We Have Always Been Here: A Queer Muslim Memoir


Samra Habib - 2019
    As an Ahmadi Muslim growing up in Pakistan, she faced regular threats from Islamic extremists who believed the small, dynamic sect to be blasphemous. From her parents, she internalized the lesson that revealing her identity could put her in grave danger.When her family came to Canada as refugees, Samra encountered a whole new host of challenges: bullies, racism, the threat of poverty, and an arranged marriage. Backed into a corner, her need for a safe space--in which to grow and nurture her creative, feminist spirit--became dire. The men in her life wanted to police her, the women in her life had only shown her the example of pious obedience, and her body was a problem to be solved.So begins an exploration of faith, art, love, and queer sexuality, a journey that takes her to the far reaches of the globe to uncover a truth that was within her all along. A triumphant memoir of forgiveness and family, both chosen and not, We Have Always Been Here is a rallying cry for anyone who has ever felt out of place and a testament to the power of fearlessly inhabiting one's truest self.

From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way


Jesse ThistleJesse Thistle - 2019
    . . then I might have a chance to live; I might have a chance to be something more than just a struggling crackhead.From the Ashes is a remarkable memoir about hope and resilience, and a revelatory look into the life of a Métis-Cree man who refused to give up.Abandoned by his parents as a toddler, Jesse Thistle briefly found himself in the foster-care system with his two brothers, cut off from all they had known. Eventually the children landed in the home of their paternal grandparents, but their tough-love attitudes meant conflicts became commonplace. And the ghost of Jesse’s drug-addicted father haunted the halls of the house and the memories of every family member. Struggling, Jesse succumbed to a self-destructive cycle of drug and alcohol addiction and petty crime, spending more than a decade on and off the streets, often homeless. One day, he finally realized he would die unless he turned his life around.In this heartwarming and heartbreaking memoir, Jesse Thistle writes honestly and fearlessly about his painful experiences with abuse, uncovering the truth about his parents, and how he found his way back into the circle of his Indigenous culture and family through education.An eloquent exploration of what it means to live in a world surrounded by prejudice and racism and to be cast adrift, From the Ashes is, in the end, about how love and support can help one find happiness despite the odds.

Red Star Tattoo: My Life as a Girl Revolutionary


Sonja Larsen - 2016
    By the age of 16, Sonja joins a cult-like communist organization in Brooklyn--unaware of the dark nature of what awaits her.A small, skinny 8-year-old girl holding a teddy bear stands by the side of a country road with a young man she barely knows. They're hitchhiking from a commune in Quebec to one in California. It is 1973 and somehow the girl's parents think this is a good idea.    Sonja Larsen's is a childhood in which family members come and go and where freedom is both a gift and a burden. Her mother, thrown out of home as a pregnant teenager by her evangelical preacher father, is drawn to the utopian ideals and radical politics of communism. Her aunt Suzie is gripped by schizophrenia, her behaviour so erratic she eventually loses custody of her daughter. And then there is her cousin Dana, shunted back and forth long-distance between her parents--Dana, whose own need to escape leads to tragedy.     Looking for a sense of family, searching to belong, to have your life mean something--this is what all these girls and young women share. As a teenager, Larsen moves to Brooklyn, embedding herself with an organization known publicly as the National Labor Federation and privately as the Communist Party USA Provisional Wing. Over her three years at the organization's national headquarters, Larsen works sixteen-hour day, eager to prove herself. Noticed and encouraged by the Old Man, the organization's charismatic leader, he makes her one of his "special girls," as well as the youngest member of the organization's militia and part of its inner circle. But even as she and her comrades count down the days on the calendar until the dawning of their new American revolution, Larsen's doubts about the cause and the Old Man become increasingly difficult to ignore.     Red Star Tattoo explores the seductions and dangers of extremism, and asks what it takes to survive a childhood scarred by loss, abuse and the sometimes violent struggle for belonging.

Memorial Drive: A Daughter's Memoir


Natasha Trethewey - 2020
    Grieving and still new to adulthood, she confronted the twin pulls of life and death in the aftermath of unimaginable trauma and now explores the way this experience lastingly shaped the artist she became.Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Natasha Trethewey explores this profound experience of pain, loss, and grief as an entry point into understanding the tragic course of her mother’s life and the way her own life has been shaped by a legacy of fierce love and resilience. Moving through her mother’s history in the deeply segregated South and through her own girlhood as a “child of miscegenation” in Mississippi, Trethewey plumbs her sense of dislocation and displacement in the lead-up to the harrowing crime that took place on Memorial Drive in Atlanta in 1985.

Gypsy Boy On The Run


Mikey Walsh - 2011
    He adored his family and the rich and vibrant Romany culture he'd inherited. Eventually though he was forced to make a heartbreaking decision - to stay and keep secrets, or escape and find somewhere to finally belong.But Mikey quickly discovers that life in the outside world isn't all he expected. After learning his father had put a contract out on him and that he was being hunted down by gangs of thugs determined to claim their reward, Mikey realises that life will never be the same again.

The Sound of Gravel


Ruth Wariner - 2016
    Growing up on a farm in rural Mexico, where authorities turned a blind eye to the practices of her community, Ruth lives in a ramshackle house without indoor plumbing or electricity. At church, preachers teach that God will punish the wicked by destroying the world and that women can only ascend to Heaven by entering into polygamous marriages and giving birth to as many children as possible. After Ruth's father—the man who had been the founding prophet of the colony—is brutally murdered by his brother in a bid for church power, her mother remarries, becoming the second wife of another faithful congregant.In need of government assistance and supplemental income, Ruth and her siblings are carted back and forth between Mexico and the United States, where her mother collects welfare and her stepfather works a variety of odd jobs. Ruth comes to love the time she spends in the States, realizing that perhaps the community into which she was born is not the right one for her. As Ruth begins to doubt her family’s beliefs and question her mother’s choices, she struggles to balance her fierce love for her siblings with her determination to forge a better life for herself.Recounted from the innocent and hopeful perspective of a child, The Sound of Gravel is the remarkable true story of a girl fighting for peace and love. This is an intimate, gripping tale of triumph, courage, and resilience.

The Distance Between Us


Reyna Grande - 2012
    “That way,” Mami told the midwife, “no matter where life takes her, she won’t ever forget where she came from.” Then Mago touched my belly button . . . She said that my umbilical cord was like a ribbon that connected me to Mami. She said, “It doesn’t matter that there’s a distance btween us now. That cord is there forever.” When Reyna Grande’s father leaves his wife and three children behind in a village in Mexico to make the dangerous trek across the border to the United States, he promises he will soon return from “El Otro Lado” (The Other Side) with enough money to build them a dream house where they can all live together. His promises become harder to believe as months turn into years. When he summons his wife to join him, Reyna and her siblings are deposited in the already overburdened household of their stern, unsmiling grandmother. The three siblings are forced to look out for themselves; in childish games they find a way to forget the pain of abandonment and learn to solve very adult problems. When their mother at last returns, the reunion sets the stage for a dramatic new chapter in Reyna’s young life: her own journey to “El Otro Lado” to live with the man who has haunted her imagination for years, her long-absent father. In this extraordinary memoir, award-winning writer Reyna Grande vividly brings to life her tumultuous early years, capturing all the confusion and contradictions of childhood, especially one spent torn between two parents and two countries. Elated when she feels the glow of her father’s love and approval, Reyna knows that at any moment he might turn angry or violent. Only in books and music and her rich imaginary life does she find solace, a momentary refuge from a world in which every place feels like “El Otro Lado.” The Distance Between Us captures one girl’s passage from childhood to adolescence and beyond. A funny, heartbreaking, lyrical story, it reminds us that the joys and sorrows of childhood are always with us, invisible to the eye but imprinted on the heart, forever calling out to us of those places we first called home.

The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit


J.J. Lee - 2011
    When he decides to finally make the suit his own, little does he know he is about to embark on a journey into his own past.As JJ moves across the surface of the suit, he reveals the heartbreaking tale of his father, a charismatic but luckless restaurateur whose demons brought tumult upon his family. He also recounts the year he spent as an apprentice tailor at Modernize Tailors, the last of Vancouver's legendary Chinatown tailors, where he learns invaluable lessons about life from his octogenarian master tailor. Woven throughout these two personal strands are entertaining stories from the social history of the man's suit, the surprising battleground where the war between generations has long been fought.With wit, bracing honesty, and great narrative verve, JJ takes us from the French Revolution to the Zoot Suit Riots, from the Japanese Salaryman to Mad Men, from Oscar Wilde in short pants to Marlon Brando in a T-shirt, and from the rareified rooms of Savile Row to a rundown shop in Chinatown. A book that will forever change the way you think about the maxim "the clothes make the man," this is a universal story of love and forgiveness and breaking with the past.From the Hardcover edition.

Gay Like Me: A Father Writes to His Son


Richie Jackson - 2020
    He is ready for college. He is not ready to be a gay man living in America.”When Jackson's 18-year-old son born through surrogacy came out to him, the successful producer, now in his 50s, was compelled to reflect on his experiences and share his wisdom on life for LGBTQ Americans over the past half-century.Gay Like Me is a celebration of gay identity and parenting, and a powerful warning for his son, other gay men and the world. Jackson looks back at his own journey as a gay man coming of age through decades of political and cultural turmoil.Jackson's son lives in a seemingly more liberated America, and Jackson beautifully lays out how far we’ve come since Stonewall -- the increased visibility of gay people in society, the legal right to marry, and the existence of a drug to prevent HIV. But bigotry is on the rise, ignited by a president who has declared war on the gay community and fanned the flames of homophobia. A newly constituted Supreme Court with a conservative tilt is poised to overturn equality laws and set the clock back decades. Being gay is a gift, Jackson writes, but with their gains in jeopardy the gay community must not be complacent.As Ta-Nehisi Coates awakened us to the continued pervasiveness of racism in America in Between the World and Me, Jackson’s rallying cry in Gay Like Me is an eye-opening indictment to straight-lash in America. This book is an intimate, personal exploration of our uncertain times and most troubling questions and profound concerns about issues as fundamental as dignity, equality, and justice.Gay Like Me is a blueprint for our time that bridges the knowledge gap of what it’s like to be gay in America. This is a cultural manifesto that will stand the test of time. Angry, proud, fierce, tender, it is powerful letter of love from a father to a son that holds lasting insight for us all.

Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat


Patricia Williams - 2017
    You want to know what it takes to rise above your circumstances when all the cards are stacked against you? Ask me.Comedian Patricia Williams, who for years went by her street-name "Rabbit," was born and raised in Atlanta’s most troubled neighborhood at the height of the crack epidemic. One of five children, Pat watched as her alcoholic mother struggled to get by on charity, cons and petty crimes. At seven Pat was taught to roll drunks for money. At 12, she was targeted for sex by a man eight years her senior; by 13 she was pregnant. By 15 Pat was a mother of two. Alone at 16, Pat was determined to make a better life for her children. But with no job skills and an eighth-grade education, her options were limited. She learned quickly that hustling and humor were the only tools she had to survive. Rabbit is an unflinching memoir of cinematic scope and unexpected humor that offers a rare glimpse into the harrowing reality of life on America’s margins, resilience, determination, and the transformative power of love.

I've Been Meaning to Tell You: A Letter to My Daughter


David Chariandy - 2018
    A decade later, in a newly heated era of both struggle and divisions, he writes a letter to his now thirteen-year-old daughter. David is the son of Black and South Asian migrants from Trinidad, and he draws upon his personal and ancestral past, including the legacies of slavery, indenture, and immigration, as well as the experiences of growing up a visible minority within the land of one's birth. In sharing with his daughter his own story, he hopes to help cultivate within her a sense of identity and responsibility that balances the painful truths of the past and present with hopeful possibilities for the future.

Inside The Kingdom: My Life In Saudi Arabia


Carmen Bin Ladin - 2004
    On September 11th, 2001, Carmen bin Ladin heard the news that the Twin Towers had been struck. She instinctively knew that her ex-brother-in-law was involved in these horrifying acts of terrorism, and her heart went out to America. She also knew that her life and the lives of her family would never be the same again. Carmen bin Ladin, half Swiss and half Persian, married into-and later divorced from-the bin Laden family and found herself inside a complex and vast clan, part of a society that she neither knew nor understood. Her story takes us inside the bin Laden family and one of the most powerful, secretive, and repressed kingdoms in the world.

They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School


Bev Sellars - 2013
    In addition, beginning at the age of five, Sellars was isolated for two years at Coqualeetza Indian Tuberculosis Hospital in Sardis, British Columbia, nearly six hours' drive from home. The trauma of these experiences has reverberated throughout her life.The first full-length memoir to be published out of St. Joseph's Mission at Williams Lake, BC, Sellars tells of three generations of women who attended the school, interweaving the personal histories of her grandmother and her mother with her own. She tells of hunger, forced labour, and physical beatings, often with a leather strap, and also of the demand for conformity in a culturally alien institution where children were confined and denigrated for failure to be White and Roman Catholic.Like Native children forced by law to attend schools across Canada and the United States, Sellars and other students of St. Joseph's Mission were allowed home only for two months in the summer and for two weeks at Christmas. The rest of the year they lived, worked, and studied at the school. St. Joseph's Mission is the site of the controversial and well-publicized sex-related offences of Bishop Hubert O'Connor, which took place during Sellars's student days, between 1962 and 1967, when O'Connor was the school principal. After the school's closure, those who had been forced to attend came from surrounding reserves and smashed windows, tore doors and cabinets from the wall, and broke anything that could be broken. Overnight their anger turned a site of shameful memory into a pile of rubble.In this frank and poignant memoir, Sellars breaks her silence about the institution's lasting effects, and eloquently articulates her own path to healing.

Ordinary Girls


Jaquira Díaz - 2019
    While growing up in housing projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach, Jaquira Díaz found herself caught between extremes: as her family split apart and her mother battled schizophrenia, she was surrounded by the love of her friends; as she longed for a family and home, she found instead a life upended by violence. From her own struggles with depression and sexual assault to Puerto Rico’s history of colonialism, every page of Ordinary Girls vibrates with music and lyricism. Díaz triumphantly maps a way out of despair toward love and hope to become her version of the girl she always wanted to be.With a story reminiscent of Tara Westover’s Educated, Roxane Gay’s Hunger, and Terese Marie Mailhot’s Heart Berries, Jaquira Díaz delivers a memoir that reads as electrically as a novel.

Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea


Sungju Lee - 2016
    To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his “brothers”; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.