Copyright 2018 Entertainment Weekly Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
“H is for Hawk” by Helen Macdonald is a rewarding new read about emotional disarray; more favorites for a library of personal survival stories
Posted on February 28, 2015 at 9:50pm EDT
1 of 20
This literary classic chronicles a traumatic childhood fraught with racism, rape, and Angelou’s struggle for self-definition.
2 of 20
Wolff’s young life involves getting knocked around by his mother's violent beaux, trying to run away, and fantasizing about being a star student.
3 of 20
Chang braids together the lives of three fierce women: her grandmother, a concubine; her mother, a loyal Chinese Communist; and herself.
4 of 20
Monette writes of his odyssey from a closeted student to a happy, openly gay man.
5 of 20
Disfigured after cancer required the removal of one-third of her jaw, Grealy recalls the pain of living in a society obsessed with beauty.
6 of 20
Wurtzel recounts her pre-Prozac struggle with crippling depression and suicide attempts (as if adolescence weren’t bad enough).
7 of 20
Pelzer’s account of the vicious abuse and criminal neglect he suffered at his mother’s hands as a child may be the misery-memoir archetype.
8 of 20
Set in small-town 1960s Texas, Karr’s darkly funny childhood memoir stars her extended family as eccentrics.
9 of 20
This tale of an Irish immigrant family living in Brooklyn and Ireland has it all: deaths of young children, lifelong alcoholism, poverty, and typhoid.
10 of 20
In a memoir as informative as it is moving, Knapp intersperses facts about alcoholism through the story of her own 20-year battle.
11 of 20
When 12-year-old Burroughs’ unstable mother sends him to live with her psychiatrist, his life takes a bizarre turn, but his humor remains.
12 of 20
Some of Frey’s memoir was, he later admitted, fabricated. But we’ve included it because what’s more miserable than being publicly shamed?
13 of 20
Part of Operation Peter Pan, where children were airlifted from Cuba to the U.S., Eire is torn between safety and longing for his faraway home.
14 of 20
With parents who sometimes forgot to feed their children, it’s a shock Walls can write about her impoverished, nomadic youth with affection.
15 of 20
One of the greatest writers of our time suffers a terrible tragedy: While her daughter lies in a coma, her husband dies of a heart attack.
16 of 20
Bechdel’s graphic memoir explores ties with her closeted father, who apparently commits suicide shortly after she comes out.
17 of 20
The recipe for a witty, unbelievably resilient Cupcake: Mix drug addiction, prostitution, rape, and homelessness. Add death of a parent and miscarriage.
18 of 20
It’s the 1990s: Sierra Leone is mired in a brutal civil war, and 12-year-old Beah is a brainwashed child soldier who lives through it.
19 of 20
In this graphic memoir, the New Yorker cartoonist helps her elderly parents navigate the aging process while reflecting on their lives.
20 of 20
His tale begins with a genealogy TV show on which he hopes to learn about his grandfather, and ends with revelations about his abusive father.