“Paris was not the place for me or my son. The French could entertain the idea of me because they were not immersed in guilt about a mutual history…” p. 165
Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou.
Bantam, New York, 1977 (originally published 1976).
Adult autobiography, 242 pages.
In a funny coincidence, I gave away Angelou books (not even read yet… but better loved by someone else) and then a month later came across this in the free books. Of course I started reading this one immediately and it was fascinating. I’ve read quite a bit of her poetry before, but never one of her autobiographies. Upon reading this one I realized that they are probably best read chronologically.
This title is the third, and covers the time when she lived in San Francisco after her son was born, worked a wide variety of jobs, spent a few years married to a white man, and eventually found herself with an entertainment career that took her all over the world, but sadly separated her from her son.
“My dad was always curious about humans, how we react in different situations. He asked us hard questions at a young age, and even better, he listened carefully and respectfully when we answered.” p. 39
Yes, My Accent is Real: and Some Other Things I Haven’t Told You by Kunal Nayyar.
Atria Paperback, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, New York, 2015 (my edition 2016).
Personal essays, 245 pages.
At only 34, Nayyar is best known for playing the role of Rajesh, an Indian immigrant and astrophysicist with selective mutism, on the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory.
I have a soft spot for diverse celebrity memoirs, especially if I happen to actually know who the celebrity is. This was one of those guilty pleasure books that you know won’t be very filling but want to read anyway.
The format was unusual – more like short essays punctuated by “A Thought Recorded on an Aeroplane Cocktail Napkin” every so often. They are roughly chronological (although this isn’t an autobiography) and roughly written, so I believe Nayyar wrote this himself (or if not, his ghostwriter owes him a big refund).
My favorite of the nonfiction books I reviewed in 2017.
Yup, I’m not posting this until well into 2018. In 2017 I reviewed 98 books (plus 10 board books) and so many of them were so good. It took me a month just to narrow it down this far… I just love all the books!
Here were our 14 favorite nonfiction books in 2017.
“The onrush of bodies approached in a heaving, panicked mass. Sayed and I went forward to meet them.” p. 209
Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur by Halima Bashir, with Damien Lewis.
One World Trade Paperbacks, Ballantine Books, Random House, New York, 2009.
Adult memoir, 335 pages including extras.
Halima Bashir was an unusually lucky girl from birth, when her white eyelash was a good omen. Combined with hard work, her luck held as she was able to gain an education (unusual for a village girl) and even became a top national scholar, gaining a rare admittance into medical school. Unfortunately, she lived in Darfur and was a witness to the genocide there. This is her story of survival among unspeakable horrors.
This memoir was quite difficult to summarize. Bashir’s life is a true story that reads like a novel. Any small portion of this book could be seen as remarkable, but the fact that it all happened and she stood to tell the tale is a miracle.
“I have had a strange, almost unreal life, now that I try to recollect my history.” p. 15
Dalai Lama, My Son: A Mother’s Story by Diki Tsering, edited and introduced by Khedroob Thonup.
Viking Arkana, Penguin Group, New York, 2000.
Autobiography, 189 pages including glossary.
The autobiography of the Dalai Lama’s mother.
I had no idea what to expect from this book. I’ve read quite a few books by or about the Dalai Lama, so my first assumption was that this was a biography of him, written by his mother. However, it actually is something much more interesting – the autobiography of his mother.
“Trying different foods is a bridge into the many food cultures that make us collectively American.” page 28
Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, illustrated by Man One.
Readers to Eaters, Bellevue, Washington, 2017.
Picture book biography, 30 pages.
Lexile: 710L .
AR Level: 4.0 (worth 0.5 points) .
This is the story of Chef Roy Choi, who’s best known for his Kogi food trucks that combined traditional Korean food with popular street foods like tacos or barbecue in a unique and delicious way.
It’s kind of funny that I found this book through the Diverse KidLit linkup. Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table has been on my wishlist for some time. But honestly, neither of these books would have been on my radar at all without the internet.
“Coretta’s mother, Bernice, believed that education was the key to a better life. She encouraged her children to work hard in school.” page 11
History Maker Bios: Coretta Scott King by Laura Hamilton Waxman, illustrations by Tad Butler.
Originally published by Lerner Publishing Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, my edition Barnes & Noble, New York, 2008.
Biography, 48 pages including extras and index.
Lexile: 720L .
AR Level: 4.5 (worth 1.0 points) .
A biography of Coretta Scott King, best known as the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., although she was a civil rights activist herself as well.
Not long ago, I came across a Barnes and Noble that had all these little History Maker Bios and quite a lot of Sterling Biographies on clearance for a dollar each! I spent a happy hour picking out all the African American ones.