The five memoirs included in this roundup detail the lives and experiences of five truly remarkable individuals. From mysterious medical conditions and life in cyberspace to culinary adventures and survival against the odds by way of adventuresome history, the stories that they have to tell provide startling insights into the worlds inhabited by other people.
A Thousand Ways to Pay Attention: A Memoir of Coming Home to My Neurodivergent Mind
by Rebecca Schiller
Experiment, 304 pages, $25.95
When Rebecca Schiller and her family moved to a smallholding in the picturesque English countryside, their new life should have been a dream come true. Unfortunately, however, their attempt at the good life quickly turned into a troubling life as Rebecca’s previously robust health started to break down. She found herself suffering from memory lapses and mood swings, and she also started to frequently experience falls. It was a lot to cope with in the midst of an overwhelming lifestyle change that necessitated a steep learning curve when it came to the difficulties and technicalities of running a small farm. After a succession of medical investigations, Rebecca finally received a very surprising diagnosis: ADHD. The diagnosis caused her to both question her current life and reevaluate her past, a process that placed a serious on Rebecca and her family. In an attempt to cope with her life seemingly spiraling out of control, she sought to distract herself by investigating the history of her new land and the roles of various women in its past. Schiller’s A Thousand Ways to Pay Attention: A Memoir of Coming Home to My Neurodivergent Mind is a moving and insightful account of her journey through the darkness of uncertainty and into the light of acceptance.
Khabaar: An Immigrant Journey of Food, Memory, and Family
by Madhushree Ghosh
University of Iowa Press, 212 pages, $19.95
Madhushree Ghosh’s Khabaar: An Immigrant Journey of Food, Memory, and Family is a gorgeously illustrated culinary memoir comprised of essays showing the integral role that food plays in history, politics, society, family, and more. In vivid prose, Ghosh examines how immigrant food in general, and South Asian food in particular, has been transported around the world via colonization, migration, and refugee journeys. Through the stories of chefs, home cooks, and street food vendors, she questions what it means to belong and how food histories can be integrated into new locations. On a more personal level, she also elucidates the role that food played during her childhood as the daughter of Indian refugees and then later in her adulthood as an immigrant in the United States. As Ghosh sought to situate herself as an immigrant, a woman of color working in medical science, a woman who escaped an abusive marriage, and a woman of Indian heritage striving to keep her parents’ cultural history alive through her cooking, food seemed to be the one stable and constant presence in her life. Together, the essays in this collection awaken the senses and inspire the mind to consider the vast differences and inequalities that exist globally.
The Earth Is All That Lasts: Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and the Last Stand of the Great Sioux Nation
by Mark Lee Gardner
Mariner Books, 560 pages, $28.99
Celebrated warrior Crazy Horse and revered holy man Sitting Bull are now best known for leading the Lakota to victory against US General Custer’s Seventh Cavalry at Little Big Horn. However, this great triumph has arguably overshadowed all the other details of the two men’s truly remarkable lives, an issue that Mark Lee Gardner has sought to address through years of extensive research and consideration of primary sources that have previously been ignored. Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull both grew up on the High Plains of the American West during a time when herds of buffalo still roamed wild and nomadic Native Americans could move freely across the land. It was also a time when white fur traders and government-backed explorers were increasing seeking access to Sioux lands, closely followed by a host of other settlers aiming to profit from the vast resources of the West. The arrival of these interlopers decimated the buffalo population, spread deadly diseases to the Native Americans, and provoked a series of armed conflicts. Experiences such as these inspired Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and the warriors who followed them to achieve victory at Little Big Horn, although their great triumph sadly did not ensure the preservation of their way of life. Gardner’s The Earth Is All That Lasts: Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and the Last Stand of the Great Sioux Nation is a masterful dual biography of two true legends of the Great Sioux Nation and their pivotal role in the Native American resistance during the closing days of the American Frontier Wars.
Girl Online: A User Manual
by Joanna Walsh
Verso, 176 pages, $19.95
As the old adage goes, if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product, and nowhere is that more true than in cyberspace. While the internet offers many benefits, it has also increasingly turned its users into the used, who lack adequate privacy and data protection. This enforced lack of agency is often particularly problematic in the case of young women online, who are encouraged to conform and adopt certain personality traits in order to be accepted. Whether they seek to be vloggers, bloggers, or influencers, young women are forced to sign a Faustian pact—stay young, beautiful, and fit; never let the realities of mundane life intrude; fake it till you make it—to attract and maintain an audience. There’s now growing recognition that the need to keep up appearances in this way can prove highly psychologically damaging, although the practice doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Girl Online: A User Manual is Joanna Walsh’s account of her attempts to negotiate life in cyberspace as a girl, a woman, a mother, a writer, and a person who needs to make their living online. Using a variety of styles ranging from programming language to tweets to a blog, she brilliantly captures the realities and unrealities of online existence.
The Nazis Knew My Name: A Remarkable Story of Survival and Courage in Auschwitz
by Maya Lee and Magda Hellinger
Atria Books, 320 pages, $27.00
The Nazis Knew My Name: A Remarkable Story of Survival and Courage in Auschwitz tells the heart-wrenching tale of Magda Hellinger’s experiences of life in concentration camps during the Holocaust, as related to her daughter and co-author Maya Lee. Magda was deported to Auschwitz from her home in Slovakia in 1942. She would become one of the few people to survive over three years spent in concentration camps. During her time at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Magda was first chosen by the SS to act as a Jewish prison leader and then later appointed a Camp Elder, a senior position that brought her into contact with both her fellow prisoners and high-ranking members of the SS. Where possible, she used this access to perform acts of kindness, bravery, and compassion that helped to keep other prisoners alive despite the awful conditions in which they were being held. Although the roles of people such as Magda during the Holocaust have been largely forgotten, she did write a short memoir chronicling her experiences, which her daughter Maya used as the basis for investigating the situation further. Through additional research and interviews with other concentration camp survivors, Maya is able to demonstrate how Magda’s kindness changed and saved the lives of many.