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While memoirs aren’t my favorite genre of books to read, I do like them and usually if I read one, I want to read a lot more all at once. Well, I finally read Educated by Tara Westover this winter and it was SO GOOD. Seriously, if you haven’t read this yet, how did you get here and go read it. If you did read it and loved it, here are nine more books like Educated that you should also read ASAP.
This has been on my TBR since I went to the Philippines in 2016, way before I read Educated, but it’s moved it’s way higher up that list recently. Jeanette Walls grew up with stubborn, nonconforming parents. It was their curse and their salvation. Rex and Rose Mary, her parents, had four children and lived a nomadic life moving between desert and mountain towns in the southwest.
Rex was charismatic and captured his children’s hearts when he was sober and taught them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. Rose Mary was a painter, writer, and excitement addict who couldn’t stand the responsibility of providing for her family.
When they ran out of money, they moved to a West Virginia mining town and the dysfunction of the family escalated. Jeanette and her siblings had to fend for themselves supporting each other until they found the will and resources to leave home.
Michael Gates Gill was in his fifties and he had it all: a big house in the suburbs, a loving wife, and a top job with a six-figure salary. But, by the time he hit sixty, he lost it all. First, he was downsized at work, then an affair ended his marriage, and finally, he was diagnosed with a slow-growing brain tumor. Around this time, his girlfriend gave birth to a son while he had no money, health insurance, or prospects.
One day when he was enjoying a latte, his last luxury, in a Starbucks, the 28-year-old manager jokingly offered him a job. He had nothing to lose, so he accepted. This was where he found himself as a minority for the first time and he had to face his personal prejudices and admit to himself that his new job was hard.
He was treated with respect and kindness by his coworkers despite their differences and he began to experience gratitude. Working at Starbucks was the beginning of his transformation to becoming a humbler, happier, and gentler man.
At eighteen years old, Carolyn was coerced into a marriage with a man thirty-two years her senior: Merril Jessop, a well respected man in the FLDS church, a radical offshoot of the Mormon Church, settled on the Utah/Arizona border. He already had three wives when they were married. Over the next fifteen years, she had eight children and withstood the watchful eyes of his other wives who were locked in a constant battle for supremacy.
Everything she did was dictated by her husband: where she lived, how her children were treated, the money she earned as a school teacher, and she could only refuse at her peril. She was miserable for years and wanted to leave, but knew if she was caught, her children would be taken away. No woman had successfully escaped with her children, but in 2003, with $20 to her name, she chose freedom and fled her home with her children.
When she was just five years old, Megan Phelps-Roper started protesting homosexuality alongside fellow Westboro Baptist Church members in Topeka, Kansas. Her grandfather and most of her extended family made up the tiny group that soon gained notoriety for it’s pickets at military funerals celebrating death and tragedy.
As the church’s Twitter spokesperson, she became skilled at applying the logic of predestination and language of the King James Bible to her debates, but Twitter dialogue soon had her questioning the church and when she started exchanging messages with a man on there, her life started to change.
I won a copy of this on Goodreads last year and I’m SO excited to read this one.
Jeanette was adopted and brought up as one of God’s elect by her mother. She seemed destined for life as a missionary thanks to being zealous and passionate, but that all changes when she falls in love with one of her converts. At just sixteen, she decides to leave the church, her home, and her family for the young woman she loves.
Patricia Lockwood grew up in Lawrence, Kansas with her strange mother speaking in weird koans and warnings of impending doom, and her father a gun-toting, guitar-riffing, and frequently semi-naked who underwent a religious conversion on a submarine. He discovered a loophole that allowed him to become a priest, even though he was married with a child.
At thirty years old, Patricia is forced to move back in with her parents, husband in tow, thanks to the expense of a medical procedure. She has to learn to live with her parents again and reckon with the dark side of childhood spent in the Catholic Church.
In 1977, Laura Bell left her family home in Kentucky to work herding sheep in Wyoming’s Big Horn Basin. Being a young woman in a man’s world, she is the strangest member of this little community of drunks and eccentrics. This begins her search for a place of belonging and a way to create a family and home of her own.
Over time, she is a cattle rancher, forest ranger, outfitter, masseuse, wife, and mother, all in search of a place to put her roots. This is an insightful and heart-wrenching tale of the western landscape, the sweetness of hard labor, the beauty of finding oneself in isolation, and the redemption of love.
in 2013 Leah Remini loudly and publicly left the Church of Scientology and Troublemaker is the story of what it was like growing up as a member of the church. She was indoctrinated into the church as a child living in New York, but moved to Los Angeles to further her dreams of becoming an actress and advancing Scientology’s causes. Her dreams came true and soon she found herself in a prominent place among celebrity scientologists, like Tom Cruise.
When she began to question some of the church’s actions, she was declared a “Suppressive Person” and a threat to the church. The result of this was her fellow parishioners, including family, being told to disconnect from her forever. This is a memoir of what it’s like growing up in, rising up in, and leaving the Church of Scientology.
This is the story if Myriam’s sexual assault and life growing up as a queer, mixed-race Chicana in Southern California. She faces sexual assault, racism, misogyny, and homophobia with dark humor in a serious way.
Ruth grew up on a farm in rural Mexico with no indoor plumbing or electricity and her forty-one siblings. Authorities turned a blind eye to the activities of their community as practiced polygamy, entering into polygamous marriages and having as many children as possible.
Her father is murdered by his brother in a bid for church power and her mother remarries another faithful congregant, becoming his second wife. Ruth and her siblings are carted back and forth between the US and Mexico because they’re in need of government assistance, so her mother collects welfare and her stepfather works odd jobs.
Ruth begins to love the United States and realizes the community she was born into may not be for her as she starts to doubt her family’s beliefs and question her mother’s choices, she struggles to balance the love for her siblings with her determination for a better life for herself.
Two families get together for a wedding on a mid-August weekend in 1983 on a beach in East Hampton. As the festivities are readied, the father of the bride suffers a massive stroke from alcohol withdrawal and lies in a coma in the hospital in the next town over. This is the beginning of Jeanne McCulloch’s wedding weekend memoir and it’s after effects on her family and the family of the groom.
What was supposed to be a wonderful weekend and honeymoon ended with wedding presents stashed in the attic, arrangements made for a funeral, and a team of lawyers armed with papers for her and her siblings to sign. The events of the weekend ripple through their and their in-law’s family with questions of loyalty, tradition, hope, and loss.
Red-headed Toby grew up as one of only a few hundred haole (caucasian) people on the North Shore of Kauai to hippie surfer parents that just wanted to ride waves, use substances, and hide from society.
This is the story of Toby’s life growing up, catching octopus with her bare hands, selling magic mushrooms to make money, and living off the land in tents with no electricity or communication with thee outside world.
Erin may radiates refined elegance as the face of her couture bridal business but her life growing up was quite the opposite. She was raised on a steady diet of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and death no one would have expected to take the fashion world by storm.
As a child, she often had no access to food but was also force-fed until she vomited, bullied and beaten at school and at home, and was alternately abused and ignored by her parents. By sixteen she was living on her own.
Cherilyn’s family always moved from town to town running from bill collectors becoming more isolated as they went. Their housing situation became worse and soon they were homeless.
She becomes determined to fix their situation but is thwarted by her father’s control. Despite the physical beatings, religious abuse, and abject poverty, Cherilyn just has to figure out how to use her superpowers to set herself free.
Kevin describes life growing up with the impact of alcoholism on his family in New York. We see his traumatic experiences, time in family shelters and foster homes, illustrating the insidiousness of addiction and how it propagates from one generation to the next.
David Crow idolized his dad, a self-taught Cherokee who loved telling his kids about his WWII feats, growing up on the Navajo Reservation. As David grew up, he started to see the other side of his father, the ex-con who lived by his own code of ethics justifying cruelty, violence, lies, and even murder. He intimidates David with beatings and coerces him into doing his criminal bidding.
Through sheer determination, David gets into college and finally finds the courage to refuse his father’s demands. He unknowingly triggered a plot of revenge that will find him in a deadly standoff with his father.
Have you read any of these? Which ones? What did you think of them? Which should I read first?