Reading Lists

Memoir (RD 115)

As nature made him : the boy who was raised as a girl

Colapinto, John

HarperCollins 2006

"In 1967, after a twin baby boy suffered a botched circumcision, his family agreed to a radical treatment that would alter his gender"--Cover.

The beautiful struggle : a father, two sons and an unlikely road to manhood

Coates, Ta-Nehisi

Spiegel & Grau 2009

A memoir of growing up in the tough world of Baltimore in the 1980s chronicles the relationship between the author and his father, a Vietnam vet and Black Panther affiliate, and his campaign to keep his sons from falling victim to the temptations of the streets.

Brother, I'm dying

Danticat, Edwidge

Vintage Books 2008

In a personal memoir, the author describes her relationships with the two men closest to her--her father and his brother, Joseph, a charismatic pastor with whom she lived after her parents emigrated from Haiti to the United States.

Escape from Davao : the forgotten story of the most daring prison break of the Pacific war

Lukacs, John D

Simon & Schuster 2010

Documents the escape of ten American prisoners of war from a World War II Japanese prison camp in the Philippines, describing the inhumane conditions they endured and the political struggle that influenced their return home.

Fear and loathing in Las Vegas : a savage journey to the heart of the American dream

Thompson, Hunter S

Vintage Books 1998

Records the experiences of a free-lance writer who embarked on a zany journey into the drug culture.

A girl named Zippy : growing up small in Mooreland, Indiana

Kimmel, Haven

Broadway Books 2002

The author offers a chronicle of growing up in a small town in America's heartland, offering portraits of her family and her encounters with the complexities of the adult world, romance, and small-town life during the 1960s and 1970s.

The glass castle : a memoir

Walls, Jeannette

Scribner 2006

In the tradition of Mary Karr's "The Liars' Club" and Rick Bragg's "All Over But the Shouting," Jeannette Walls has written a stunning and life-affirming memoir about surviving a willfully impoverished, eccentric and severely misguided family. The child of an alcoholic father and an eccentric artist mother discusses her family's nomadic upbringing, during which she and her siblings fended for themselves while their parents outmaneuvered bill collectors and the authorities.

Jarhead : a Marine's chronicle of the Gulf War and other battles

Swofford, Anthony


A memoir of the Gulf War by a front-line infantry marine recounts his struggles with the conflict on the front lines, his battles with fear and suicide, his brushes with death, and his identity as a soldier and an American. Anthony Swofford's Jarhead is the first Gulf War memoir by a frontline infantry marine, and it is a searing, unforgettable narrative. When the marines -- or "jarheads," as they call themselves -- were sent in 1990 to Saudi Arabia to fight the Iraqis, Swofford was there, with a hundred-pound pack on his shoulders and a sniper's rifle in his hands. It was one misery upon another. He lived in sand for six months, his girlfriend back home betrayed him for a scrawny hotel clerk, he was punished by boredom and fear, he considered suicide, he pulled a gun on one of his fellow marines, and he was shot at by both Iraqis and Americans. At the end of the war, Swofford hiked for miles through a landscape of incinerated Iraqi soldiers and later was nearly killed in a booby-trapped Iraqi bunker. Swofford weaves this experience of war with vivid accounts of boot camp (which included physical abuse by his drill instructor), reflections on the mythos of the marines, and remembrances of battles with lovers and family. As engagement with the Iraqis draws closer, he is forced to consider what it is to be an American, a soldier, a son of a soldier, and a man. Unlike the real-time print and television coverage of the Gulf War, which was highly scripted by the Pentagon, Swofford's account subverts the conventional wisdom that U.S. military interventions are now merely surgical insertions of superior forces that result in few American casualties. Jarhead insists we remember the Americans who are in fact wounded or killed, the fields of smoking enemy corpses left behind, and the continuing difficulty that American soldiers have reentering civilian life. A harrowing yet inspiring portrait of a tormented consciousness struggling for inner peace, Jarhead will elbow for room on that short shelf of American war classics that includes Philip Caputo's A Rumor of War and Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, and be admired not only for the raw beauty of its prose but also for the depth of its pained heart.

Kabul Beauty School : an American woman goes behind the veil

Rodriguez, Deborah, Ohlson, Kristin

Random House 2007

"Soon after the fall of the Taliban, in 2001, Deborah Rodriguez went to Afghanistan as part of a humanitarian aid group. Surrounded by people whose skills--as doctors, nurses, and therapists--seemed eminently more practical than her own, Rodriguez, a hairdresser and mother from Michigan, despaired of being of any real use. Yet she found she had a gift for befriending Afghans, and once her profession became known she was eagerly sought out by Westerners desperate for a good haircut and by Afghan women, who have a long and proud tradition of running their own beauty salons. Thus the idea for the Kabul Beauty School was born. Within that small haven, the line between teacher and student quickly blurred as these vibrant women shared with Rodriguez their stories and their hearts, ultimately giving her the strength to leave her own unhealthy marriage and allow herself to love again, Afghan style." --From publisher description.

Lady Q : the rise and fall of a Latin queen

Sanchez, Reymundo Rodriguez, Sonia

Chicago Review Press 2010

Looks at the life of a member of Chicago's Puerto Rican gang the Latin Queens, the female counterpoint of the Latin Kings, and details the years of sexual abuse that began at the age of five and the consequences of breaking the gang's code of silence when she appeared on Oprah Winfrey's local talk show.

Paramedic : on the front lines of medicine

Canning, Peter

Ballantine Books 1998

They live for the action, for the saves, for the streets, for each other. In a first person narrative, this book tells the authentic American story of one man's experience as an EMT, and the dedication it takes to save lives. The author shocked his family and friends when he gave up a successful career as a speechwriter for the governor of Connecticut to become a paramedic. Making his way through a rigorous training period, overcoming his self-doubts and fear of making fatal mistakes, he went from a life of privilege to the life-and-death reality of the streets. Here he relives the seconds that can mean the difference between a patient's death and survival, as he struggles, sometimes in the face of a hostile crowd or the glare of TV cameras, to make the right call, dispense the right medication, or keep a patient's heart beating long enough to reach the hospital. This book takes us into the center of a mobile ER, and as the author tells his stories, of the lives he saved and lost, of the fear, the nightmares, and the constant, adrenaline-pumping thrill of action, we come away with a portrait of what it means to be a hero.

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