"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show." - "David Copperfield" by Charles Dickens
April 2, 2021
Biography and Autobiography
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a Biography is a "form of literature, commonly considered nonfictional, the subject of which is the life of an individual. One of the oldest forms of literary expression, it seeks to re-create in words the life of a human being—as understood from the historical or personal perspective of the author—by drawing upon all available evidence, including that retained in memory as well as written, oral, and pictorial material. An Autobiography is a biography written by the subject about their own life.
This months Genre Quest is Biography or Autobiography. Take a moment to walk in someone else's shoes and experience the journey of their life. Need some suggestions? Try out one of these great titles:
FOR YOUNG CHILDREN
Beatrix Potter, Scientist by Lindsey H. Metcalf
Everyone knows Beatrix Potter as the creator of the Peter Rabbit stories. But before that, she was a girl of science. As a child, Beatrix collected nature specimens; as a young adult, she was an amateur mycologist presenting her research on mushrooms and other fungi to England's foremost experts. Like many women of her time, she remained unacknowledged by the scientific community, but her keen eye for observation led her to an acclaimed career as an artist and storyteller. A beloved author is cast in a new light in this inspiring picture book story.
Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You! by Soni Sotomayor
In this creative story, Sonia and her friends plant a garden, and each one contributes in his or her own special way, in a book that celebrates the many differences among humans. In this warm and inclusive story by U.S. Supreme Justice Sonia Sotomayor, inspired by her own childhood diagnosis of diabetes, readers join along as differently abled kids use their strengths to work together and learn about each other.
FOR MIDDLE GRADES
The Complete Story of Sadako Sasaki and the Thousand Cranes by Sue DiCicco and Sadako's brother, Masahiro Sasaki
In this book, author Sue DiCicco and Sadako's older brother Masahiro tell her complete story in English for the first time--how Sadako's courage throughout her illness inspired family and friends, and how she became a symbol of all people, especially children, who suffer from the impact of war. Her life and her death carry a message: we must have a wholehearted desire for peace and be willing to work together to achieve it. Sadako Sasaki was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on her city of Hiroshima at the end of World War II. Ten years later, just as life was starting to feel almost normal again, this athletic and enthusiastic girl was fighting a war of a different kind. One of many children affected by the bomb, she had contracted leukemia. Patient and determined, Sadako set herself the task of folding 1000 paper cranes in the hope that her wish to be made well again would be granted. Illustrations and personal family photos give a glimpse into Sadako's life and the horrors of war. Proceeds from this book are shared equally between The Sadako Legacy NPO and The Peace Crane Project.
Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued by Peter Sis
Caldecott Honoree and Sibert Medalist Peter Sís honors a man who saved hundreds of children from the Nazis. In 1938, twenty-nine-year-old Nicholas Winton saved the lives of almost 700 children trapped in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia-a story he never told and that remained unknown until an unforgettable TV appearance in the 1980s reunited him with some of the children he saved. Czech-American artist, MacArthur Fellow, and Andersen Award winner Peter Sís dramatizes Winton's story in this distinctive and deeply personal picture book. He intertwines Nicky's efforts with the story of one of the children he saved-a young girl named Vera, whose family enlisted Nicky's aid when the Germans occupied their country. As the war passes and Vera grows up, she must find balance in her dual identities-one her birthright, the other her choice. Nicky & Vera is a masterful tribute to a humble man's courageous efforts to protect Europe's most vulnerable, and a timely portrayal of the hopes and fears of those forced to leave their homes and create new life.
Apple Skin to the Core: A Memoir in Words and Pictures by Eric Gansworth
The term "Apple" is a slur in Native communities across the country. It's for someone supposedly "red on the outside, white on the inside." Eric Gansworth is telling his story in Apple (Skin to the Core). The story of his family, of Onondaga among Tuscaroras, of Native folks everywhere. From the horrible legacy of the government boarding schools, to a boy watching his siblings leave and return and leave again, to a young man fighting to be an artist who balances multiple worlds. Eric shatters that slur and reclaims it in verse and prose and imagery
that truly lives up to the word heartbreaking.
Racers: How an Outcast Driver, an American Heiress, and a Legendary Car Challenged Hitler's Best by Neal Bascomb
In the years before World War II, Adolf Hitler wanted to prove the greatness of the Third Reich in everything from track and field to motorsports. The Nazis poured money into the development of new race cars, and Mercedes-Benz came out with a stable of supercharged automobiles called Silver Arrows. Their drivers dominated the sensational world of European Grand Prix racing and saluted Hitler on their many returns home with victory. As the Third Reich stripped Jews of their rights and began their march toward war, one driver, René Dreyfus, a 32-year-old Frenchman of Jewish heritage who had enjoyed some early successes on the racing circuit, was barred from driving on any German or Italian race teams, which fielded the best in class, due to the rise of Hitler and Benito Mussolini.In 1937, Lucy Schell, an American heiress and top Monte Carlo Rally driver, needed a racer for a new team she was creating to take on Germany's Silver Arrows. Sensing untapped potential in Dreyfus, she funded the development of a nimble tiger of a new car built by a little-known French manufacturer called Delahaye. As the nations of Europe marched ever closer to war, Schell and Dreyfus faced down Hitler's top drivers, and the world held its breath in anticipation, waiting to see who would triumph.
Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad
An Emmy Award-winning writer and activist describes the harrowing years she spent in early adulthood fighting leukemia and how she learned to live again while forging connections with other survivors of profound illness and suffering.
Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark
With a wealth of never-before-accessed materials--including unpublished letters and manuscripts; court, police, and psychiatric records; and new interviews--Heather Clark brings to life the brilliant daughter of Wellesley, Massachusetts who had poetic ambition from a very young age and was an accomplished, published writer of poems and stories even before she became a star English student at Smith College in the early 1950s.
Sanctuary: A Memoir by Emily Rapp Black
Congratulations on the resurrection of your life," a colleague wrote to Emily Rapp Black when she announced the birth of her second child. The line made Emily pause. Her first child, a boy named Ronan, had died before he turned three years old from Tay-Sachs disease, an experience she wrote about in her first book, The Still Point of the Turning World. Since that time her life had changed utterly: She had left the marriage that fractured under the terrible weight of her son's illness, remarried a man who is the love of her life, had a flourishing career, and given birth to a healthy baby girl. But she rejected the idea that she was leaving her old life behind--that she had, in the manner of the mythical phoenix, risen from the ashes and been reborn into a new story, when she carried so much of her old story with her. More to the point, she wanted to carry it with her. Everyone she met told her she was resilient, strong, courageous in ways they didn't think they could be. But what did these words mean, really? This book is an attempt to unpack the various notions of resilience that we carry as a culture. Drawing on contemporary psychology, neurology, etymology, literature, art, and self-help, Emily Rapp Black shows how we need a more complex understanding of this concept when applied to stories of loss and healing. Interwoven with lyrical, unforgettable personal vignettes from her life as a mother, wife, daughter, friend, and teacher, Rapp Black creates a stunning tapestry that is full of wisdom and insight.
Mozart: The Reign of Love by Jan Swafford
At the earliest ages it was apparent that Wolfgang Mozart's singular imagination was at work in every direction. He hated to be bored and hated to be idle, and through his life he responded to these threats with a repertoire of antidotes mental and physical. Whether in his rabidly obscene mode or not, Mozart was always hilarious. He went at every piece of his life, and perhaps most notably his social life, with tremendous gusto. His circle of friends and patrons was wide, encompassing anyone who appealed to his boundless appetites for music and all things pleasurable and fun. Mozart was known to be an inexplicable force of nature who could rise from a luminous improvisation at the keyboard to a leap over the furniture. He was forever drumming on things, tapping his feet, jabbering away, but who could grasp your hand and look at you with a profound, searching, and melancholy look in his blue eyes. Even in company there was often an air about Mozart of being not quite there. It was as if he lived onstage and off simultaneously, a character in life's tragicomedy but also outside of it watching, studying, gathering material for the fabric of his art. Like Jan Swafford's biographies Beethoven and Johannes Brahms, Mozart is the complete exhumation of a genius in his life and ours: a man who would enrich the world with his talent for centuries to come and who would immeasurably shape classical music. As Swafford reveals, it's nearly impossible to understand classical music's origins and indeed its evolutions, as well as the Baroque period, without studying the man himself.
All the Young Men: A Memoir of Love, AIDS, and Chosen Family in the American South by Ruth Coker Burks & Kevin Carr O'Leary
In 1986, twenty-six-year-old Ruth visits a friend at the hospital when she notices a door to one of the rooms is painted red. Nurses are drawing straws to see who will tend to the patient crying for his mother on the other side, all of them unwilling to help. Ruth immediately steps into the quarantined space herself, comforting the young man in his last moments. Before she realizes what she's done, word spreads in the community that Ruth is the only person willing to help these young men afflicted by AIDS, and is called upon to nurse them. Shuttling from patient to patient, Ruth forges deep friendships with the men she helps: Paul and Billy, Angel, Chip, Todd and Douglas, working tirelessly to find them housing and jobs, and burying their ashes in her own family's cemetery. She teaches sex-ed to drag queens after hours at secret bars and defies local pastors and nurses to help the men she cares for, ultimately advising then-Governor Bill Clinton on the national HIV-AIDS crisis and becoming a beacon of hope to an otherwise spurned group of ailing gay men on the fringes of an intensely conservative state. This moving and elegiac memoir honors the extraordinary life of Ruth Coker Burks and the beloved men with AIDS who fought valiantly for their lives during a most hostile and misinformed time in America.
The Power of Adrienne Rich by Hilary Holladay
Adrienne Rich was the female face of American poetry for decades. Her forceful, uncompromising writing has more than stood the test of time, and the life of the woman behind the words is equally impressive. Motivated by personal revelations, Rich transformed herself from a traditional, Radcliffe-educated lyric poet and married mother of three sons into a path-breaking lesbian-feminist author of prose as well as poetry. In doing so, she emerged as both architect and exemplar of the modern feminist movement, breaking ranks to denounce the male-dominated literary establishment and paving the way for the many queer women of letters to take their places in the cultural mainstream. Drawing on a wealth of unpublished materials, including Rich's correspondence and in-depth interviews with numerous people who knew her, Hilary Holladay digs deep into never-before-accessed sources to portray Rich in full dimension and vivid, human detail.
Just As I Am: A Memoir by Cicely Tyson
The Academy, Tony, and Emmy Award-winning actor and trailblazer tells her stunning story, looking back at her life and six-decade career. Tyson has been blessed to grace the stage and screen for six decades. She has been the church girl who once rarely spoke a word; the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn for which this book is named. A daughter and mother, a sister, and a friend, she is also an observer of human nature and the dreamer of audacious dreams. Here, in her ninth decade, Tyson is a woman who has something meaningful to say.