Spotlight on Memoir: New Biographies

Recently the library has added several new memoirs to its biography collection. Telling a story from the author’s life, rather than the story the author’s life, memoir is a special category of autobiography. Memoir has become an increasingly popular literary nonfiction genre in recent years.

Below, take a look at three memoirs Sewickley Public Library has recently added to its shelves. You may click on the titles to see the books in our online catalog, from which you may place a hold.

, by Kelly Corrigan
Booklist Review

When mother of two Corrigan struggles with cancer, she remembers a mother she never met more than 20 years earlier in 1992 in Australia. Back then, seeking money to enhance the next leg of her round-the-world travels, Corrigan became the nanny for a widower, John, whose family five-year-old Martin and seven-year-old Milly as well as a garage-living stepson and an in-law-apartment-living father-in-law had just lost their matriarch to cancer. Though it’s a true story, Corrigan has changed the names and some of the details to disguise identities. Here, the memories of her work as companion, surrogate mom, and onetime lover to various family members are filtered through Corrigan’s experiences, good and bad, of herself as mother and herself as daughter (her mom’s admonitions and pronouncements, served up in italics, support the young nanny as well as the text, then and now). The flavor of what a youthful, journal-writing Corrigan probably once hoped this book would be a spectacle of travel and awesome experience comes through in the writing but doesn’t disturb this touching, hard-won paean to mothering and parenting, living and losing.–Kinney, Eloise Copyright 2010 Booklist

This book is also available in Adobe EPUB eBook format via OverDrive.

, by Diane Johnson
Booklist Review

The author of shrewd and scintillating novels about Americans abroad, Johnson (L’Affaire, 2003; Lulu in Marrakech, 2008) grew up in Moline, Illinois, A pleasant place, surrounded by cornfields, I had always longed to get out of. And so she did, as she crisply and wittily recounts in this stealthily far-reaching family history. Johnson’s personal story gains resonance in harmony with a remarkable set of memoirs written by her ­great-­great-great grandmother, Anne, born in 1779, and Anne’s daughter, Catharine, a teacher who, after a tortuous nine-year engagement, married a doctor only to endure his depression and long absences and the deaths of all but one of her nine children. Johnson perceives that her skilled and strong foremothers lived daunting yet satisfyingly useful lives. Adeptly structured, incisive, funny, and charming, Johnson’s look back delves into deep questions of history and inheritance, from the impact of America’s many wars on the Midwest to the transforming changes in modern women’s lives to her own adventures as a novelist and screenwriter raising a large, blended family, living overseas, and keenly observing cultural differences, personal quirks, and timeless commonalities.–Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

, by David MacLean
 – Booklist Review

While studying in India on a Fulbright scholarship in 2002, Ohio native MacLean abruptly lost consciousness and came to his senses in a Hyderabad train station minus any memories of his name or reasons for being there. Luckily, a kindly station attendant took pity on the presumably drug-addled foreigner and found him refuge in a well-run mental hospital where he hallucinated his way back to reality as friends and parents were contacted. So begins this riveting, sad, and funny memoir from PEN literary award-winner MacLean, expanded from an essay featured on the radio show, This American Life. Contrary to the station agent’s assumption, however, MacLean’s amnesia was triggered by an allergic reaction to Lariam, a common antimalaria agent that receives a scathing critique here. In addition to short-circuiting his memories, the drug’s aftermath forced MacLean to get reacquainted with his parents, a girlfriend, and his rationale for coming to India in the first place. His work is both a sharply written autobiography and an insightful meditation on how much our memories define our identities.–Hays, Carl Copyright 2010 Booklist

For more memoir suggestions, please visit the Reference Desk at Sewickley Public Library, where a librarian can help you to choose a title of interest.