Monday, March 16, 2015

31 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.

Basketball Junkie: A Memoir, by Chris Herren, 2011. Traces the author's journey from a promising high-school basketball star to a recovering drug addict, describing his struggles with addiction throughout his college and NBA years, the overdose that nearly cost him everything and his subsequent work as a mentor for young athletes. 275 pages.



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.

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