You have your reasons for reading. To escape, to laugh, to get lost in a plot, to visit a character that feels like an old friend. Maybe it is to be inspired, help your self, learn something, or dream of places to go and people to meet. Whatever the reason, I can’t think of one that isn’t good. Like you, I may read all kinds of genres but Memoirs, lately, have been taking me from good to great. A good, true story that is brave and revealing is a great ride for me. Not necessarily an autobiography, a memoir is a collection of memories packaged in good writing and rich context – the details make the telling so compelling. According to Dictionary.com a memoir is:
1. a record of events written by a person having intimate knowledge of them and based on personal observation.
2. an account of one’s personal life and experiences; autobiography.
1560–70; < French mémoire < Latin memoria; see memory
Well-written, gut-wrenching, raw and authentic, poignant, and inspiring and peace evoking is what the following memoirs are for me. I have been particularly inspired, changed, challenged and/or chewed up and spit out by these 3 particular memoirs. So much so I want to share it with my precious blog community – (and I do cherish you. Thank you for coming to visit me.) These are in no particular order of impact.
1. Rules of Inheritance By Claire Bidwell Smith
It is a beautiful telling of loss and ongoing recovery with the thread of hope and honor woven organically throughout. What really got me about this one was the raw honesty around how we cope. No judgment, just real and out there. The part about her struggle over the night her mother died rips me up. Here’s one reason why.
The author’s mother died in January of 1997 – just like me. Our mothers it seems were very similar. Charming, beautiful, charismatic and tenderly classically/sculpted in bone structure and personality. After our mother’s died, the author and I each met a nice boy from Ohio and married him within a year of meeting. We each had a child within a year of that young coupling. We each lost our Dad’s within 7 to 8 years of mother loss and have been called to parent parentless. We have the same name. (Just “e” and “no e”)I was floored at all the similarities of plot in our stories (these are but a few)and reached out to her via email. AND SHE WROTE ME BACK WITHIN DAYS. She’s a gifted writer and human being. I love her.
How did it change me? I am finally, finally honoring my grief after many years of diverting it. I am settling into writing more and more and believing I may actually be a writer.
2. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
This is an adventure book as much as it is a memoir. It starts out similarly in that the author was dealing with major major loss – her mother and her marriage. This telling of living and dealing and rolling around in grief has some humor in it’s tone. Cheryl is not afraid to laugh at herself at her foibles as she sets out to hike 2,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail over six months BY HERSELF with MINIMAL ‘TRAINING’. She doesn’t minimize the backdrop that motivates her trek but doesn’t miss the details in which we often find levity and healing. The massive callouses on her hips from the weight of her backpack (an inanimate that breathes) are rendered artistic. A real ride, this one is gripping and suspenseful.
How did it change me? My family and I have taken 2 healthy hikes and we have plans for more. I uttered the words ‘extreme hiking’ to my husband. And this hotel dweller received a smirk to end all smirks. But I did sign up for a weekend of adventure with a group of cool and accomplished women in Canaan Valley, West Virginia. And I bought a Mountain Bike. See?
Thanks, Cheryl. I will let you know how the new adventurous living mantra turns out.
3. My I Be Happy by Cyndi Lee
Cyndi Lee is an ex-dancer and ever-popular yoga teacher who has had battled poor body-image issues and their vast ripple effect her whole life. I can relate to this on every level. I was a good dancer just always 15 to 20 pounds too big for the stage (I was told over and over again – “Clair, you could really be something if you weren’t so big.” – is the takeaway). I teach self-love and self acceptance yet I judge, judge, judge my self worth on what I put in my mouth. I have two (thin/fit/beautiful) friends who patiently encourage and coach me on this issue constantly. I love you, Beth and Amy. The author can use a little Amy or Beth in her life. And she finds it in a Buddhist nun, Jamie Lee Curtis and other influencers who hold her hand and her heart in high esteem. For me she is beautifully written group therapy – just Cyndi and me as we find our light inside. We are almost there. Even the Amy’s and Beth’s of the world would enjoy this telling of a journey to self-worth, whatever the albatross may be.
In the candid, contemplative memoir May I Be Happy, revered yoga teacher Cyndi Lee gives readers an unforgettable gift: the ability to focus on our experiences as we have them, on the way to a lighter life.
For all her wisdom as a teacher, Cyndi Lee—founder of New York’s world renowned OM yoga Center—understood intuitively that she still had a lot to learn. In spite of her success in physically demanding professions—dancer, choreographer, and yoga teacher—Lee was caught in a lifelong cycle of repetitive self-judgment about her body. Instead of the radical contentment expected in international yoga teachers, she realized that hating her body was a form of suffering, which was infecting her closest relationships—including her relationship to herself. –B & N
How has this changed me? I listen to my very own words as I passionately say them to my yoga students. I have always believed what I teach to others, now I am listening and learning to apply the same tried and true concepts to my self. May I be happy. May you do so too.
Do you read like Memoirs? Recommend some….