Okay, maybe they didn’t change my life in any cosmic way but they dramatically shifted my perspective on my colourful upbringing. Instead of finding fault in the struggles my sisters and I overcame as kids growing up in our chaotic household, I have learned to be grateful for it. I am thankful for those exact struggles we faced because I am proud of the people we’ve become.
People always seem to poke fun at me for some of my book recommendations because from their perspective, the ‘themes’ of these books are unfortunate, sad, dark, and full of tragedy. But I don’t see it that way at all. These books, I realize now with much introspection, have a common thread throughout them that fascinate me. They are all coming-of-age stories. The authors write about overcoming childhoods fraught with pain, personal obstacles, and familial strains. At the very core, they are all relatable tales. Despite these unfortunate circumstances, they have not only survived but learned to thrive and create fulfilling lives for themselves. Yes, all of their stories were flecked with individual shame, disappointment, and sorrow, but ultimately these authors speak more about forgiveness, fearlessness, acceptance, and success. And that is inspiring.
I won’t do a review of each book in this post because to be honest, I just can’t compete with the synopses you can find on Goodreads (also, I’ve previously reviewed them on my blog).
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Goodreads Rating: 4.28/5 (958,000 votes)
Overall Theme: poverty, neglect, unconventional childhood
Thoughts: My people are probably sick of hearing me recommend this book but I can’t help it. The year I stumbled upon this book in Chapters, I either lent it out or gifted it to every reader I knew. I know I have multiple copies around the house just in case I run into anyone who needs a good book to read.
“One time I saw a tiny Joshua tree sapling growing not too far from the old tree. I wanted to dig it up and replant it near our house. I told Mom that I would protect it from the wind and water it every day so that it could grow nice and tall and straight. Mom frowned at me. “You’d be destroying what makes it special,” she said. “It’s the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it its beauty.” -Jeannette Walls
North of Normal by Cea Sunrise Person
Goodreads Rating: 4.21/5 (10,000 votes)
Overall Theme: poverty, nature, wilderness, unusual upbringing, neglect
Thoughts: This book really resonated with me because the author’s desperate need to feel accepted in her community of friends and peers could be felt through the pages of her book (that, in itself, was extremely relatable).
“There is a unique strength born from a youth spent longing for something different.” -Cea Sunrise Person
“I wanted nothing more out of life than I did to keep my family together and make sure they were safe. The memory of those days reminds me of how exhausted I had been, but my siblings gave my life purpose, they were my bridge from pain to healing, from past to future. They are as much the authors of my survival as I am of theirs.” -Ruth Wariner
In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park, Maryanne Vollers
Goodreads Rating: 4.39/5 (42,000 votes)
Overall Theme: North Korea, poverty, political turmoil, human trafficking, enslavement
Thoughts: I have always been extremely transfixed by everything North Korea, mainly because it is such a secluded and dystopian state. There is a lot to unpack with this book but it was engrossing from the very beginning.
“When you have more words to describe the world, you increase your ability to think complex thoughts.” -Yeonmi Park
A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown
Goodreads Rating: 4.19/5 (29,000 votes)
Overall Theme: systemic racism, disenfranchisement, marginalization, poverty, addiction
Thoughts: Please don’t let the title of this book or the author’s name fool you. This book should not be overlooked. It provides a raw and honest look into the young, harrowing life of Cupcake Brown who was failed by the child protection system. This book reflects on how deep-rooted racism played a key part in the oppression of the writer’s life and brings you along her journey while she reignites her boisterous voice.
“You’re not always going to be able to see the big picture. But you’ve got to know that, no matter what, you’ll be okay. Keep praying.” -Cupcake Brown
I’m always looking for good book recommendations, what are some of your favourite memoirs?