Biography & Memoir

Cub

Seventh grader, Cindy Copeland does not fit in with the other kids in her class. Several kids bully her because her clothes are old fashioned and unlike the other kids, she loves school! Cindy’s favorite thing to do is writing, so when her teacher offers to pair her with a local newspaper journalist, she jumps at the chance to become a cub reporter! As Cindy experiences life as a young reporter, she makes new friends and learns that she is in charge of writing her own story!

Cub is a graphic novel memoir, telling the true story of author Cynthia Copeland’s as she discovered how to be herself and own her story. I loved seeing Cindy’s writing grow as she gained new experiences and seeing the elements of life in the early-mid 1970s! While so many elements are different (fashion, slang, etc), there are other things that remain similar to our life today (struggles growing up, making friends, and dealing with bullies).

While I was Away

When 12 year-old Waka's parents think she needs to brush up on her Japanese, they send her to Japan to live with her Obaasama, her grandmother, who lives in Tokyo. Five long months in a Japanese only school, giving up her summer vacation and her best friends back home in Kansas! In addition to dealing with the pressure of reading and writing in only Japanese, and making friends at school as a gaijin, an "outsider," Waka also learns how to connect with her complicated and distant grandmother.

A memoir of her time in a Japanese school, Waka T. Brown's story of growing up in two worlds and sometimes feeling like an outsider in both, is a compelling glimpse into life in Japan in the 80s. I loved learning right along with Waka, and her insights in how the past can sometimes haunt those we love, and knowing that can help us know them better.

Reviewed by Senior Information Assistant, Claire C.

Real Friends

Shannon had long believed the advice of her mother, “One good friend. My Mom says that's all anyone really needs.” But when her one friend, Adrienne, starts spending more time with the new, popular girl and her “friend group,” Shannon is left confused about where she fits in.

What’s even more challenging, one of the girls in the group is a bully! How can Shannon navigate the complex social order of middle school? Real Friends is a relatable fast paced graphic novel based on the experiences of award winning author, Shannon Hale. Recommended for readers 8-12.

Staff Picks: What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? by Chris Barton

Reviewed by Alejandria G. 

It’s impossible not to feel inspired while reading this gorgeous, well-written nonfiction picture book about the life of Texas congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

From a young age, Barbara Jordan had a remarkable voice. Her voice demanded attention and projected confidence beyond her years. As the author ponders, “What do you do with a voice like that?”. And so began the journey of Barbara Jordan from child to college student. From lawyer to Congresswoman. Jordan spent her career speaking up for those who had less power and protected the rights of those who were discriminated against. Chris Barton’s wonderful words remind us to honor Jordan’s legacy by making our own voices heard.

Ekua Holmes honors Barbara’s life with gorgeous mixed media illustrations. Bold colors and patterns fill the pages and add dimension to the story.

Reading with Patrick

Everyone has heard about the talented, super-smart teachers who work for the Teach for America program. But why do many of these new teachers only stay for a year or two and then move on?

In Reading with Patrick, compelling and emotionally resonant memoir, Michelle Kuo, a Harvard-educated Asian American, relates her two years teaching in poverty-torn Helena, Arkansas, a delta town close to the Mississippi state line that has lost nearly all of its industry. Kuo also describes her parents’ great expectations for her career, and their deep disappointment when she takes a low-paying position in education.

Bleaker House: Chasing My Novel to the End of the World

Say you've just finished your graduate degree in writing from Boston College, and a rich donor provides you with funds to travel anywhere in the world. Where do you pick? Tahiti, Paris, Buenos Aires? For British citizen Nell Stevens, it's none of the above. Instead, she chooses the remote Falklands Islands, where South America meets Antarctica—in June, which is winter there.

In Stanley, the Falklands' capital, Nell researches the archives for her first novel, and also meets some of the less-than-friendly Falklanders there. After a few weeks, Nell hops a plane for even more remote Bleaker Island, about which a writer friend quips, “Oh, you’re writing Bleaker House.”

Between Them: Remembering My Parents

It's a life-changing experience in adulthood when you begin to see your mother and father as individuals, separate from their parenting roles.

Richard Ford wrote a memoir of his father decades ago, as well as one of his mother, penned more recently. Now, in this joint memoir, he again remembers his parents, Parker and Edna, who both grew up in Arkansas.

Hillbilly Elegy

Many in the media and politics keep trying to figure out why our new President attracts so many Rust Belt and Appalachian voters. This memoir of a young man’s coming of age in both regions may offer some insight.

At only thirty-one, J.D. Vance admits he's way too young to have penned a memoir. He hasn’t done anything extraordinary (though he did graduate from Yale Law School, a major accomplishment for a kid from a single-parent home in a working-class town in Ohio, where many did not finish high school).

Vance writes most vividly of Jackson, his dirt-poor but beautiful ancestral home in the mountains of eastern Kentucky. He also describes his people: a great-grandmother who once killed someone, and his own Mamaw who often threatens to do the same to her husband when he comes home drunk. In fact, J.D. relates, one night he saves his Pawpaw after Mamaw poured gasoline over him and lights a match.

Who Run the World? Girls: Picture Book Biographies on Noteworthy Women

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