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7 modern memoirs writers should read

It’s difficult to write a successful modern memoir without reading successful modern memoir, and it's triply difficult to sell one. These acclaimed, bestselling works will get you started.

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Men We Reaped

by Jesmyn Ward (2013)

Jesmyn Ward, two-time winner of the National Book Award, writes about grieving the deaths of five young men in five years in this powerful meditation of the costs of living in poverty as a Black man in America.

 

 

Barbarian Days

by William Finnegan (2015)

New Yorker staff writer William Finnegan won the Pulitzer Prize for this homage to surfing culture in the 1960s and his adventures within it.

 

Between the World and Me

by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)

Written as a letter to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ son, this is a powerful portrait both of Coates’ experiences as a Black man as well as the bone-deep history of racism in America.

 

H is for Hawk

by Helen Macdonald (2015)

Helen Macdonald’s acclaimed bestseller manages to be about grief, the environment, family, and an adopted goshawk named Mabel, all in one award-winning volume.

 

Negroland

by Margo Jefferson (2015)

Pulitzer Prize-winning theater and book critic Margo Jefferson turns a critical eye to her own upbringing in this acclaimed memoir, which meditates on race, class, and gender amidst personal stories of growing up with wealthy parents in Chicago’s Negroland, “a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty.”

 

Priestdaddy

by Patricia Lockwood (2017)

Who says this form can’t be funny? Patricia Lockwood’s story of her relationship with her Catholic priest father and her faith is as hilarious as it is poignant, winning the 2018 Thurber Prize for American Humor.

 

Educated

by Tara Westover (2018)

This landmark international bestseller recounts how Westover escaped her survivalist Mormon family and – despite never setting foot in a traditional classroom before going to college – taught herself enough math and grammar to attend Brigham Young University (and, later, Harvard and Cambridge).

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