In the United States, March is designated as Women’s History Month. As is true for all marginalized groups, women’s history has frequently been hidden and obscured. As such, it is really important to make sure that women’s stories are heard, especially those of queer women and women of color. I decided to focus this post on memoirs for two reasons. Firstly, because I have read way more memoirs than I have biographies, so I have more books to recommend. But also because it is also important for us to hear stories directly from the source.
In the words of Carmen Maria Machado, whose memoir is mentioned in this post, “sometimes stories are destroyed, and sometimes they are never uttered in the first place; either way something very large is irrevocably missing from our collective histories.” So today we are here to highlight times when women have told their stories, to make sure they do not disappear from history.
Know my Name by Chanel Miller
Not to be repetitive, but Know my Name truly is a book that everyone should read. In case you haven’t heard of it, Know my Name is the story of Chanel Miller, also known as Emily Doe, the survivor in the Stanford rape case. In this memoir, she gets the chance to tell her story, that throughout the trial so few people got to see. She describes every step of her experience as a survivor, exposing the many, many ways the system fails the survivors it should be protecting. However, it is undeniably a very heavy topic, so take care while reading.
Letter to my Daughter by Maya Angelou
In Letter to my Daughter, Maya Angelou writes everything she wishes to tell the daughter she never had. Told in a series of essays recounting different moments in her life, Letter to my Daughter had me pulling out a pencil to underline often. Her story, prose, and wisdom are sure to draw readers in.
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
One of my favorite books I read in 2022, In the Dream House recounts Machado’s experience of domestic violence in a queer relationship, as well as many other aspects of her life. Machado’s writing is captivating and compelling, driving the book forward. I listened to it as an audiobook, narrated by the author, and truly loved it. Again, this one is not an easy read, but it is such an important one.
Zami: A New Spelling of my Name by Audre Lorde
Whatever you think you know about memoir, don’t try to apply it to Zami. Described by Lorde as a biomythography, Lorde certainly weaves the story of her adolescence in a mythologically large manner. I was surprised when I first read Zami simply because it focuses on Lorde’s life before her engagement as an activist. Rather, she uses lyrical language to describe her formations of race and sexuality as a child, teen, and young adult. It is not my favorite of her work, but it is incredibly thought provoking and worth the read.
Yes She Can edited by Molly Dillon
This last one is a bit different from the rest. Yes She Can includes essays from ten different women, each of whom writes of their time as staffers in the Obama white house. They are stories of young women, many fresh out of college, who wanted to make a difference in the world – and succeeded. The stories are incredibly inspiring, and they show just how many people are working behind the scenes to make the world a better place. And as a YA memoir, it is especially great for young readers.
What is your favorite memoir by a woman? Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments!
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