Incredible Life Stories, Incredible Women
Truth is sometimes stranger, or more incredible, than fiction. The following autobiographies are by women authors who lived through challenging and even extraordinary circumstances.
Heart Berries: a Memoir by Therese Marie Mailhot is fearless and upfront. With unflinching candor, Mailhot examines her childhood, motherhood, and relationships through the lenses of her indigenous heritage and her mental health, not shying away from describing her struggles or impulses with anything but intense honesty. Mailhot’s determination to pursue a career in writing despite her personal challenges is formidable, reflecting her tenacity to make her own happiness. A 2018 Governor General’s Literary Awards finalist, Mailhot has made her presence known as a writer to watch with her first book.
Cea Sunrise Person’s upbringing was unconventional, to say the least. She was born to a counterculture family that left the city and its modern conveniences for the wilderness of BC, Alberta, and the Yukon. In North of Normal: a Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both, we are introduced to the Person family and their alternative lifestyle. Despite signs that her mother, aunts, and uncle were suffering from mental illness, the family distanced themselves from social support and Person was raised first in an encampment, then while on the run and seeking shelter in vacant homes.
In her follow-up book Nearly Normal: Surviving the Wilderness, My Family and Myself, Person reveals how she overcame her non-traditional upbringing and delayed start to her formal education. Pursuing modeling at a young age, she moved to Europe and started a new life, eventually marrying and becoming a mother. She thought she’d emerged out of her childhood unscathed. However, the trauma of her youth had taken its toll, and Person realized that to fully move on she’d have to come to terms with her past.
Canadian journalist and radio host Pauline Dakin built a successful and respected career in the public eye. But during her childhood years, her family never stayed in one home for long, sometimes moving at a moment’s notice without saying goodbye to anyone. In Run, Hide, Repeat: a Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood, Dakin recounts learning the reason for this constant upheaval: the family was a mafia target, and had been for years. Relieved at having an explanation for a childhood steeped in secrecy, but fearful of a continued threat, Dakin tries to make sense of her childhood memories. Her fear soon turns to skepticism as she questions what is truth and what is fabrication, and whether her family relationships have been built upon lies.
In 1994, during the Rwandan Civil War, the genocide against the Tutsi people ravaged the country. Those displaced included six year old Clemantine Wamariya and her older sister Claire, sent away from their family home to escape the wave of violence. Wamariya and her sister were on the move for six years, traveling from one African country to another until being granted refugee status in the United States. Co-written by Elizabeth Weil, The Girl Who Smiled Beads: a Story of War and What Comes After is Wamariya’s story told in chapters alternating between past and present: between upheaval in Africa and safety in America, two worlds in which she lacks a true sense of belonging. Now a human rights advocate, Wamariya is determined to keep moving forward while remembering her past.
by Elizabeth Tham, Digital & Information Services Librarian