Country Girl: a memoir, by Edna O'Brien
In 1960, Edna O'Brien published The Country Girls, her first novel, which so scandalized the O'Briens' local parish that the book was burned by its priest. O'Brien, married with two sons, was undeterred and has since created a body of work that bears comparison with the best writing of the twentieth century. Country Girl brings the reader face to face with a life of high drama and contemplation. Dwight Garner, in his New York Times review says "Country Girl" is "like Ms. O'Brien's best fiction, plain-spoken and poetic in equal measure."
Her, by Christa Parravani
Christa Parravani and her identical twin, Cara, were linked by a bond that went beyond siblinghood, beyond sisterhood, beyond friendship. Raised up from poverty by a determined single mother, the gifted and beautiful twins were able to create a private haven of splendor and merriment between themselves and then earn their way to a prestigious college and to careers as artists (a photographer and a writer, respectively) and to young marriages. But, haunted by childhood experiences with father figures and further damaged by being raped as a young adult, Cara veered off the path to robust work and life and in to depression, drugs and a shocking early death. A few years after Cara was gone, Christa read that when an identical twin dies, regardless of the cause, 50 percent of the time the surviving twin dies within two years; and this shocking statistic rang true to her. "Flip a coin," she thought," those were my chances of survival." First, Christa fought to stop her sister's downward spiral; suddenly, she was struggling to keep herself alive. Parravani spoke with NPR about the book. You can hear the interview from All Things Considered right here.
It Runs in the Family: a memoir, by Richard Manning
From a Michigan farm to the fire-ravaged wilderness of Montana, and finally to a remote village in Panama, Manning links his own life with the larger story of his family, the land they inhabited, and the right-wing fundamentalist politics gaining ground in America. Here's more on the book from Publisher's Weekly.
Looking for Palestine: Growing up Confused in an Arab-American family , by Najla Said
The daughter of a prominent Palestinian father and a sophisticated Lebanese mother, Najla Said grew up in New York City, confused and conflicted about her cultural background and identity. Said knew that her parents identified deeply with their homelands, but growing up in a Manhattan world that was defined largely by class and conformity, she felt unsure about who she was supposed to be, and was often in denial of the differences she sensed between her family and those around her. The fact that her father was the famous intellectual and outspoken Palestinian advocate Edward Said only made things more complicated. She may have been born a Palestinian Lebanese American, but in Said's mind she grew up first as a WASP, having been baptized Episcopalian in Boston and attending the wealthy Upper East Side girls' school Chapin, then as a teenage Jew, essentially denying her true roots, even to herself?until, ultimately, the psychological toll of all this self-hatred began to threaten her health. As she grew older, making increased visits to Palestine and Beirut, Said's worldview shifted. The attacks on the World Trade Center, and some of the ways in which Americans responded, finally made it impossible for Said to continue to pick and choose her identity, forcing her to see herself and her passions more clearly. Today, she has become an important voice for second-generation Arab Americans nationwide.
A Million Years With You: a memoir of life observed, by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
Thomas looks back on her life and offers an anthropological and deeply personal account of some of the most formative experiences, from her early years in 1950s South-West Africa and her family expedition to the Kalahari Desert to the births of her children and her witness to Idi Amin's revolution in Uganda. Popmatters, in their positive review, calls the book "honest and chaotic."
Mumbai New York Scranton, by Tamara Shopsin
Best known for her witty illustrations, and as a cook beside her mischievous father in her family's legendary Manhattan restaurant, in Mumbai New York Scranton, Ms. Shopsin offers a brilliantly inventive, spare, and elegant chronicle of a year in her life characterized by impermanence. In a voice alternating between tender and brazen, Shopsin recounts a trip to the Far East with her sidekick husband and the harrowing adventure that unfolds when she comes home. Entire worlds, deep relationships, and indelible experiences are portrayed in Shopsin's deceptively simple and sparse language and drawings.
You can read more about Shopsin's "dire year" here in an interview with Los Angeles Review of Books.
Once Upon a Gypsy Moon: an improbable voyage and one man's yearning for redemption, by Michael Hurley
Michael Hurley watched his world unravel in the wake of infidelity, divorce and failure. In August 2009, he was short of money, out of a job, and seeking to salvage a life that had foundered. Deeply in need of perspective, he took to the open seas in a 32-foot sailboat, Gypsy Moon. This is the story of his 2-year odyssey. Hurley talks about the events that lead up to the writing of the book as well as his journey on WUNC, North Carolina public radio. Listen to it here.
Son of a Gun: a memoir , by Justin St. Germain
In Tombstone Arizona, Debbie St. Germain's death, apparently at the hands of her fifth husband, is a passing curiosity. "A real-life old West murder mystery," the local TV announcers intone, while barroom gossips snicker cruelly. But for her twenty-year-old son, Justin St. Germain, the tragedy marks the line that separates his world into before and after. Distancing himself from the legendary town of his childhood, Justin makes another life a world away in San Francisco and achieves all the surface successes that would have filled his mother with pride. Yet years later he's still sleeping with a loaded rifle under his bed. Ultimately, he is pulled back to the desert landscape of his childhood on a search to make sense of the unfathomable. What made his mother, a onetime army paratrooper, the type of woman who would stand up to any man except the men she was in love with? What led her to move from place to place, man to man, job to job, until finally she found herself in a desperate and deteriorating situation, living on an isolated patch of desert with an unstable ex-cop? Justin's journey takes him back to the ghost town of Wyatt Earp, to the trailers he and Debbie shared, to the string of stepfathers who were a constant, sometimes threatening presence in his life, to a harsh world on the margins full of men and women all struggling to define what family means. He decides to confront people from his past and delve into the police records in an attempt to make sense of his mother's life and death. I am sensing this one might catch on with book groups and the public in general. Alexandra Fuller reviews it here in the New York Times Book Review.
Story of a Secret State: my report to the world , by Jan Karski
Jan Karski, who was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, served as a liaison officer and courier of the Polish Underground during WWII and brought the first eyewitness accounts of the Nazi death camps to the outside world. Full of alternate identities, daring escapes, and heroism, his memoir details the operations of the Polish government in exile as part of a larger network of clandestine resistance organizations. The book was a bestseller when it was first published in 1944. This reprint of the 2010 edition follows the text of the original 1944 US edition, supplemented with translations of additional material provided by the author in 1999 for the Polish edition. This edition includes previously unpublished b&w historical photos, documents, and letters, plus a glossary. This edition also includes a foreword by Madeleine Albright, a biographical essay by a Yale historian, and an afterword by Zbigniew Brzezinski. Albright and Brzezinski helped pay tribute to Karski at a recent event at Georgetown University that celebrated the republication of this seminal work. Watch it here.
Stuck in the Middle With You: parenthood in three genders a memoir , by Jennifer Finney Boylan
A father for ten years, a mother for eight, and for a time in between, neither, Jennifer Finney Boylan has seen parenthood from both sides of the gender divide. When her two children were young, Boylan came out as transgender, and as Jenny transitioned from a man to a woman and from a father to a mother, her family faced unique challenges and questions. Through both her own story and incredibly insightful interviews with others, including Richard Russo, Edward Albee, Ann Beattie, Augusten Burroughs, Susan Minot, Trey Ellis, Timothy Kreider, and more, Jenny examines relationships with fathers and mothers, people's memories of the children they were and the parents they became, and the many different ways a family can be. Followed by an Afterword by Anna Quindlen that includes Jenny and her wife discussing the challenges they've faced. Boylan recently spoke about the book on the Today show. You can see the video here.