Monday, March 16, 2015

30 Memory Lanes

After working on this list of memoirs for a few days, (begun in response to a student assignment alert from a teacher at HWRHS) I started to see that the majority of Young Adult memoirs are wrenchingly bleak, gritty, and/or bittersweet. In other words, with a few exceptions such as, Popular:Vintage Wisdom..., and Funny in Farsi, these are not humorous accounts. It was difficult to limit this list to only YA memoirs. I was tempted to throw in some of my favorites from the adult collection such as Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman, and Garlic and Sapphires, which are humorous. However, since they cannot readily be called YA memoirs they were not included here. But, while also not strictly YA, I could not resist dangling here a volume of Mark Twain's satirical travel accounts.
In addition to the descriptions from our online catalog, I have included page totals, and Lexile scores,(where available), to help you browse.
For further browsing: a search in the catalog with the following limits: Subject: personal memoir; Item Type: books; Literary Form: nonfiction; and Audience: teen, resulted in 27 entries. If you leave off the limiter: Audience: teen, the result is then over 300 entries.
When I searched the NoveList database using the parameters: Subject: memoir, and Alex Award, there were 36 results. (Each year The Alex Award is given to 10 books written for adults that are judged to have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.)

Young Adult Memoirs

The Story of My Life: An Afghan Girl on the Other Side of the Sky, by Farah Ahmedi, 2005. Born in Kabul, Afghanistan at the peak of the war between the Soviet Union and the mujahideen, a young woman's memoir intertwines the story of her childhood in the war-torn country with her experiences as a Afghan American adolescent in Chicago. 249 pages, Lexile: 850.
Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen, by Arin Andrews, 2014. "Seventeen-year-old Arin Andrews shares all the hilarious, painful, and poignant details of undergoing gender reassignment as a high school student in this winning teen memoir"-- Provided by publisher. 256 pages.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou, 1970. A black woman recalls the anguish of her childhood in Arkansas and her adolescence in northern slums. 289 pages, Lexile: 1330.

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah,2007. In a heart-wrenching, candid autobiography, a human rights activist offers a firsthand account of war from the perspective of a former child soldier, detailing the violent civil war that wracked his native Sierra Leone and the government forces that transformed a gentle young boy into a killer as a member of the army. 229 pages, Lexile: 920.
Warriors Don't Crythe searing memoir of the battle to integrate Little Rock's Central High, by Melba Beals, 1994. The author describes the threats and emotional abuse she endured from white students and adults along with her fears of endangering her family as she committed to being one of the first African American students to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. 312 pages, Lexile: 1000. Sequel: White is a State of Mind, 1999.

Laughing At My Nightmare, by Shane Burcaw, 2014. With acerbic wit & a hilarious voice, Shane Burcaw's YA memoir describes the challenges he faces as a 20-year-old with muscular atrophy. From awkward handshakes to trying to finding a girlfriend and everything in between-- Provided by publisher.  250 pages, Lexile: 1110.
The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream, by Sampson Davis, 2002. George, Sampson, and Rameck were three African American kids living in Newark, all from broken homes, all living amid poverty, crime, and drug abuse. They met in high school and together they made a pact to support each other for as long as it would take for them to become doctors. 240 pages, Lexile: 940. Shorter version: We Beat the Street, 2005, 194 pages.

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America, by Firoozeh Dumas, 2003. An autobiography of growing up as an Iranian-American describes the author's family's 1971 move from Iran to Southern California, the members of her diverse family, and their struggle with culture shock. 187 pages.

Hole in My Life, by Jack Gantos, 2002. The author relates how, as a young adult, he became a drug user and smuggler, was arrested, did time in prison, and eventually got out and went to college, all the while hoping to become a writer. 199 pages, Lexile: 840.

Stick Figure: A diary Of My Former Self, by Lori Gottlieb, 2000. Based on diaries written in 1978, when she was 11 years old, the author offers a chronicle of her battle with anorexia and the pressures from family, peers, and society that led her to starve herself. 222 pages, Lexile: 1100.

Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board, by Bethany Hamilton, 2004, 2011.  The teenage surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack in 2003 describes how she has coped with this life-altering event with the help of her faith, the changes in her life, and her return to the sport she loves.  288 pages, Lexile: 960.

Rocket Boys, by Homer H. Hickam, 1998. The author traces the boyhood enthusiasm for rockets that eventually led to a career at NASA, describing how he built model rockets in the family garage in West Virginia, inspired by the launch of the Soviet satellite "Sputnik.". 368 pages.

Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition, by Katie Rain Hill, 2014. "In this young adult memoir, a transgender girl shares her personal journey of growing up as a boy and then undergoing gender reassignment during her teens"-- Provided by publisher. 264 pages.

Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution, by Ji-li Jiang, 1997. Provides the story of Ji-li Jiang a twelve-year-old girl growing up in China in 1966, the year that Chairman Mao launched the Cultural Revolution, and the changes it brought to her and her family. 285 pages, Lexile: 1997.
Girl, Interrupted, by Susanna Kaysen, 1993.  Recounts the two years the author spent in the McLean psychiatric hospital and examines the reality of the hospital world. 168 pages, Lexile: 760.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope, by William Kamkwamba, 2009. William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country withered by drought and hunger; where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. William had read about windmills in a book called Using Energy, and he dreamed of building one to bring electricity and water to his village. 347 pages, Lexile: 960. Shorter version: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, 2015, 304 pages.

Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter, by Adeline Yen Mah, 2001. The daughter of a wealthy Hong Kong businessman describes her very difficult childhood and the psychological abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepmother. 205 pages, Lexile: 960.

The Other Wes Moore: The Story of One Name and Two Fates, by Wes Moore, 2010. Traces the parallel lives of two youths with the same name in the same community, describing how the author grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar and promising business leader while his counterpart suffered a life of violence and imprisonment. 256 pages, Lexile: 990. Shorter versionDiscovering Wes Moore: Chances, Choices, Changes, 2012, 160 pages.

Woodsong, by Gary Paulsen, 1990. For a rugged outdoor man and his family, life in northern Minnesota is a wild experience involving wolves, deer, and the sled dogs that make their way of life possible. Includes an account of the author's first Iditarod, a dogsled race across Alaska. 132 pages, Lexile: 1090.

The Pregnancy Project, by Gaby Rodriguez, 2012. A high school senior chose, as a school project, to fake a pregnancy as a high school senior to see how her family, friends, and community would react. 224 pages, Lexile: 970.

Mark Twain: On Travel, by Mark Twain (1835-1910), 2005. Selections from Twain's five travel books. Twain's observations on 19th century America and Europe as he experienced them firsthand are captured in this collection. 278 pages.

Bad Boy, by Walter Dean Myers, 2001.  The author relates his experiences growing up in Harlem, the home of Sugar Ray Robinson and Langston Hughes, in the 1940s and 1950s. 214 pages, Lexile: 970.

Ghosts of War: The True Story of a 19-year-old GI, by Ryan Smithson, 2009. Recounts the author's experiences as an Army engineer in the Iraq War. 321 pages, Lexile: 750.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed, 2012. A powerful, blazingly honest, inspiring memoir: the story of a 1,100 mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe--and built her back up again. 315 pages.

Popular: A Memoir: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek, by Maya van Wagenen, 2014. Documents a high school student's year-long attempt to change her social status from that of a misfit to a member of the "in" crowd by following advice in a 1950s popularity guide, an experiment that triggered embarrassment, humor and unexpected surprises. 259 pages, Lexile: 730.

The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls, 2005. 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. 288 pages, Lexile: 1010

Ryan White: My Own Story, by Ryan White, 1992. Ryan White describes how he contracted AIDS, the negative response of his friends and neighbors in his home town, his battle to reenter school, and his fight to educate people about the disease. 326 pages, Lexile: 860.

Night, by Elie Wiesel, 1960.  A terrifying account of the Nazi death camp horror that turns a young Jewish boy into an agonized witness to the death of his family.  116 pages, Lexile: 570.
I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai, 2013.  Describes the life of a young Pakistani student who advocated for women's rights and education in the Taliban-controlled Swat Valley who survived an assassination attempt and became the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. 327 pages, Lexile: 1000. Shorter version: I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up For Education and Changed the World, 2014, 230 pages.

Smashed: The Story of a Drunken Girlhood, by Koren Zailckas, 2005. A 24-year-old survivor of alcoholism recounts her journey from teen experimentation to binge drinking, a process during which she endured depression, rage, sexual exploitation, and troubled relationships before making the decision to heal, in a personal memoir that also offers insight into youth alcohol abuse. 342 pages.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

African American Fiction and Nonfiction

Over the past couple of years there have been some excellent nonfiction books published about Black History in the United States, which inspired me to create this young adult book list. In addition to the nonfiction books listed below, I have included a fiction list by genre where the main characters in the story are African American. Book descriptions are from our catalog. Clicking on the book title will take you to the Library's online catalog where you may place a hold.

Each year during the month of February, events are held nationwide honoring the history and contributions of African Americans. Black History Month began in 1926 as an initiative of historian, writer, and educator, Dr. Carter G. Woodson.

The Black History Month graphic design included here was created by local artist, Eva Der, 2015.


Liar, by Justine Larbalestier, 2009. Compulsive liar Micah promises to tell the truth after revealing that her boyfriend has been murdered. Paranormal fiction, suspense.

Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor, 2009. Twelve-year-old Sunny Nwazue, an American-born albino child of Nigerian parents, moves with her family back to Nigeria, where she learns that she has latent magical powers which she and three similarly gifted friends use to catch a serial killer.

      Graphic Format     

I See the Promised Land: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr., [text by] Arthur Flowers, 2013. Presents in graphic novel format the life of the Baptist minister and Noble Peace Prize winner who became the leader and orator of the African American civil rights movement before his assassination in 1968.

March. Book One, by John Lewis, 2013. A first-hand account of the author's lifelong struggle for civil and human rights spans his youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the birth of the Nashville Student Movement. March. Book Two, by John Lewis, 2015.

The Silence of Our Friends, by Mark Long, 2012. "This semi-autobiographical tale is set in 1967 Texas, against the backdrop of the fight for civil rights. A white family from a notoriously racist neighborhood in the suburbs and a black family from its poorest ward cross Houston's color line to win the freedom of five black college students unjustly charged with the murder of a policeman"--provided by publisher.

Yummy: The Last days of a Southside Shorty, by Greg Neri, 2008. "A graphic novel based on the true story of Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, an 11-year old African American gang member from Chicago who shot a young girl and was then shot by his own gang members"--provided by publisher.

       Historical Fiction      

Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson, 2008. After being sold to a cruel couple in New York City, a slave named Isabel spies for the rebels during the Revolutionary War. First book in Seeds of America trilogy.

Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: the Pox Party, by M. T. Anderson, 2006. Various diaries, letters, and other manuscripts chronicle the experiences of Octavian, a young African American, from birth to age sixteen, as he is brought up as part of a science experiment in the years leading up to and during the Revolutionary War.
Copper Sun, by Sharon Draper, 2006. Two 15-year-old girls--one a slave and the other an indentured servant--escape their Carolina plantation and try to make their way to Fort Moses, Florida, a Spanish colony that gives sanctuary to slaves.

Which Way Freedom?, by Joyce Hansen, 1986. Obi escapes from slavery during the Civil War, joins a black Union regiment, and soon becomes involved in the bloody fighting at Fort Pillow, Tennessee.
Day of Tears: a Novel in Dialogue, by Julius Lester, 2005. When gambling debts and greed enter into the Butler household, Pierce Butler decides to host the biggest slave auction in American history and breaks a promise by selling Emma, his most-valued slave and caretaker of his children--a decision that brings about unthinkable consequences.

The Rock and the River, by Kekla Magoon, 2009. In 1968 Chicago, 14-year-old Sam Childs is caught in a conflict between his father's nonviolent approach to seeking civil rights for African Americans and his older brother, who has joined the Black Panther Party.

Invasion!, by Walter Dean Myers, 2013. Josiah and Marcus were friends in Virginia, but now that they are both involved in the Normandy invasion, the differences in their positions is uncomfortable, for Josiah is a white infantryman and Marcus is a black transport driver, the only role the segregated army will allow him. World War I story.

No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, 2012. The story of a man with a passion for knowledge and of a bookstore whose influence has become legendary.Told by a banker that he should sell fried chicken rather than books, since "Negroes don't read", Lewis Michaux defied the odds to build Harlem's National Memorial African Bookstore, an intellectual center and gathering place from 1939 to 1975.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, by Gary Schmidt, 2004. In 1911, Turner Buckminster hates his new home of Phippsburg, Maine, but things improve when he meets Lizzie Bright Griffin, a girl from a poor, nearby island community founded by former slaves that the town fathers--and Turner's--want to change into a tourist spot.

X, by Ilyasah Shabazz, 2015. Follows the childhood of Malcolm X, the civil rights leader, to his imprisonment at age twenty, where he found the faith that would lead him to his path towards activism and justice.


Fake ID, by L. R. Giles, 2014. An African-American teen in the Witness Protection Program moves to a new town and finds himself trying to solve a murder mystery when his first friend is found dead.


The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander, 2014. 14-year-old twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan wrestle with highs and lows on and off the court as their father ignores his declining health. Sports fiction, novel written in verse.

The Skin I'm In, by Sharon Flake, 1998. Thirteen-year-old Maleeka, uncomfortable because her skin is extremely dark, meets a new teacher and makes some discoveries about how to love who she is and what she looks like.

The First Part Last, by Angela Johnson, 2003. Bobby's carefree teenage life changes forever when he becomes a father and must care for his adored baby daughter.

How It Went Down, by Kekla Magoon, 2014. When 16-year-old Tariq Johnson is shot to death, his community is thrown into an uproar because Tariq was black and the shooter, Jack Franklin, is white, and in the aftermath everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events agree.

Sunrise Over Fallujah, by Walter Dean Myers, 2008. Robin Perry, from Harlem, is sent to Iraq in 2003 as a member of the Civilian Affairs Battalion, and his time there profoundly changes him. War story.

After Tupac and D Foster, Jacqueline Woodson, 2008. In the New York City borough of Queens in 1996, three girls bond over their shared love of Tupac Shakur's music, as together they try to make sense of the unpredictable world in which they live.


He Said, She Said, by Kwame Alexander, 2013. "When a popular football 'playa' and ladies man and the smartest girl in school lead a school protest, sparks fly as their social media-aided revolution grows"-- provided by publisher.

Jason & Kyra, by Dana Davidson, 2004. Handsome and popular Jason tries to come to terms with his irascible, often absent father and his growing attraction to the quiet, studious Kyra.

Romiette and Julio, by Sharon Draper, 1999. An African-American girl and a Latino boy fall in love after meeting on the Internet, but they are harrassed by a gang who objects to their interracial dating.

Like No Other, by Una LaMarche, 2014. Living on opposite sides of their Brooklyn neighborhood, strict Hasidic Devorah and fun-loving nerd Jaxon forge an unexpected connection when they become trapped in an elevator during a hurricane, after which they pursue a secret romance.

If You Come Softly, by Jacqueline Woodson, 1998. After meeting at their private school in New York, 15-year-old Jeremiah, who is black and whose parents are separated, and Ellie, who is white and whose mother has twice abandoned her, fall in love and then try to cope with people's reactions.


Love is the Drug, by Alaya Dawn Johnson, 2014. Emily Bird is an African American high school senior in Washington D.C., member of a privileged medical family, on the verge of college and the edge of the drug culture, and not really sure which way she will go--then one day she wakes up in the hospital with no memory of what happened.
Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes, 2010. In New Orleans' Ninth Ward, 12-year-old Lanesha, who can see spirits, and her adopted grandmother have no choice but to stay and weather the storm as Hurricane Katrina bears down upon them.

   Black History Nonfiction    

The Complete Encyclopedia of African American History, by Jessie Carney Smith and Linda T. Wynn, editors. 2014. 400 years of the African American civil rights experience, this encyclopedic work aims to increase the wealth of information that is currently published on African Americans and their struggle for civil rights. [This is a reference book. There is one copy in the consortium that may be checked out.]

Searching for Sarah Rector: the Richest Black Girl in America, by Tonya Bolden, 2014. Recounts the story of the 1914 disappearance of 11-year-old Sarah Rector, an African American who was part of the Creek Indian people and whose land had made her wealthy, and what it reveals about race, money, and American society. Biography.

The Spies of Mississippi: the True Story of the Spy Agency that Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement, by Rick Bowers, 2010. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission compiled secret files on more than 87,000 private citizens in the most extensive state spying program in U.S. history. Its mission: to save segregation. 
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, by Phillip M. Hoose, 2009. Presents the life of the Alabama teenager who played an integral but little-known role in the Montgomery bus strike of 1955-1956, once by refusing to give up a bus seat, and again, by becoming a plaintiff in the landmark civil rights case against the bus company. Biography.

Because They Marched: the People's Campaign for Voting Rights that Changed America, by Russell Freedman, 2014. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1965 march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, Newbery Medalist Freedman presents an account of this pivotal event in the history of civil rights.

To the Mountaintop!: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement, by Charlayne Hunter-Gault, 2012. Starting with Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009 and working back to the early 1960s, Hunter-Gault covers many of the significant moments in the civil rights movement. Biography.

The Girl From the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement, by Teri Kanefield, 2014. Describes the protest organized by teenager Johns in order to secure a permanent building for her segregated high school in Virginia in 1951, and explains how her actions helped fuel the civil rights movement. Biography.

A Time to Break Silence: the Essential Works of Martin Luther King, Jr. for Students, by Martin Luther King, Jr. ; introduction by Walter Dean Myers, 2013. Presents nineteen of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s most important writings and speeches, carefully selected by educators across a variety of disciplines.

We've Got a Job: the 1963 Birmingham Children's March, by Cynthia Levinson, 2012. Discusses the events of the 4,000 African American students who marched to jail to secure their freedom in May 1963.

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March, by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, 2015. Shares the story of the youngest person to complete the Selma to Montgomery March, describing her frequent imprisonments for her participation in nonviolent demonstrations and how she felt about her involvement in Civil Rights events. Biography.

A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown's War Against Slavery, by Albert Marrin, 2014. Examines the life of abolitionist John Brown and the raid he led on the United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, in 1859, exploring his religious fanaticism and belief in "righteous violence,"--and commitment to domestic terrorism. Biography.

The Freedom Summer Murders, by Don Mitchell, 2014. Coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of the Freedom Summer murders, traces the events surrounding the KKK lynching of three young civil rights activists who were trying to register African Americans for the vote.

Discovering Wes Moore: Chances, Choices, Changes, by Wes Moore, 2012. A military paratrooper and White House fellow contrasts events from his life with those of a fatherless friend to explore the issues that separate the outcomes of success and failure. Biography.

Freedom Summer: the 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi, by Susan Goldman Rubin, 2014. An account of the civil rights crusade in Mississippi 50 years ago that brought on shocking violence and the beginning of a new political order.

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights, by Steve Sheinkin, 2014. Presents an account of the 1944 civil rights protest involving hundreds of African-American Navy servicemen who were unjustly charged with mutiny for refusing to work in unsafe conditions after the deadly Port Chicago explosion.

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson, 2014. In vivid poems that reflect the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, an award-winning author shares what it was like to grow up in the 1960s and 1970s in both the North and the South. Biography.