Posts Tagged ‘Memoir’

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates

December 5, 2012

Author:  Wes Moore

Title:  The Other Wes Moore:  One Name, Two Fates

Genre:  Non-Fiction, Biography/Memoir

Publication Date:  2010

Number of Pages:  233

Geographical Setting:  primarily in Baltimore (MD), the Bronx (NY), and Wayne (PA)

Time Period:  1982-2010

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  In 2000, Wes Moore read a series of stories in the newspaper about a robbery/homicide in Baltimore; one of the young men arrested and convicted of the crime was also named Wes Moore.  Wes contacted the man, who was serving a life sentence in prison, and discovered through their letters and conversations that they shared much more in common than a name alone.  As boys, both had lived in poor neighborhoods, were fatherless, struggled in school, and had run into trouble with the police- yet their paths would diverge and lead to different ends.  Alternating between their stories, this insightful and thought provoking book follows the lives of the two boys named Wes Moore as they grow up, exposing readers to various factors that would influence their choices and opportunities (or lack thereof).  An extensive resource guide of over 200 youth-serving organizations across the country is provided at the end of the book.

Subject Headings:  Biography/memoir, African Americans, Childhood & youth, Baltimore (MD), Social conditions, Urban life, Family relationships, Life choices, Criminal activities, Prisoners, Education, Military service.

Appeal:  Character-driven, Coming-of-age story, Reflective, Thought provoking, Inspiring, Life choices and expectations, Second chances, Memoir, African American characters, Family relationships, Single-parent households, Mother-son relationships, Mentors, Leadership, Urban street life, Drug dealing & gangs, Baltimore (MD).

Three appeal terms that best describe this book:  Character-driven, coming-of-age story, urban life.

Similar Authors and Works:

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1. The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.  Readers interested in learning more about the social justice inequities exposed within The Other Wes Moore may want to read this title- it addresses issues surrounding the high rates of incarceration for people of color in our country’s prison system.

2.  The Beautiful Struggle:  A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Both The Other Wes Moore and this memoir are coming-of-age stories about African-American young men, set in Baltimore, and involving life expectations, choices, and consequences.

3.  My American Journey by Colin Powell.  In his book, Wes Moore describes Colin Powell’s memoir as being influential in his life, and more specifically in his decision to join the military.

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.  Muchacho by LouAnne Johnson.  The Other Wes Moore and this novel are both thought provoking, inspiring, coming-of-age stories in which young men struggle to overcome their circumstances.

2.  Yummy:  The Last Days of a Southside Shorty written by Greg Neri and illustrated by Randy DuBurke.  A graphic novel based upon a gang-related murder that happened in Chicago in 1994, this title could be a good match for readers who found the violence, drug selling and gang life depicted in The Other Wes Moore to be compelling.

3.  Slam! by Walter Dean Myers.  Both Wes Moore and the main character (Greg Harris) of this novel are African-American young men who come from tough, city neighborhoods and have to adjust to life at new, mostly white, schools.  In both stories, the young men find supportive mentors who help open their eyes to life’s possibilities.

Name:  Nicole

Mom’s Cancer

April 18, 2012

Author: Brian Fies

Title: Mom’s Cancer

Genre: Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 2006

Number of Pages: 115

Geographical Setting: New York

Time Period:  2011

Series (If applicable):

Plot Summary: Cancer is never an easy subject to discuss but in this honest graphic novel, Mom’s Cancer discusses one family’s experience with lung and brain cancer. Brian uses his art to be straightforward with his reader about the hardships that him and his family members dealt with after learning about his mother’s cancer.  Written from the words of his journal, Brian turned the text into bold and moving illustrations. His art is bold, reflective and thoughtful. His ability to capture emotion on a page is memorizing as the reader will captivated from image to image.

Subject Headings: Autobiographical Comic Book, Relationships, Graphic Novels, Family, Science Fiction

Appeal: Cancer, Family and Relationships, Memoir, Quick Pace, Thought provoking, Character Driven, Moving, Candid, Honest, Emotional, Powerful, Moving, Well-Developed, Straight-forward, Reflective

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Family and Relationships, Cancer and Graphic Novel

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Mom: 101 Stories Celebrating the Power of Choice for Stay-at-Home and Work-from-Home Moms by Jack Canfield. This non-fiction novel contains 101 stories from mothers who have all made the choice to be a stay at home mother or work from their home all while raising a family. These high-performing women have become powerful mothers who write from the heart about trying to be “perfect” for their children and themselves. This is a great book club book and empower all women who strive to want something better for themselves and their families.

            Stitches by David Small. David awakes from an operation to discover he can no long talk. It isn’t until several years later at the age of 14 that he finds out he had cancer and was not expected to make it through the night. This award-winning child’s author and illustrator recreate his childhood events in a painful, highly anxious and painful story.

The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Lacks. This novel takes a look at an African American southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors.  Henretta became the first “immortal” human to have her cells grown in culture and with the help of her cells, the polio vaccine, secrets of cancer viruses and the atom bomb’s effects were all developed although she has been deceased for more then 60 years. Rebecca Skloot takes a look at her life before and after she became known as HeLa. A well researched novel that will bring numerous topics to be discussed around book club members and family alike.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

What We Keep by Elizabeth Berg. A heartwarming novel about the relationship between both mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. It portrays evolving family dynamics, choices and changes. The novel flips back and forth between two perspectives; 12 year old Ginny who experiences abandonment of her mother along with 47 year old Ginny who is flying to visit her mother who she hasn’t seen in 35 years. Ginny learns how to confront painful choices that occurred in her life as well as surprising truths about the people she thought she knew best. A gripping tale depicting grudges, forgiveness and the importance of having a mother-daughter relationship.

The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause. Zoe’s mom is dying of cancer, her father id distracted and her best friend moved away. She feels utterly alone until she meets Simon, who wants to avenge his own mother’s death which was over 300 years ago. Simon is one of the undead, a vampire, seeking revenge for the gruesome death of his mother three hundred years before.  Does Simon ask Zoe to help him with his chase or does she have to suffer forever? The point of you alternates between Zoe and Simon allowing the reader to draw close to each character. This does have a different spin on romance between humans and vampires showcasing that life is valuable and should be lived or move on to the next stage of their life.

Our Cancer Year by Harvey Pekar. A novel about a man named Paul Giamatti who finds out he has lymphoma and must begin chemotherapy. This graphic novel does a wonderful job discussing the struggles that families go through when dealing with the news. It emphasis’s the energy to survive not just cancer but the treatment as well. It’s a gripping tale that will embrace cancer and the troubles it brings to both its patients and their family members. The tone is soft, encouraging and insightful.

How Starbucks Saved my Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else

June 23, 2010


Author:  Michael Gates Gill

Genre: Memoir, Inspirational

Publication Date:  2007

Number of Pages: 268

Geographical Setting:  New York

Time Period:  present day

Plot Summary: Michael Gates Gill was born into a privileged life. A very privileged life. His family had money, just like everyone else they knew or cared about. Michael went to the best schools, graduated from Yale. In his late fifties he had everything: high-powered career as a marking executive, six-figure salary, big house in a great neighborhood, a wife and four loving children. But it didn’t last. He lost professional footing as his firm became gradually younger, fresher, and more innovative. Eventually he lost his job, then struggled and failed at employing himself as an independent consultant. Michael sought consolation in an affair, a relationship started ‘on totally false assumptions.’ Eventually his girlfriend became pregnant. He told his wife about their relationship after his son was born. Unsurprisingly, his marriage ended in divorce. Karmatically, his girlfriend looses interest and their relationship is limited to raising little Jonathan. Then Michael is diagnosed with a brain tumor.

While sitting in a Starbucks, mulling over his looses with a latte his dwindling savings can hardly afford, a young African American woman asks Michael if he wants a job. Not realizing a Starbucks was holding a job fair in the café, he was drawn in by the company’s generous health insurance. When Crystal calls Mike (the author discarded his former persona) to offer him a job he immediately accepts is hired as a barista.  Here the real story begins. Mike shares the story of his first year working for Starbucks; the people he works with and learns to respect, serving customers good and bad, and the value of work. Though initially a ‘fish out of water’ Mike learns to truly enjoy and appreciate what outsides can only call his ‘misfortune.’

Subject Headings: Starbucks Coffee Company, New York City, Biography,
Advertising executives, Coffee houses, Brain tumor patients, New York Times bestseller, memoir

Appeal Terms: accessible, leaps of faith, fateful, introspective, humbling, philosophical, life crisis, optimistic, relatable characters, honest, challenges stereotypes, appreciative, free-falling, survival story

Three words that describe this book: accessible, honest, modern-day survival story

Similar Works:


The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

Newspaper columnist Corrigan was a happily married mother of two young daughters when she discovered a cancerous lump in her breast. As Corrigan reports on her cancer treatment—the chemo, the surgery, the radiation—she weaves in the story of her family: larger-than-life father, loving mother and brothers, her husband and daughters. Stories lead up to ‘that middle place’, being someone’s child, but also having children of her own. Similarities: cancer survival, contemplation, relationships, coping, honest, inspiring

Doing nothing: a history of loafers, loungers, slackers and bums in America by Tom Lutz

A cultural history of the American attitude toward work cites the pivotal contributions of the Industrial Revolution in the formation of the modern work ethic, evaluating the current divergence between “worker” and “slacker” stereotypes. Similarities: explores work ethic/ social responsibility and values, enlightening, engaging

It’s Not About the Coffee by Howard Behar

Howard Behar, founding president of Starbucks International and president of Starbucks North America, tells of the strategies he used to establish the business into the success it is today. Behar shares the soft skills that helped to construct the company from a regional outlet to a corporation with international reach. Similarities: straightforward, heartfelt, refreshing, success story.


Diary of a Yuppie by Louis Auchincloss

Driven by an insatiable hunger for power, Bob Service, a thirty-two year-old New York lawyer whose morals are tempered by expediency, tramples his associates and cripples his marriage. When Service meets the female version of himself–a “hard-boiled yuppette” he undergoes a “conversion.” Literature, once Service’s passion, seems to redeem him. Similarities: cautionary tale, explores the ethics of in business, love, and friendship, reforming shallow characters

Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos

When elderly Margaret Hughes discovers that she has a malignant brain tumor, she refuses treatment and decides to take a nice young tenant into her huge, lonely Seattle mansion for company. What she gets is Wanda Schultz, a tough-as-nails stage manager who is secretly seeking the man who left her and prone to inexplicable weeping breakdowns. Wanda, ignorant of Margaret’s illness, is intrigued by the museum-like house and its eccentric owner. Similarities: intergenerational relationships, coping with illness, hopeful outlook

Man Walks into a Room by Nicole Krauss

Found wandering in the desert outside of Las Vegas, Samson Greene, a thirty-six-year-old Columbia University English professor, is discovered to have a brain tumor, but when surgery removes the tumor, leaving him with no recollection of his life after the age of twelve, he finds himself struggling to deal with a life, and a wife, he no longer recognizes. Similarities: surprisingly lighthearted, observant, touching, philosophical

Born on a Blue Day: A Memoir

June 23, 2010

June 23, 2010 by rayjani

Author: Daniel Tammet

Title: Born on a Blue Day: A Memoir

Genre: Nonfiction/Biography

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 226

Geographical Setting: United Kingdom

Plot Summary: Tammet writes an inspirational biographic memoir of his struggles with Autistic Savant Syndrome and the unfailing support of his parents. OCD is a symptom of the syndrome and Daniel’s obsessive need for order and routine permeates every aspect of his life. Thinking of numbers has a calming effect on him because he has synesthesia, a rare neurological mixing of the senses that causes him to see numbers as shapes, colors, textures, or motions. He can calculate large numbers in his head as quickly as a calculator can. The process happens “spontaneously” for him. It is interesting to note, however, that he cannot do algebra. Daniel can learn a foreign language within a matter of days and quickly become fluent in it. He reveals the knowledge of his homosexual orientation since the age of eleven, and that it was never a problem because that is just the way he is. His first crush was at the age of sixteen on a new student at school. After a few awkward, but polite advances on Daniel’s part, he was very gently and respectfully turned down by the other teen. Daniel found socializing extremely difficult, which is normal for an autistic. He found that he could communicate easier by writing, since speaking was a struggle for Daniel. Daniel feels emotions, although sometimes it takes him a while to identify the emotion being felt at the time. He did not receive any special help or consideration during his schooling and was able to make the necessary (for himself) compensations. He was quite successful academically. After finishing school he did some volunteer work in Lithuania (language tutoring) and later Daniel met his soul mate, Neil. Lacking the “normal” communication and social interaction skills, Daniel found it difficult to enter the working world. With the love and support of his partner and his parents, Daniel was able to start his own successful web-based business for language tutorials. At the beginning of the book, Daniel writes that his younger brother was recently diagnosed with ASD, and it is Daniel’s hope that this book will inspire him, as well as others with ASD. Daniel acknowledges that the constant involvement, loving support, and closeness of his parents and partner enable him to live a fully independent life.

Subject Headings: Mental Health, Autism, Patients, England, Biography, and Savants (Savant Syndrome).

Appeal Terms: honest, moving, inspirational, extraordinary, fascinating, revealing, educational, encouraging, hopeful, amazing, remarkable, and unique.

Three terms that best describe this book: extraordinary, inspirational, and moving.

Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:

No Excuses: The True Story of a Congenital Amputee Who Became a Champion in Wrestling and in Life By Kyle Maynard is the remarkable and inspiring story of a congenital amputee who overcomes the physical and psychological barriers of his handicap to become an athlete and a motivational/inspirational speaker. He has appeared on the Larry King and Howard Stern shows.

The Day the Voices Stopped: a Schizophrenic’s Journey from Madness to Hope By Ken Steele gives an honest account of his own struggle with schizophrenia over thirty years. This revealing story tells how he became victorious over his illness and was able to build a new life for himself.

Shoot the Damn Dog: A Memoir of Depression by Sally Brampton (an editor for “Elle” magazine in the UK) offers hope and inspiration as she shares her struggles with depression and alcoholism. Her advice is encouraging to other sufferers. Brampton extends her support for those suffering from mental illness, and challenges that part of society which blames those suffering from mental illness for their own conditions.

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

Tilt: Every Family Spins on its Own Axis by Elizabeth Burns tells an intimate, courageous story of a woman’s struggles and expectations for her family. When her daughter is diagnosed with autism, new challenges and issues emerge and her world begins to fall apart. This is a hopeful, painful, and humorous story of redemption.

The Pleasure of My Company: A Novel by Steve Martin portrays Daniel Pecan Cambridge as a mild-mannered person who suffers from a mix of autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder. This witty, poignant account of Daniel’s life and the challenges he faces is tender and inspiring.

Wild Orchid by Beverly A. Brenna is the story of 18 year-old Taylor Jane Simon who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Because she cannot be left on her own, she must spend the summer with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend at a Canadian National Park. Taylor is encouraged to explore the park on her own – a daunting task for someone with no social skills. Brenna tells the heartwarming story of Taylor’s courage and determination to overcome her obstacles.

Fun Home

November 18, 2009

Author:  Alison Bechdel

Title:  Fun Home: a family tragicomic

Genre:  Gay/Lesbian

Publication Date:  2006

Number of Pages:  240

Geographical Setting:  Beech Creek, Pennsylvania

Time Period: 1960 – 1980

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: A non-fiction account of the author’s life that describes growing up living in Beech Creek, Pennsylvania with her closeted homosexual father, a distant mother and two brothers.  The family ran the local funeral parlor part time and her father was also an English teacher at the local high school. Her father is killed in an accident that may or may not have been a suicide. The book talks about what it was like to grow up in a family like this as well as the author’s realization that she, too, is gay.  She also works through her relationship with her father in hindsight as she learns the facts of his life and also in relation to the accident and his death.  The story is told in a graphic novel format.

Subject Headings:  Bechdel, Alison, 1960-Comic books, strips, etc., Father and daughterComic books, strips, etc., Closet gayComic books, strips, etc., Lesbian teenagersComing outComic books, strips, etc., BrothersComic books, strips, etc., English language teachersComic books, strips, etc., Gay menComic books, strips, etc., Undertakers and undertakingComic books, strips, etc., Parent and childComic books, strips, etc., Children of divorced parentsComic books, strips, etc., Funeral homesComic books, strips, etc., Teacher-student relationshipsComic books, strips, etc., DivorceComic books, strips, etc., DeathComic books, strips, etc., Historic preservationComic books, strips, etc., CartoonistsUnited StatesComic books, strips, etc., Autobiographical comic books, strips, etc., Autobiographies (Adult literature) Comic books, strips, etc., Graphic novels (Nonfiction)

Appeal:  Non-fiction, Memoir, Graphic Novel, Graphic, Gay/Lesbian, Intellectual, Literary, Realistic, Frank, Humorous, Ironic, Books, Authors, Past, Childhood, Sad, Fast paced, Emotional, Historical, Award Winner, Accessible, Artistic, Relatable, Discovery, Father/Daughter, Mother/Daughter, Family, Relationships, Coming Out.

Three terms that best describe this book: Intellectual, Literary, Relatable.

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Non-fiction

Loving Ourselves: The Gay and Lesbian Guide to Self-Esteem by Dr. Kimeron Hardin – This book talks about self-esteem and self-worth for those in the gay community.  Written by a licensed clinical psychologist.

The Way Out: The Gay Man’s Guide to Freedom No Matter if You’re in Denial, Closeted, Half In, Half Out, Just Out or Been Around the Block by Chris Nutter – A book to help men deal with their homosexuality and to be a more authentic person living a true and authentic life.

The Other Side of the Closet: The Coming-Out Crisis for Straight Spouses and Families, Revised and Expanded Edition by Amity Pierce Buxton – Insights and coping strategies for straight spouses and their families to cope with a homosexual partner and parent.

3 Fiction

My Heartbeat by Garret Freyman-Weyr – The story of a young girl, Ellen, who has a crush on her brother’s best friend, James.  When some kids at school ask her if her brother and his friend are in love, she doesn’t understand, but wants to find out what was meant.  When she asks her brother, Link about this, he refuses to discuss it.  James and Link have a falling out because of the secrets they share and Ellen, who loves them both, tries to help them repair their friendship and learn and understand the truth.

Lessons by Kim Pritekel – A girl goes off to college more so to escape her controlling parents than to choose a course of study.  She doesn’t really know herself yet. She finds friendship and maybe love with her Psych 101 TA who used to be her childhood babysitter.

David Inside Out by Lee Bantle – The story of David whose friend comes out to him but he doesn’t want to seem “gay by association” even though he has the same feelings.  The coming of age story of a boy trying to deal with his homosexuality.

Name:  Chris S.