Reading Across Genres: Memoirs & Autobiographies

Memoirs and autobiographies give readers an opportunity for discovery, the writer’s narrative leading us on a journey into their lived experience. We weave ourselves into these stories as reader and author, hopefully coming to the end of each creator’s story changed.  

For Black History Month, we have compiled some titles that explore the theme of Seeds of Change:To honor our ancestors and those who have gone before us, and those who have done the work that has enabled the current generation to grow in various, diverse ways to flower.” Through experimenting in genres, we can see these “seeds of change,” especially when engaging in a memoir, which often incorporates one’s proudest and challenging moments.  

The stories shared below represent many different lives in hopes we can continue to grow, build communities through sharing our stories and to wonder what stories we are missing.  

Angela Davis: An Autobiography

First published and edited by Toni Morrison in 1974, An Autobiography is a powerful and commanding account of Davis’s early years in struggle. Davis describes her journey from a childhood on Dynamite Hill in Birmingham to one of the most significant political trials of the century. 

This title is also available for checkout as an eBook and eAudiobook on Hoopla.

Black Boy Smile: A Memoir in Moments

In this memoir, author and prolific Watkins delves into his boyhood through a series of personal stories that illustrate how Black boys are all too often forced into a facade of manhood as a method of self-preservation and protection.  

A Coastline Is an Immeasurable Thing: A Memoir Across Three Continents

A memoir that ventures through the physical and mythical landscapes of Daniel’s upbringing. Against the backdrop of a migratory adolescence, the author reckons with race, religious conflict, culture clash and a multiplicity of possible identities while living in West Africa, England and eventually California.

Fruit Punch: A Memoir

Allen touches on everything from questions of beauty and how we form concepts of ourselves to what it meant to grow up in her great uncle’s Southern Baptist church with rules invoking a strict and “no questions asked” code of conduct.   

I Have Always Been Me: A Memoir

A powerful memoir of independence, releasing the past, and living the dream by award-winning trans advocate Precious Brady-Davis. Born into traumatic circumstances, Davis was brought up in the Omaha foster care system and the Pentecostal faith. Yet she eventually realized by coming into her identity that she had a purpose all along. 

Scenes From My Life: A Memoir

When Michael K. Williams died on September 6, 2021, he left behind a career as one of the most electrifying actors of his generation. Beyond the nominations and acclaim, Williams played characters who connected, whose humanity couldn’t be denied, and whose stories were too often left out of the main narrative.

Published posthumously, this memoir depicts actor Michael K. Williams’ rise from poverty, abuse, and addiction to become an Emmy-nominated actor. 

This title is also available for checkout as an eBook and eAudiobook on OverDrive/Libby. 

School Clothes: A Collective Memoir of Black Student Witness

Through firsthand accounts from the 19th and 20th centuries, Givens offers a powerful counter-narrative to challenge dated and prejudiced storylines. He details the educational lives of writers and icons, such as Zora Neale Hurston and Malcolm X, as well as Black students whose names are largely unknown but who left their marks nonetheless. 

Token Black Girl: A Memoir

Racial identity and delusions of perfection collide in a memoir by fashion and beauty insider Danielle Prescod. While growing up Black in an elite and overwhelmingly white community, the author took her cue from the world around her. Her experience included harmful chemical hair treatments in elementary school, depriving herself of food during puberty, and impeccable fashion choices. 

Unprotected: A Memoir

The performer tells his life story of a singular artist and survivor in his own words. It is the story of a boy whose talent and courage opened doors for him, but only a crack. It is the story of a teenager discovering himself, learning his voice and his craft amidst deep trauma. Unbreakable determination led Porter through countless hard times to the immense success he has gained today. 

This title is also available for checkout as an eBook and eAudiobook on OverDrive/Libby and an eBook and eAudiobook on Hoopla.

Uphill: A Memoir

An empowering, unabashedly bold memoir by the Atlantic journalist and former ESPN SportsCenter co-anchor about overcoming a legacy of pain and forging a new path, no matter how uphill life’s battles might be. 

This title is also available for checkout as an eBook and eAudiobook on OverDrive/Libby.