Memoir / Autobiography
by Alexander Grand and Joshua S. Berman
Plot: The authors recount the colorful and complex life story of a man who straddled and frequently crossed the line between good guy and villain. Despite the necessary brevity of the graphic novel format, the author is still able to hold the reader's interest.
Prose: Grand and Berman capably move the story forward, keeping the reader engaged throughout. While the artwork is vibrant and the story worthy of recounting, a traditional format might have offered the opportunity for a greater richness of detail. Though the story is somewhat abbreviated in this format, the narrative remains impactful.
Originality: Between the original storyline, an atypical approach to biography, and unique and effective artwork, this work is creative and distinctive.
Character/Execution: The authors' characterizations are strong. Joey's upbringing is particularly vivid on the page, particularly when it comes to depictions of his mother's cruelty.
by Sherine Anniruth
Plot/Idea: Anniruth tells a touching story of loss and grief. Nadeem's battle with cancer is painful and heart-wrenching for readers, but the distressing parts of the text are bolstered by his devoted mother sincerely sharing her memories and love.
Prose: The narration feels intimate and personal, with an inviting and empathetic voice. Anniruth's willingness to bare even the most disquieting and heartbreaking memories allows readers an inside glimpse of Nadeem and his family as they follow along with his fight.
Originality: This is an emotionally moving memoir, but Anniruth heightens the book's impact through sharing photographs and real-life moments from her experience, adding a level of originality—and intimacy—that is lacking in similar titles. Her addition of a glossary for relevant medical terms at the end is an added bonus.
Character/Execution: Anniruth's focus is on recording her son's struggles chronologically, but in the process readers will become familiar with the family and Nadeem's development from birth onwards. By recounting the family's history before delving into Nadeem's cancer treatment, Anniruth breathes life into an excruciating story.
by Judy Haveson
Plot/Idea: Haveson's Laugh Cry Rewind is a moving chronicle of a Houston family's joys and struggles with illness and loss. The author vividly brings her extended family members to life while injecting humor and poignancy throughout her storytelling.
Prose: Haveson is a highly capable writer. Her prose style is warm, inviting, and gently humorous, even amidst tremendous emotional pain and trauma. The book features excellent pacing and a sound balance between informative sections, dialogue, and personal reflections on the unfolding circumstances.
Originality: Every family's story is unique, but not all memoirs are distinctive. Haveson's warm and endearing writing style, paired with a keen eye for detail, allow this work to shine.
Character/Execution: Haveson excels at characterization. While the author herself emerges clearly, family members are equally well rendered through descriptions, charming anecdotes, and dialogue.
by Audrey Beth Stein
Plot/Idea: In this highly impactful memoir, the author takes readers on her journey to self-discovery. The read is easy, but never simplistic. With subtlety and narrative prowess, Stein conveys complex circumstances, poignant moments, and powerful emotions.
Prose: The author's prose is smooth and approachable, while her voice is candid, gently humorous, and intimate. Readers will have no trouble becoming fully immersed in the storytelling.
Originality: While this work of memoir is fairly straightforward in its approach and doesn't take significant narrative risks, Stein's work stands apart for its sense of immediacy, honest emotion, and genuine exploration of queer identity.
Character/Execution: Map is a finely crafted coming-of-age story. The author emerges as a fully formed individual who develops meaningfully throughout the work. The conclusion to the story is somewhat abrupt; readers may be left wanting even more.
by A.S. Drayton
Plot/Idea: Drayton wears his heart fully on his sleeve, and readers will be drawn in by his vulnerability in this moving memoir that serves as a reminder of the power of kindness.
Prose: The author shares his story with an introspective tone and clear prose that allows the story to unfold without being bogged down by too many details and jargon.
Originality: While many memoirs tend to uncover the traumas and hidden difficulties faced by the writer, not all connect their life experiences to a greater overarching lesson for the reader. Drayton's memoir feels like it was written to help others in their own dilemmas and endeavors.
Character Development/Execution: Drayton does a great job of helping the reader understand his emotional motivations and his cognitive process of the environment around him. While some descriptive details of other characters could be filled in, he still manages to paint their significance to his story.
by cynthia ehrenkrantz
Plot: This is a straightforward yet riveting account of the author's experiences as a young, Jewish Londoner during World War Two. The author has a talent for bringing both the huge terrors—like the blitz—and the small joys to life for readers.
Prose: Ehrenkrantz uses clear and engaging prose to highlight her knack for storytelling.
Originality: So many accounts of WWII focus on what happened in continental Europe (the battles, ghettos, concentration camps, and more) — it is fascinating to read about how a family of English Jews experienced the violence of war (and antisemitism) from British shores.
Character/Execution: The author movingly narrates her wartime experiences through the eyes of her childhood self while also integrating retrospective wisdom. While the memoir is obviously most focused on the wartime years of the 1940s, readers will be saddened by the mention of her family's ongoing tragedies after the war: news of her Polish family's murder in Auschwitz and the way her parent's relationship crumbled. Wartime narratives don't necessarily stop when peace is declared; spending more time lingering on these post-war events would be very impactful.
Blurb: Seeking Shelter: Memoir of a Jewish Girlhood in Wartime Britain is a fascinating, fast-paced account of the author's experiences as a young Jewish girl living mostly in London during WWII, and the challenges, fears, and small joys her family endured while dodging bombs from the blitz.
by Nicole Sallak Anderson
Plot: Nicole Sallak Anderson is a free spirit who connects with trees, fairies, and other ethereal and timeless beings. She is able to see the beauty and depth that is present underneath the shallow outer layers of life, which proves itself to be a valuable gift. Anderson presents the reader with a powerful collection of essays regarding falling in love with a space, watching it literally burn to nothing, and then rising from the ashes.
Prose: Anderson's writing flows gently like a calm creek; one can get lost in her prose as she meanders through the different emotions centered around loss, grieving, acceptance, and moving forward.
Originality: Although the idea of a phoenix rising from the ashes is a fairly tired trope, Anderson's careful prose and personal details keep the reader invested as they continue to page through the evolution of her grief and rebirth.
Character/Execution: Anderson presents a few main characters in her essays, and the majority of them are not human. These include the little fairy who has inhabited her property and given her hints as to how to conduct her life, various trees who impart their wisdom, and other specters. It is enlightening to read about these living beings who we traditionally do not think of as characters, as Anderson brings them to life in a very humble and authentic way.
by Fawna Asfaw
Plot/Idea: Asfaw openly describes her life experiences, focusing on her idyllic childhood to the harrowing deaths of her parents to grappling with her own alcoholism and time in rehab. Her road from trauma and addiction to recovery and success is truthful and vivid. The author's honesty and willingness to focus on not only the realities but the emotions of each moment make this memoir pack quite an emotional punch.
Prose: Asfaw writes in direct and conversational prose. While the dialogue and expression of emotions are strong, the descriptive parts aren't as prevalent, which makes the prose feel uneven in certain passages.
Originality: The author bravely conveys both the highs and extreme lows of her journey. Sober Daughter is a powerful and insightful memoir that might help others take control of their own lives and recovery.
Character/Execution: Asfaw doesn't hesitate to share her darkest moments. She does a commendable job of relaying the challenges and nuances of addiction. Her parents, however, may benefit from a degree of additional characterization.
by Paige Lammers
Plot: This is a poignant memoir that explores the internal and external challenges faced by a young woman. The storyline holds the reader's interest throughout the book, and the pacing of the storytelling is steady and even.
Prose: Lammers is a strong writer whose prose is engaging and fluid. She is able to bring her emotions to life in a very real and palpable way, so while the reader may not at times know the origin of her angst, they will be well aware of the turmoil within.
Originality: Lammers's personal journey, and the manner in which she shares it, is genuine, individual, and unique.
Character/Execution: The author is successful with characterization. Readers will be moved by Lammers's depiction of the unbreakable bond between horse and human and impacted by her personal growth throughout the narrative.
by Craig Colby
Plot/Idea: All Caps is an unconventional homage to the deeper meaning behind the hats we choose to wear. Colby chronicles his choice of hats through the years, including the style and history of each one, but his choice to reminiscence about the relationship between a particular cap and his life experiences is a novel idea.
Prose: Colby's prose is warm and inviting, styled after a comfortable conversation with a close friend, and his use of humor—and gratitude for the life he's led—is appealing.
Originality: Though the book may appeal mainly to extreme sports fans or collectors of assorted curios, this is an incredibly original—and entertaining—take on the significance of our headgear.
Character/Execution: Colby details his success in the television world but manages to remain humble and approachable throughout. The narrative reads like an exclusive on the inner workings of Colby's life, told through amusing anecdotes centered around a particular hat.
Blurb: An entertaining look at the meaning behind one man's hat collection.
by Lester Blum
Plot/Idea: Part history book and part personal memoir, this narrative triumphs when it shares the personal stories of Blum's ancestors. The historical sections, particularly the beginning, do slow the pace a bit, but readers will be unable to stop reading Ruchel's letters, particularly knowing how her story ends.
Prose: The jumps between the personal letters and more scholarly prose (particularly the long discussion of U.S. immigration history) can be jarring at times and lend a bit of unevenness to the whole story. Yet, the letters are engrossing--the emotion and fear that Ruchel evokes is powerful and heartbreaking.
Originality: Blum has crafted a compelling memoir by framing the content of his relative's letters within the history of U.S. immigration policy and the rise of the Nazis in Poland. The translations of the correspondence remind readers of the human part of this horrific history.
Character/Execution: This memoir has a lot of characters; most are just names or mentioned in relation to the Leah family. Yet the center of the piece is--as it should be--Ruchel. Her voice is complex, engrossing and fully human, with its pleas, fears, anger, and hope fully "felt" through the translated letters.
by Barbara Ann Quinlan
Plot/Idea: The author recounts the ups, down, and existential crises of her early life (which was quite an eventful youth). Her stories range from entertaining to meaningful, and she holds nothing back about her sexual experiences, both pleasurable and traumatic.
Prose: The writing is clear and engaging. The timeline jumps around somewhat, which is largely effective, but there are certain places when the timeline becomes confusing for readers.
Originality: The author had an action-packed youth, and her narration of these events is largely gratifying and illuminating. There are points at which the author raises issues (like her mother going to great lengths to protect her) that are left as cliffhangers (presumably to be discussed again in later volumes). These left the reader wanting more answers -- and thus interested in reading the next volume in the series.
Character/Execution: The memoir keeps the reader invested, but the narrator introduces a number of experiences--particularly those involving violence and trauma--that may leave contemporary readers wanting to gain a deeper sense of the emotional/mental impact of these events. Some of the strongest moments in the memoir occur when the author describes the secondary trauma she experiences concerning the holocaust -- that type of honest vulnerability would have been appreciated in other areas of the memoir, too.
Blurb: In Found, the first volume of Barbara Ann Quinlan's memoir series, the author narrators her youthful journey from New York to California and then Paris and Poland as she searches for passion, peace, and love.
by Felice Cohen
Plot/Idea: Cohen offers a moving story of love, grief, and a passionate reflection on the true meaning of devotion. She chronicles her early adulthood path of discovering love in the midst of searching for her place among her family and the world, addressing how she navigated social prejudice against her sexuality and contemplating her choice to date an older woman.
Prose: Cohen writes with confidence, blending humor effortlessly into the narrative, even during the story’s solemn moments. Her prose flows smoothly and will incite profound sorrow for readers, as well as the nostalgia and poignancy that come with first love.
Originality: This is an intimate recounting of Cohen’s life and deep connections to her loved ones. The journey is a mixture of grief, joy, and self-discovery.
Character Development/Execution: Cohen brings her story to life through vivid characters who readers will easily connect with. She sorts through her past brilliantly, and her emotions are raw and utterly convincing. Secondary characters feel natural—anyone who has ever lost a loved one or navigated the pain that often accompanies passion will relish this memoir.
by KRISTA MARSON
Plot/Idea: A lovely and lyrical compendium that's both poetic and humorous, autobiographical and devotional. Above all, Marson's collection wonderfully shows a clear love of travel and the places where we sometimes find ourselves either by accident or by design, and is a beautiful and compelling read for anyone looking to see the world through new eyes.
Prose: Marson clearly has the heart of a poet and it shows--most notably through her thoughtful and often elegiac prose that paints a vivid picture of her anecdotal adventures. By turns an ode to nature and the hidden (and not so hidden) corners of the world, Marson's exceptional and enormously engaging style makes Time Traveled a joy to read.
Originality: Travel memoirs are familiar territory. However, here, the beauty is undoubtedly in Marson's storytelling, which reads less like a laundry list of "places I've been" and more like an examination of how her travels have shaped her life--and her appreciation of the world.
Character/Execution: Marson's engaging tone and style connect the reader to every place and adventure, while her authentic prose elevates her stories into a well-written and thought-provoking collection that's both entertaining and touching--lovely, lyrical, real, and amusing.
by John Graham
Plot/Idea: The memoir details the lifelong adventures of a man working in international politics during a tumultuous period of nuclear threat and international conflict. Globetrotting adventures, near-death experiences, and interplay with international politics will keep readers interested and engaged.
Prose: The book is paced well and reads quickly, with a narrative voice that comes clearly through the pages. The writing is clear and the balance between exposition and introspection is effective.
Originality: The author's life in the foreign service, amongst other ventures, lends to a variety of settings and events that are unique and will draw the interest of a broad range of readers. The book contains many pictures to further depict the details of the story.
Character/Execution: The writing is enjoyable and the settings and subject matter make for a relevant and unique story. The author’s reflection on larger, philosophical ideas and ponderings set the book apart from many similarly constructed memoirs.
by Rafael Moscatel
Plot: Moscatel crafts a deeply engaging story that will undoubtedly resonate with readers. The author unravels the narrative and family secrets uncovered in a well-paced and entertaining manner.
Prose: Well-written with wit and honesty interspersed throughout, Moscatel comes to terms with his upbringing, his own identity, and his family's past. Through careful diction, his thoughts transform his feelings about his predicament.
Originality: Moscatel has a truly unique story to tell and does so with refreshing candor and emotional integrity.
Character/Execution: Readers who may be seeking their own answers about tangled family history will find much to appreciate in this narrative. As a character in his own story, Moscatel's emotional and psychological journey is significant and authentically portrayed.