Women’s Voices: Great Audiobooks Read by Their Authors

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Like many other Eleventh Stack writers, I’m a sucker for a good audiobook.

Those of us who spend lots of time commuting or on long walks, or who enjoy listening to books while we’re engaged with chores or stationary hobbies can attest that getting lost in an audiobook is easy to do, but it’s a real bummer when you don’t vibe with the narrator. Sometimes the voice gets on your nerves, sometimes you don’t feel like the tone of the narrator matches up with who you imagine characters to be, and sometimes you don’t really know what’s bothering you about it, but a voice just rubs you the wrong way.

One (almost) sure-fire way I’ve found around this problem is in listening to memoirs. Typically, the writer of the memoir is also the audiobook reader, which lends a-whole-nother level of authenticity to the listening/reading experience. When you do it this way, you get to hear the author’s own story in their own words, and in their own voice. I love it!

Here are a few highly listenable audiobook memoirs by a variety of interesting women, read by the authors themselves; if you have other recommendations, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Muslim Girl – A Coming of Age Story by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh —  In this memoir, the 23-year-old founder of MuslimGirl.com chronicles her struggle growing up in post-9/11 America. Al-Khatahtbeh pulls no punches in describing the ways that Islamophobia and misogyny have impacted (and continue to impact) her life and the lives of other Muslim women of all ages and races. If I had one bone to pick with this book, it’s that I wished it was longer and more developed. I would love to hear even more detail about the inspiration, founding and inner-workings of the online space she created for Muslim women like herself. Luckily, I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ve heard from Al-Khatahtbeh.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou — The day I realized I could listen to this modern classic as read by the author, I was ecstatic. If you haven’t read I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings in a long time (or ever!), do yourself a favor and spend some time listening to Angelou read it to you in her one-of-a-kind voice. This has me wondering which other well-known works I can revisit in audio format.

Spinster – Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick — In Spinster, Bolick examines her own thoughts and feelings on relationships and singledom, and the way that several of her literary heroes approached the question of when (and whether) to marry. This is a treat for people interested in explorations of gender, feminism and relationships, or those interested in early American women’s literature. For those (like me) who are interested in both, this is a don’t-miss-it book.

Girl Walks Into A Bar… by Rachel Dratch — For fans of Bossypants, Yes Please or Why Not Me?, here’s a lesser-known but not less-enjoyable comedian memoir.  Dratch’s memoir distinguishes itself from these other titles by being more of a strict memoir — chronicling not only her (sometimes fledgling) comedy career, but also her unlikely path to late-in-life motherhood.

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock — I recommend this book over and over again, and I don’t plan to stop any time soon (well, maybe when Mock’s new book comes out this summer). Mock takes readers on an intimate journey of her life growing up as a young transgender girl in Hawaii, discussing the ways gender identity, race, family dynamics and poverty intersected to inform her identity and approach to life.

Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession by Julie Powell — Many people who read Cleaving, the follow up to Powell’s Julie and Julia, lament that Julie is so unlikable, but for me, that’s kind of the point. She’s embarrassingly honest (sometimes to the point of making herself look bad) about her marital difficulties, many of which coincided with her decision to take an apprenticeship at a upstate New York butcher’s shop.  To me, it’s a warts-and-all story of a women trying to figure out who she is.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes — I’m guessing that most Shondaland fans already checked this book out, but if you haven’t yet, I say opt for the audio version. In addition to a great story about what happens when Rhimes opens herself up to a year of new opportunities and possibilities by refusing to say “no,” the audiobook includes original audio from several speeches Rhimes has given at commencement addresses and awards ceremonies. These were an especial delight to listen to, because she wrote extensively about how she had no idea what she was going to say, but when you hear the actual audio, you can’t tell at all. This is a definite feel-good book that will make you want to re-watch every season of Scandal when you’re done with it.

Happy Listening!

-Ginny

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Ginny is a baker of treats, reader of fiction and Coordinator of Volunteer Services based out of the Office of Programs and Partnerships at CLP – East Liberty. She wants to pet your dog.