Nonfiction November: Be the Expert

Nonfiction November 2013Leslie from Regular Rumination and Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness (two bloggers I love!) are co-hosting a really cool nonfiction project this month. Each week in November, participants will write posts on a given topic. I didn’t get a chance to write one last week, but this week’s topic is Be the Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert:

Share a list of nonfiction books on a topic you know a lot about. Or, ask some advice for books on a particular topic. Or, put together a list of books on a topic you’re curious about.

I love memoirs and I looooove reading about other cultures, I decided to go the “Be the Expert” route and share some great memoirs (or memoirish writings) written by people of color. Here are five excellent memoirs listed in alphabetical order (the links lead back to my reviews):

1. Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness ed. by Rebecca Walker

What is that Cool that iconic Black people always seem to possess? The seed of this book began with one particular image of President Obama and branched out from there: what is Black Cool? In this slim anthology, sixteen writers interpret the concept in their own ways. Some reference Black icons in their essay, but all of them ultimately turn to themselves and the people they know to examine the historical and contemporary roots of Black Cool.

2. The Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo Martinez

Okay, so I can’t personally put this one in the “other cultures” category: Martinez is a Rio Grande Valley native (where I’m from). His memoir, The Boy Kings of Texas, is about growing up in Brownsville, TX in a hyper-macho abusive household. It’s painful to read at times, but Martinez’s writing is fantastic and the book was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award in the nonfiction category.

3. First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung

When Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army invaded Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 1975, Loung Ung’s family were among the hundreds of thousands displaced and forced to travel into the countryside on foot; 2 million people died in the coming years. Ung was only five years old at the time, but she vividly describes what it was like for her family of nine to face famine, death, illness, and separation.

4. The Little Red Guard by Wenguang Huang

This is probably one of my favorite memoirs, like, ever. In 1973, when Wenguang Huang’s grandmother turned 71, she told the family she wanted a proper burial when she died. Since they were living in Xi’an under Mao’s rule, funerals were forbidden; everyone had to be cremated. Huang’s father agreed to his mother’s request, and this vow to have a top-secret traditional funeral ended up consuming the family for the next fifteen years.

5. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Um. I’ve read Persepolis. And I’ve seen the movie four times in the last two weeks alone (not out of some freaky obsession; I’m having my students write about it). So I’m kind of horrified that I’ve never reviewed this. The graphic novel — The Complete Persepolis includes Book 1 and 2 — is coming-of-age story about Marjane Satrapi’s childhood/adolescence in Tehran. After the Revolution, her parents send her abroad because they don’t want her to grow up in fundamentalist Iran.

Did I miss anything? Care to share your own favorite memoirs by people of color?

Don’t forget to checkout other bloggers’ Be the Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert posts!

12 thoughts on “Nonfiction November: Be the Expert

  1. I love memoirs! I only started reading them a few years ago but now they’re one of my favorite genres, even when they are about people I barely know anything about. I’ve always liked hearing other people’s stories in person, so memoirs totally fit that niche for me 🙂 I’ve read the Loung Ung book (and wow…that was so heavy, my heart just ached for her all the way through) and will certainly check out these others.

    Some other memoirs from POC I’ve enjoyed were Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s book My Beloved World – she has a very accessible, conversational writer’s voice, and she just seems like she’d be great to sit around and chat with over a cup of tea; and Mighty Be Our Powers by Leymah Gbowee – what a fascinating woman and what a fight she led!

  2. Oh, this post is right up my alley. I am writing a book of nonfiction essays and so I’ve been delving into the genre, mostly focusing on young people of color. Here’s my list (these are all great or interesting reads)

    The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    Losing My Cool by Thomas Chatterton Williams
    Bitch is the New Black by Helena Andrews
    The Other Side of Paradise by Staceyann Chin
    The Color of Water by James McBride
    Makes Me Wanna Holler by Nathan McCall
    Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni

  3. I agree with Vasilly about How to Be Black — our book club really enjoyed that. I bet we would like Cool Black, too. Putting it on the list to consider. Thanks!

  4. I also love memoirs and it’s wonderful when non-fiction can give you a glimpse into a part of life you know nothing about, whether that be another culture or a particular career. Thanks for the great list!

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