To read a memoir is to immerse oneself in the life, and trauma, of another person. If doing so also triggers flashbacks of my own trauma, it can take me weeks to recover. I generally take care to avoid or prepare for such experiences.
As happened with The Glass Castle, this story surprised me. I wasn’t expecting it. I joined a group of women in my town who all agreed to read it. We were given a timeframe and planned to hold a discussion once we were all done. It sounded like a fun way to maybe meet some new friends. I hadn’t read the blurb. I agreed to read it, knowing nothing about the subject matter. Despite the surprise at how triggering the content could be, I am so glad I did.
Tara Westover was raised by parents who ascribed to some of the more radical beliefs I knew to be part of the LDS faith. I met some people like them growing up in the Utah/Idaho area. I even share some of their desire to be self-sufficient and to be prepared for ‘the worst.” It was strange to read her story and identify with both the author and her family at times, given the divide between them today.
Like mine, her story is one of leaving all she knew and held dear as a child to reprogram herself: to decide for herself what was right, good, and valuable. We also both lost many of the family relationships we valued in our process of becoming who we are now. I honestly hope to meet Ms. Westover one day, share a glass of wine and talk over who she is today. Her story is inspiring and stays with me. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
Domestic violence is the most common killer of women around the world. (Global study on Homicide, Gender-Related Killing of Women and Girls, U.N. publication, Vienna, 2018). We know this. It’s not a surprise. Leaving a domestic violence situation is most deadly in the first two weeks, but a few very determined men continue to find ways to abuse their wives, ex-wives, partners, and children even after they successfully leave.
For Lizbeth Merideth, nothing could have prepared her for what happened. She got away. She had custody of her daughters, though the courts insisted on allowing their father unsupervised visitation despite his severe violence against her. She had a gut feeling it was the wrong choice but she was following the court order when she allowed him to take the girls for what should have been a weekend visit.
Years later, across oceans and borders, she fights to find and rescue her daughters. This is the subject of “Pieces of me,” her story of how she eventually recovers her girls and brings them home.
I particularly love the honest account of her struggle to reconnect with her daughters after years of parental alienation and across a language barrier. It is well worth the read. I hope you’ll read it and let me know what you think in the comments below.
If you have not read Jaycee Dugard’s Memior “A Stolen Life,” you should.
You may remember that her life was changed forever when she was kidnapped one morning on her way to the bus stop. The world watched in shock 18 years later when she walked into an FBI office with her two daughters and the kidnappers that had posed as her ‘parents’ while keeping her prisoner in a backyard full of tents and trash. She writes an unflinching account of her ordeal and how she managed to hold onto hope in the direst of circumstances. Hers is a tale of resilience and hope.
This memoir was published by Simon and Schuster (2011).
A memoir that was really striking was The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls. I found it very difficult to read because many of Jeanette’s experiences were raw, real, and far too familiar for me.
I chose this story from a list in college and completed a review assignment on it for my Human Behavior course. It was and has remained a beacon of hope for me. Not only because she survived and created a wonderful life for herself, but because she was able to share her story with so many people. I truly hope to be able to share mine like that, someday.
Jeanette lives a transient existence as a child, suffering due to the careless and ineffectual parenting of her flighty artist mother and mercurial father. His lofty plan to build a glass castle for them all to live in entrances her as a child, but develops into a symbol of disappointment. Her strength and resolve lead her to a successful life doing what she loves. This has given me hope for many years. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I did.
One of the first memoirs I read when trying to decide how to write my own story was written by another author from Utah; Terry Tempest Williams. It was a strange experience, reading her story. The locations and timelines of our tales were so very similar, but the relationship she shared (a loving and supportive one) with her mother was entirely foreign. So, too, was her deep connection with the birds.
Before delving into Refuge I had never known the names of any birds save the Parrot, Flamingo, and Robin. Reading her book reminded me of my bio-mother telling me about the myth of the robin’s redbreast being bestowed upon it by God after a robin tried to remove the thorns from Christ’s head. As a result of this wonderful story, I have endeavored to learn more about the creatures around me, care more for the Earth, and become a part of the world I live in.
Set against the backdrop of widespread flooding in the Salt Lake valley in the ’80s, Terry Tempest Williams tells of her love for wild birds and wild spaces in the valley and surrounding mountains. Her process of grieving the passing of her mother is also woven into the tale of flooding, mitigation, and how it all affects the birds. Though her story shares a time and place with mine, our stories are wildly different. I found it fascinating to read along as she navigated familiar terrain with such a divergent experience. Barely miles apart, she “midwifed” her mother’s passing as I strove to keep mine from suicide.
One of my favorite authors right now is Cathy Glass. It’s a pseudonym because she is an active (and amazing) foster carer. Many of her books are based on her experience caring for some very traumatized children. She also has a new crime-drama series under the name of Lisa Stone that’s super fun.
I find it cathartic and healing to hear her perspective on the lives of the young people she cares for. I also really appreciate her view of the foster care system. She is not in the U.S. and part of the appeal is that the system where she is, though flawed, really strives to maintain the best interest of the child as the key tenet of their work.
One of the first memoirs I read after watching the movie it was based upon was this one.
Homer was a young boy growing up in a coal town in the ’60s. He met JFK while he was campaigning and went in to experiment in amateur rocketry. The movie “October Sky” was based on the story, but this book is much better than the movie. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️.