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Memoir / Autobiography

  • Cotton Teeth

    by Glenn Rockowitz

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot/Idea: What if a father wished aloud that he could have cancer in his ailing son's place. . .and it happened? In Cotton Teeth, Glenn Rockowitz describes the agonizing year when he fought for his own life while struggling to sustain his father as they both battled cancer.

    Prose: Glenn Rockowitz spares his readers nothing; Cotton Teeth vividly brings the physical, spiritual and emotional rollercoaster suffered by his father and himself to life on the page. The prose is gritty and haunting.

    Originality: To undergo a battle for one's own life while trying to support a parent who is simultaneously going through the same illness is a situation that, thankfully, not many will find themselves in. Interwoven with the struggle of father and son to survive are the author's harrowing flashbacks of being molested at summer camp at a young age.

    Character Development/Execution: Sometimes heroism is simply the act of survival. Rockowitz has fought hard to survive - not only cancer, but childhood sexual abuse - and the result is a harrowing memoir that will stay with its readers long past the final page.


  • Plot/Idea: Thirty years after her son Matt's death at the age of eight, Wierman finds the courage and the words to chronicle his battle with a rare form of leukemia. Throughout the battle, up to and beyond the very end, Matt and his surviving family are sustained by their immense faith in God.

    Prose: With grace, dignity, and immense faith, Wierman relives the journey she and her family trod with their beloved Matt. Unsparingly, she sets forth the agony of watching her son's suffering, the ecstatic leaps of hope when the cancer briefly went into remission, the poignant gratitude for the kindness of family, friends, and strangers who helped them in ways too numerous to tell, and the steadfast faith that ultimately helped her transcend the grief of losing her only son.

    Originality: Few, indeed, are those who could undergo the agony of losing a child to a protracted battle with cancer and come through with their faith in God strengthened, rather than diminished. This is the story of a family remarkable for its acceptance and unshakable belief, not least of all Matt himself.

    Character Development/Execution: Wierman's purpose in writing a memoir almost as short and as brave as the life of its subject, her son Matt, was to make sure he would never be forgotten, and to bear witness to her faith that God never for a moment forgot Matt and his family. She has succeeded on both counts.

  • Mountain Dream

    by Wei San Tang

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot/Idea: Mountain Dream is the story of Wei San Tang's journey to Everest. She smartly lays out her personal mission with the text and then proceeds to tell a well-crafted tale of important teachers, initial adventures, setbacks, and triumphs.

    Prose: Author Wei San Tang's writing is conversational, casual, and friendly. She makes great use of direct address to forge intimacy with the audience and offers practical advice in a straightforward, informative manner.

    Originality: Mountain Dream is absolutely original, in the way that the narrator doesn't resemble the expected author. Instead, Wei San Tang humbly brings up her fear and aims to inspire others to have an adventurous attitude.

    Character Development/Execution: The author empathetically establishes her authorial voice by introducing herself in a relatable fashion, honestly discussing her past struggles, and being transparent about her self-doubt.

    Blurb: Mountain Dream is an inspirational, quick-read travel memoir about the author's unlikely trip to Everest, written in the hopes that the story will motivate others to take their own adventures and forge their own paths.

  • Plot/Idea: Written from the perspective of her son, this well-researched memoir covers Erma Hill’s hardscrabble life as she escapes poverty, racism, and violence in rural Depression-era Georgia to ultimately become a famed “Number Hustler” in 1960s New York City. Though parts of the narrative stretch believability, it highlights the power of a woman who champions herself and her children above all else.

    Prose: Roy successfully embodies his mother’s voice by creating a consistent narrative style that illustrates her inner complexity and nuances. The historical period is well-captured through attention to vernacular and style.

    Originality: The life story of Erma Hill (or New York Red, as she was known in 1960s Harlem) is one of perseverance in the face of both unimaginable abuse at a young age, and the more mundane struggles of adulthood as a single parent. Her rise to neighborhood fame is a testament to her individuality, and the years leading up to her death are a riveting read.

    Character Development/Execution: Erma Hill is convincingly depicted as a fierce protector and fighter, for both herself and her children. The reader is privy to her innermost thoughts and beliefs, as well as her unique code of conduct. 

  • Idea: Dylan builds the narrative of his wife's struggle with mental health to encompass family, friends, and strangers as well as the society that continues to place a stigma around mental health.

    Prose/Style: Palpable in Dylan's writing are the feelings of confusion, despair, love, and hope as he goes back and forth in time to show life before and after he notices a change in Mia.

    Originality: In the vast world of literature that deals with mental health struggles, Dylan carves out a space for himself, his wife, and his family to reflect upon their journey in a meaningful way.

    Character Development/Execution: Dylan includes a broad array of medical professionals, family members, and friends in the narrative. While these characters aren't always given the space they may deserve, Dylan's attempts to share their perspectives is a noble effort. 

    Blurb: With a tremendous amount of care, Dylan shares his experience as a husband and father in a family that must navigate the complex world of mental health. A moving and informative memoir, Safe, Wanted, and Loved reminds readers of the challenges faced by those struggling with their mental health and the stigma placed on that struggle. 

    Blurb: With a tremendous amount of care, Dylan shares his experience as a husband and father in a family that must navigate the complex world of mental health. A moving and informative memoir, Safe, Wanted, and Loved reminds readers of the challenges faced by those struggling with their mental health and the stigma placed on that struggle. 

  • Plot/Idea: Fallon presents an extremely thorough and finely written historical memoir—filling in gaps of a possible relative's life and establishing part of a genealogy. It may mostly appeal to scholarly readers, those interested in Chateaubriand or buffs of French history.

    Prose: The prose is excellent, well-organized, and well-cited. It is quite scholarly in tone, however, and may not appeal to more casual readers. Photographs, paintings, letters, and diary entries enhance the text.

    Originality: This work is highly original in concept and execution, as the purpose is to establish genealogical ties between the author and Chateaubriand. Although the author gathers material from established sources, he also integrates quite a bit of original material through his years of research.

    Character Development/Execution: The character of Chateaubriand is quite clear, established by interviews, articles, biographies, letters and photographs.

  • Australian Women Can Walk

    by Veronica Caven Aldous

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot/Idea: Australian Women Can Walk is a smart memoir about one woman's formative college gap year travels in 1979. Traveling with art school friends, author Aldous crosses Asia, hanging out on houseboats, backpacking, and learning about life along the way.

    Prose: Aldous's prose is simple and straightforward, yet self-assured. While her lines are sometimes awkwardly written and the text has a few tense issues, overall the writing is strong and appealing.

    Originality: While there are similar memoirs about traveling in other countries, Aldous's discussion of politics, like the impact of partition and the way she connects her reading with her experience, sets this book apart. The diary format also enhances the original quality of the work.

    Character Development/Execution: Author Veronica Caven Aldous has a wonderful eye for sense and place descriptions across the execution of the text. The memoir's short sections lend themselves well to the slice-of-life style of Aldous's journey, and the photographs also enhance the story well.

    Blurb: A wonderfully executed memoir about a young woman's travels and adventures in Asia as a 22-year-old art student, Australian Women Can Walk nails the experience of youthful discovery on the page.

  • Don't Eat Your Vomit!: We All Do This

    by Carolyn L. Austin

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot/Idea: Austin has provided the reader with a deep look into her tumultuous life, filled with love affairs, difficulties at work, and prejudice, along with lots of self-growth and triumph. She also takes the time to humbly reflect upon her choices, analyzing them at the end of each chapter, along with providing relevant scripture and a prayer for those in similar situations. The book reads a bit like a romance novel, with a large focus on relationships and sex, which may fit a niche market combined with the scriptural focus.

    Prose: Austin is a born storyteller, as her stories are full of drama and intrigue. Though sometimes sentences can lack variety, the story flows well, and the timelines make sense.

    Originality: From the provocative title and metaphors that continue throughout the book relating to vomit, to the wild stories of Austin's life, this book is definitely unique. For those who want to read a fascinating story about a woman who never gives up, despite facing all kinds of challenges, this is the book for them.

    Character Development/Execution: Austin's character is well-developed, and the reader can easily sympathize with her. The rest of the cast is more supportive in nature and serve to move the storyline forward.

  • Idea: Holding Fast is a memoir of an unconventional life spent sailing. Readers who aspire to similarly upend their circumstances in favor of a more nomadic lifestyle will welcome Cole's honest reflections.

    Prose: The writing here is smooth and capably holds the reader's interest throughout. 

    Originality: Although memoirs of risk-taking adventures are familiar, Cole's story is deeply personal, detailed, and frequently inspiring.

    Character/Execution: Both Cole and her husband, John, emerge as fully formed individuals on the page. The strength of their relationship is a particularly endearing element of the story.


  • Plot/Idea: Wiggins is explicit in her text, with a distinct idea that carries through the entirety of her work. She delineates evidence to support her main concepts and readers will quickly grasp the weight of her themes.

    Prose: Wiggins writes in an articulate and professional style, although she balances this with areas where she connects directly with her readers in a more lighthearted manner. Her prose elevates the text, adding significance and gravity in all the right places.

    Originality: Civil Rights Baby offers fresh perspectives on a common, but weighty, memoir theme – which intensifies the individuality of this work and will be striking for readers.

    Character Development/Execution: Wiggins develops her text in a linear fashion that will satisfy her audience while provoking reflection at the same time. She offers an intriguing start that sets the stage for a challenging and often painful personal journey.

  • The Fool and The Magician

    by Angela Lam

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot/Idea: Lam's vulnerability and nuanced emotional states allow readers to truly connect to her profound and intimate story.

    Prose: The writing style here is digestible and engaging, with the connection to the tarot deck only occasionally obfuscating the plot.

    Originality: Lam's memoir uniquely blends an exploration of love, relationships, mental health,  with the more mystical and magical original elements.

    Character Development/Execution: The writer successfully explores the complexities of the characters for her readers in this intriguing memoir.


  • Plot/Idea: Weldon's memoir tells a compelling story of not just picking up the pieces of a broken life, but building something new and fresh that will keep readers turning the pages.

    Prose: Weldon's prose makes for an easy and enjoyable read, but would benefit from additional polishing to allow the voice to reach its full potential.

    Originality: Weldon's journey stands out in the memoir genre by telling the story of a life-changing 30 days rather than a years-long undertaking, which is likely to inspire readers to be able to take on their own manageable challenges.

    Character Development/Execution: Weldon's humor and vulnerability make her someone readers want to root for and allow her to feel like a treasured friend.

  • Plot/Idea: A gonzo romp through the London outsider music scene, this book blends personal narrative with an exploration of a lesser-known artistic subculture. 

    Prose: The book is a sprawling ramble through a music community, written with a frenetic energy to match its subject matter.

    Originality: This book is unique, depicting through a personal lens a niche artistic community not widely known outside its own enclave.

    Character Development/Execution: The book is long, and readers not already familiar with the bands, venues, and lifestyle depicted may have trouble keeping up. Those that do will discover a rewarding experience with interesting, well-defined characters, and charming narration.

  • The Invisible Girl

    by Yvonne Sandomir

    Rating: 7.50

    Plot/Idea: This memoir tackles the heartbreaking traumas of childhood sexual abuse and the process of healing from them, and does so with honesty and awareness. The flaws here are all structural, with a timeline and pacing that would benefit from being strengthened.

    Prose: The prose is accessible and compelling, but requires clarity to really let the story and ideas shine through. It should also have a more organized timeline of events so readers can easily follow the events of Sandomir’s life.

    Originality: This memoir is original in that the author is so open to discuss difficult moments in her life, and to advocate on behalf of victims of abuse.

    Character Development/Execution: Sandomir's book is overall successful in the way it is a deeply personal account of the author’s life, but it is also an inspiring story of overcoming adversity and rising above one’s circumstances.

  • The Lifespan Movement

    by Nayana Williams

    Rating: 7.25

    Plot/Idea: The author has endured a series of life-changing events, but it's clear that she still fought hard to come out on top and ultimately became a successful entrepreneur. Those looking for inspiration and motivation will find this story beneficial, as the author embarks upon her quest for success.

    Prose: Well-paced and organized, the story is easy to follow with its casual tone. Well-structured and organized, the author covers a lot of ground in just a few chapters of this text.

    Originality: Some entrepreneurs have a straight path to their success story; this author endured larger battles before finding the strength to fight her way to her success. Her growth as a person is evident throughout the story.

    Character Development/Execution: Inspiring and well-written, the author tells her success story in three parts: growing up, early adulthood while childbearing, and her business story. The first two sections read like a memoir with plenty of ups and downs, while the last part is more about getting the business off the ground and the trials encountered along the way.

  • The Bond - Second Edition

    by A.M. Grotticelli

    Rating: 7.25

    Plot/Idea:  Grotticelli delivers a moving account of a tumultuous childhood spent between a violent family, orphanage, and unloving foster care, and the powerful bonds formed between found siblings.

    Prose: The author's language is plainspoken and vivid, with a clear and immediate prose style that will particularly appeal to readers who have similarly struggled to find security and family connection amidst upheaval and uncertainty.

    Originality: This story successfully explores the nuances of an atypical story of an unhappy childhood.

    Character Development/Execution: The author's often painful memoir is well-told, though the work may benefit from broader variety in terms of tone.