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FOR THE PERSON WHO PREFERS REAL-LIFE HUMANS TO FICTIONAL ONES

1. Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement by Tarana Burke

Tarana’s debut memoir explores how to piece back together our fractured selves. How to not just bring the ‘me too’ movement back to empathy, but how to empathize with our past selves, with out ‘bad’ selves, and how to begin to love ourselves unabashedly. Healing starts with empowerment, and to Tarana empowerment starts with empathy. This is her story of finding that for herself, and then spreading it to an entire world.

2. We Both Laughed In Pleasure: The Selected Diaries of Lou Sullivan, Edited by Ellis Martin and Zach Ozma

We Both Laughed In Pleasure: The Selected Diaries of Lou Sullivan narrates the inner life of a gay man moving through the shifting social, political, and medical mores of the second half of the 20th century. Sullivan kept comprehensive journals from age 11 until his AIDS-related death at 39. Sensual, lascivious, challenging, quotidian and poetic, the diaries complicate and disrupt normative trans narratives. Entries from twenty-four diaries reveal Sullivan’s self-articulation and the complexity of a fascinating and courageous figure.

3. Tastes Like War: A Memoir by Grace M. Cho

Part food memoir, part sociological investigation, Tastes Like War is a hybrid text about a daughter’s search through intimate and global history for the roots of her mother’s schizophrenia. In her mother’s final years, Grace learned to cook dishes from her parent’s childhood in order to invite the past into the present, and to hold space for her mother’s multiple voices at the table. And through careful listening over these shared meals, Grace discovered not only the things that broke the brilliant, complicated woman who raised her—but also the things that kept her alive.

4. Things I Have Withheld by Kei Miller

In a deeply moving, critical and lyrical collection of interconnected essays, award-winning writer Kei Miller explores the silences in which so many important things are kept. Miller examines the experience of discrimination through this silence and what it means to breach it — “to risk words, to risk truth; and through the body and the histories those bodies inherit” the crimes that haunt them, and how the meanings of our bodies can shift as we move through the world, variously assuming privilege or victimhood.

5. Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson

As Jenny Lawson’s hundreds of thousands of fans know, she suffers from depression. In Broken, she explores her experimental treatment of transcranial magnetic stimulation with brutal honesty. But also with brutal humor. Jenny discusses the frustration of dealing with her insurance company in “An Open Letter to My Insurance Company,” which should be an anthem for anyone who has ever had to call their insurance company to try and get a claim covered. She tackles such timelessly debated questions as “How do dogs know they have penises?” We see how her vacuum cleaner almost set her house on fire, how she was attacked by three bears, business ideas she wants to pitch to Shark Tank, and why she can never go back to the post office. Of course, Jenny’s long-suffering husband Victor—the Ricky to Jenny’s Lucille Ball—is present throughout.

6. Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark by Cassandra Peterson

Yours Cruelly, Elvira is an unforgettably wild memoir. Cassandra doesn’t shy away from revealing exactly who she is and how she overcame seemingly insurmountable odds. Always original and sometimes outrageous, her story is loaded with twists, travails, revelry, and downright shocking experiences. It is the candid, often funny, and sometimes heart-breaking tale of a Midwest farm girl’s long strange trip to become the world’s sexiest, sassiest Halloween icon.

7. Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country by Edward Parnell

In his late thirties, Edward Parnell found himself trapped in the recurring nightmare of a family tragedy. For comfort, he turned to his bookshelves, back to the ghost stories that obsessed him as a boy, and to the writers through the ages who have attempted to confront what comes after death. Ghostland is Parnell’s moving exploration of what has haunted our writers and artists – and what is haunting him. It is a unique and elegiac meditation on grief, memory and longing, and of the redemptive power of stories and nature.

8. The Isolation Artist: Scandal, Deception, and the Last Days of Robert Indiana by Bob Keyes

When reclusive, millionaire artist Robert Indiana died in 2018, he left behind dark rumors and scandal, as well as an estate embroiled in lawsuits and facing accusations of fraud. Here, for the first time, are all the pieces to the bizarre true story of the artist’s final days, the aftermath, the deceptive world that surrounded him, and the inner workings of art as very big business.

9. Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford

Even if you don’t know who Ashley C. Ford is (yet), this is a reckoning worth reading. This is a memoir like a hot cup of tea—a coming of age in turns scalding and acidic, but also, finally, after having been steeped in self-aware honesty, uplifting and whole. Somebody’s Daughter steps into the world of growing up a poor Black girl, exploring how isolating and complex such a childhood can be. As Ashley battles her body and her environment, she provides a poignant coming-of-age recollection that speaks to finding the threads between who you are and what you were born into, and the complicated familial love that often binds them.

  10. My Ancestors Are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting In Extinction by Ron Riekki

In My Ancestors are Reindeer Herders and I am Melting in Extinction, Ron Riekki presents a collection of non-fiction, short stories, and poetry about the Karelian- and Saami-American experience. In true nomadic fashion, his writing takes the reader to Kuusamo, Utah, Berkeley, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Lake Mohave, Yosemite, Karelia, and a hazmat facility where all the animals on site have been forgotten. A mix of Anselm Hollo, Gregory Orr, Eric Torgersen, and Nils-Aslak Valkeap , Riekki’s writing forces the Saami-American voice to be heard, a voice that some might not even realize exists. It does. Furiously.

HOLIDAY 2021 GIFT GUIDE: VICARIOUS BIOGRAPHER
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