True story: it's already mid-fall. To celebrate the season of back to school and ch-ch-changes (hi, leaves turning) we're recommending our favorite new non-fiction picks. Fall into one of these...
Gift them Samantha Power’s new memoir, “The Education of an Idealist.” As a former war correspondent, Power is no stranger to international affairs and foreign policy. Power details her childhood, career path, and her work as a US Ambassador to the UN during the Obama administration. She lets us in on the difficult decisions of international diplomacy and the Situation Room, while also touching on raising kids and having a personal life. The book answers a singular question: “What can one person do?” Read to find out.
Patti Smith is into numbers too. Her latest memoir, “Year of the Monkey,” pays a lot of attention to the number 70. Smith is considered the “godmother of punk” and critically adored author of “M Train” and the National Book Award-winning “Just Kids.” Her latest memoir is all about the highs and lows of her 70th year. It begins on January 1, 2016, and ends days after Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017. If you weren’t a Patti Smith fan before this, you will be after reading.
Here’s the real truth. Demi Moore’s “Inside Out,” is the yes, inside story of the actress’s life. It’s divided into three parts: survival, success, surrender and touches on her childhood, addiction, sexual assault, body image, and trauma. Plus there are poignant reflections on her Hollywood career and life in the public eye.
This will be your guide. Nayeri, who was previously known for her fiction works, “Refuge,” and “A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea,” is giving her own experience of seeking asylum the non-fiction treatment. She beautifully weaves her own story of fleeing from Iran with the true stories of other refugees. It’s a glimpse into the difficulties she faced in Oklahoma—experiencing racism, discrimination, and intimidation. It’s as timely as it gets.
Give them this. Benjamin Moser’s “Sontag” is an exhaustive biography of Susan Sontag—the public intellectual, writer, and cultural icon. It goes deep on her public relationships (hi, Annie Leibovitz) and sexuality, and breaks down some of the writer’s most significant moments: NYC during the AIDS crisis, Vietnam during the war, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and more.
Talk to them about Akilah Hughes. The comedian slash prolific YouTuber and social media evangelist is out with her first memoir. “Obviously,” is a group of essays—mostly funny and often lighthearted about Hughes’s life. It covers her growing up in small-town Kentucky to moving to NYC, experiencing racism, and making it in the comedy world.
Tegan and Sara can relate. The musical sister act (who also happened to be twins), just debuted their first memoir, “High School.” It’s their coming-of-age story told exclusively through their high school years. It’s peak 90s nostalgia and all the markers of a messy adolescence are there: musical obsessions (Nirvana, and Smashing Pumpkins), drugs (acid), friendships that turned to more, and so on. It’s at once a unique story for the sisters, but also a universal one about the pains of growing up.
Say her name: Chanel Miller. Brock Turner was tried and convicted for sexually assaulting Miller at a Stanford fraternity party back in 2015. During the 2016 trial, Miller (then only known as Emily Doe) released an anonymous account of her experience and her writing went viral. Now, for the first time, she’s revealing her name. In “Know My Name,” Miller addresses that night in 2015, the trial, its aftermath, and hones in on what life is like as a survivor in the criminal justice system and in the civil court of opinion in America. It’s a powerful reclamation of selfhood and is as urgent as they come.
We’ve got you covered. Casey Gerald’s, “There Will Be No Miracles Here,” is an atypical rags-to-riches story. You might know Gerald from his 2016 viral Ted Talk, but if not, here’s your Skimm: Gerald grew up in a poor Dallas neighborhood, with a father who was prone to substance abuse issues, and a mother suffering from bipolar disease. He writes descriptively of his relationship with religion, his fractured family life, and later, his rise through Yale, then Harvard Business School, and eventually a job with Lehman Brothers. It’s part memoir, part business success story, and it’s available in paperback.
Anne Boyer’s, “The Undying,” is a must-read. Described by Sally Rooney (of “Normal People” fame) as “startling” and “urgent” this book follows Boyer, who at age 41, was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer (considered a highly aggressive kind). You’ll go into her mind as she grapples with her health crisis and lays out the consequences of the pharmaceutical industry, collective suffering, “pink ribbon culture,” and more.
Say hi to Dan Kois and his family. After living an idyllic suburban Virginia life, Kois, his wife, and pre-teen daughters set out to search for an “existence that made more sense.” Kois charts his family’s year-long travel in “How to Be a Family.” Over the course of the year, they Kois clan spent three months in each place: New Zealand, Costa Rica, Kansas, and the Netherlands, picking up insights along the way. And for anyone who’s ever read “Eat Pray Love,” you know traveling the world and re-assessing your place in it doesn’t come without some major self-reflection.
PS: These are editorially selected, but if you purchase it, theSkimm may get something in return. Thanks.
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Jacqueline Woodson is a prolific writer and National Book Award-winning author. She's talking inspiration, writer's block, and her new book.
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