complex and entrenched “the situation” is; she effectively communicates the creep of suffocation, frustration and despondency of the Palestinians as well as the mixture of fear, hope and hyper-defensiveness of the Israelis. Her sympathies lie with the Palestinians but there are no cartoon villains in this book; just human beings who continue to rage against each other.
If you feel your average American life is staid and boring then these two memoirs of growing up might give you a new appreciation for that staid and boring life. Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs and The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. Running with Scissors is bizarre but fortunately Burroughs had the twisted sense of humor necessary to survive such a childhood. Jeaneatte Walls relates to us her chaotic childhood with her alcoholic and hippie parents with tenderness and searing honesty. Both of these memoirs can remind the reader that what may make for a good work of fiction or movie is quite different as the reality of your childhood.
A memoir with a literary emphasis is Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books by Azar Nafisi. Intertwined with her accounts of the discussions of various books in American and English literature by her and her students is an account of the revolution in Iran. Having been steeped in this literature since middle school, it was refreshing and energizing to “see” the works discussed from a new perspective.
There are two memoirs from China, set during the Cultural Revolution, which tells the story of courage in two different ways. The first is Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng. The author was imprisoned for six years in solitary confinement during the Cultural Revolution, maintaining her innocence of the vague crimes that were attributed to her. The book sneaks up on you. At first I was not sure how interested I would be in it, but not long after I started reading it, I realized that I was very curious to see what was going to happen, how her release from prison would come about. While Nien Cheng was an adult during the Cultural Revolution, Ji-li Jiang was an eleven year old girl. She tells her story in Red Scarf Girl: a memoir of the Cultural Revolution. Red Scarf Girl is usually classified as a young adult book and here at the Parham Road Library you will find it in the ESL collection but it should not be overlooked. Its writing is clear, straight forward and the story is a compelling one.
Some books are like fast food- you want something to read, you want it now, you don’t want to think too much about what you are reading, and after you finish reading it you don’t remember too much about it.
Then there are other books that can feel more like a meal of something you know you should eat, it will give you great nourishment but you have to slog to get through it.
Some books are like drinking a long cool glass of water on a warm summer day. It is not until after you are finished that you realized that the book was really good. These five titles are my choices for books that go down easy but will refresh you along the way. In between the spring and summer sessions, consider reading one of these.
The Comedians by Graham Greene
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
If none of these titles appeal to you, check out our guide on book reviews, http://libguides.reynolds.edu/bookreviews to find reviews and information on books. Or try these books about books.
Classics for Pleasure by Michael Dirda
Book lust: recommended reading for every mood, moment, and reason by Nancy Pearl
More book lust: recommended reading for every mood, moment, and reason by Nancy Pearl
Good reading: a guide for serious readers, edited by J. Sherwood Weber