Walk a Mile in Someone Else's Shoes in Celebration of the Power of Words

Walk a Mile in Someone Else's Shoes in Celebration of the Power of Words

See the world through someone else's eyes with one of these memoirs or biographies. Experience America as an immigrant, encounter the beginning of an art movement or discover the life of a young boy in an American internment camp during World War II.


Compiled by:
Elizabeth G.
Call Me American: A Memoir

Abdi Nor Iftin
921 Iftan Ift

Abdi Nor Iftin first fell in love with America from afar. As a child, he learned English by listening to American pop artists like Michael Jackson and watching films starring action heroes like Arnold Schwarzenegger. When U.S. marines landed in Mogadishu to take on the warlords, Abdi cheered the arrival of these real Americans, who seemed as heroic as those of the movies. Sporting American clothes and dance moves, he became known around Mogadishu as Abdi American, but when the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab rose to power in 2006, it suddenly became dangerous to celebrate Western culture. Desperate to make a living, Abdi used his language skills to post secret dispatches to NPR and the Internet, which found an audience of worldwide listeners. But as life in Somalia grew more dangerous, Abdi was left with no choice but to flee to Kenya as a refugee. In an amazing stroke of luck, Abdi won entrance to the U.S. in the annual visa lottery, though his route to America was filled with twists and turns and a harrowing sequence of events that nearly stranded him in Nairobi. Now a proud resident of Maine and on the path to citizenship, Abdi Nor Iftin's dramatic, deeply stirring memoir is truly a story for our time: a vivid reminder of why western democracies still beckon to those looking to make a better life.


The Day That Went Missing: A Family's Story

Richard Beard
155.937 Bea

Life changes in an instant. On a family summer holiday in Cornwall in 1978, Richard and his younger brother Nicholas are jumping in the waves. Suddenly, Nicholas is out of his depth. One moment he's there, the next he's gone. Richard and his other brothers don't attend the funeral, and incredibly the family returns immediately to the same cottage - to complete the holiday, to carry on, in the best British tradition. They soon stop speaking of the catastrophe. Their epic act of collective denial writes Nicky out of the family memory. Nearly forty years later, Richard, an acclaimed novelist, is haunted by the missing piece of his childhood, the unexpressed and unacknowledged grief at his core. He doesn't even know the date of his brother's death or the name of the beach where the tragedy occurred. So he sets out on a pain-staking investigation to rebuild Nicky's life, and ultimately to recreate the precise events on the day of the accident. The Day That Went Missing is a transcendent story of guilt and forgiveness, of reckoning with unspeakable loss. But, above all, it is a brother's most tender act of remembrance and a man's brave act of survival.


Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen

Jose Antonio Vargas
070.92 Vargas Var

Jose Antonio Vargas was born in the Philippines. When he was twelve his mother sent him to the United States to live with her parents. While applying for a driver's permit, he found out his papers were fake. More than two decades later he was still in the US illegally, with no clear path to American citizenship. To some people he is the "most famous illegal" in America. In his mind, he is only one of an estimated 11 million human beings whose uncertain fate is under threat in a country they call home. This is not a book about the politics of immigration. This book is about homelessness, not in a traditional sense, but about the unsettled, unmoored psychological state in which undocumented immigrants find themselves. This book is about being forced to lie to get by; about passing as an American and as a contributing citizen; about families, keeping them together, and having to create new ones when you can't. This book is about what it means to not have a home.


Heart Berries: A Memoir

Terese Marie Mailhot
921 Mailhot Mai

Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir of a woman's coming of age on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest. Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The triumphant result is Heart Berries, a memorial for Mailhot's mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father-an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist-who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame. Mailhot trusts the reader to understand that memory isn't exact, but melded to imagination, pain, and what we can bring ourselves to accept. Her unique and at times unsettling voice graphically illustrates her mental state. As she writes, she discovers her own true voice, seizes control of her story, and, in so doing, reestablishes her connection to her family, to her people, and to her place in the world.


Heavy: An American Memoir

Kiese Laymon
800.92 Laymon Lay

In this powerful and provocative memoir, Kiese Laymon fearlessly explores what the weight of a lifetime of secrets, lies, and deception does to a black body, a black family, and a nation teetering on the brink of moral collapse. Laymon invites us to consider the consequences of living in a country wholly obsessed with progress yet wholly disinterested in the messy work of reckoning with where we've been. In Heavy, Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about growing up a hard-headed black son to a complicated and brilliant black mother in Jackson, Mississippi. From his early experiences of sexual violence, to his suspension from college, to his trek to New York as a young college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his family, weight, sex, gambling, and writing. By attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding, Laymon asks himself, his mother, his nation, and us to confront the terrifying possibility that few of us know how to responsibly love.


Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love

Dani Shapiro
800.92 Shapiro Sha

What makes us who we are? What combination of memory, history, biology, experience, and that ineffable thing called the soul defines us? In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history--the life she had lived--crumbled beneath her. Inheritance is a book about secrets--secrets within families, kept out of shame or self-protectiveness; secrets we keep from one another in the name of love. It is the story of a woman's urgent quest to unlock the story of her own identity, a story that has been scrupulously hidden from her for more than fifty years, years she had spent writing brilliantly, and compulsively, on themes of identity and family history. It is a book about the extraordinary moment we live in--a moment in which science and technology have outpaced not only medical ethics but also the capacities of the human heart to contend with the consequences of what we discover.


Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art

Mary Gabriel
700.411 Gab

Set amid the most turbulent social and political period of modern times, Ninth Street Women is the impassioned, wild, sometimes tragic, always exhilarating chronicle of five women who dared to enter the male-dominated world of twentieth-century abstract painting. Gutsy and indomitable, Lee Krasner was a hell-raising leader among artists long before she married Jackson Pollock. Elaine de Kooning used her work and words to build a bridge between the avant-garde and a public that scorned abstract art as a hoax. Grace Hartigan fearlessly abandoned life as a New Jersey housewife and mother to achieve stardom as one of the boldest painters of her generation. Joan Mitchell escaped a privileged but emotionally damaging Chicago childhood to translate her fierce vision into magnificent canvases. And Helen Frankenthaler, the beautiful daughter of a prominent New York family, chose the difficult path of the creative life. At twenty-three she created a work so original it launched a new school of painting. These women changed American art and society, tearing up the prevailing social code and replacing it with a doctrine of liberation.


Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over

Nell Painter
700.92 Painter Pai

Following her retirement from Princeton University, celebrated historian Dr. Nell Irvin Painter surprised everyone in her life by returning to school--in her sixties--to earn a BFA and MFA in painting. In Old in Art School, she travels from her beloved Newark to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design; finds meaning in the artists she loves, even as she comes to understand how they may be undervalued; and struggles with the unstable balance between the pursuit of art and the inevitable, sometimes painful demands of a life fully lived. How are women and artists seen and judged by their age, looks, and race? What does it mean when someone says, "You will never be an artist"? Who defines what "An Artist" is and all that goes with such an identity?


Small Fry

Lisa Brennan-Jobs
921 Brennan-Jobs Bre

A frank, smart and captivating memoir by the daughter of Apple founder Steve Jobs. Born on a farm and named in a field by her parents--artist Chrisann Brennan and Steve Jobs--Lisa Brennan-Jobs's childhood unfolded in a rapidly changing Silicon Valley. When she was young, Lisa's father was a mythical figure who was rarely present in her life. As she grew older, her father took an interest in her, ushering her into a new world of mansions, vacations, and private schools. His attention was thrilling, but he could also be cold, critical and unpredictable. When her relationship with her mother grew strained in high school, Lisa decided to move in with her father, hoping he'd become the parent she'd always wanted him to be. Small Fry is Lisa Brennan-Jobs's poignant story of a childhood spent between two imperfect but extraordinary homes. Scrappy, wise, and funny, young Lisa is an unforgettable guide through her parents' fascinating and disparate worlds. Part portrait of a complex family, part love letter to California in the seventies and eighties, Small Fry is an enthralling book by an insightful new literary voice.


They Called Us Enemy

George Takei
GN 791.4392 Takei Tak

A stunning graphic memoir recounting actor/author/activist George Takei's childhood imprisoned within American concentration camps during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon -- and America itself -- in this gripping tale of courage, country, loyalty, and love. George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father's -- and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future. In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten 'relocation centers where they would be held for years under armed guard. They Called Us Enemy is Takei's firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother's hard choices, his father's faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future. What is American? Who gets to decide? When the world is against you, what can one person do?