Creative fiction may be the core of any reader’s original love for literature, but no great piece of imagination was written without the inclusion of real life events. That is why memoirs, as emotionally crushing as they can be to experience vicariously, are fascinating features of the literary world. As the writer of these oral treasure boxes of secrets, still lingering afterthoughts of what should’ve been, shared lessons that were learned the hardest way, desperately sought and ultimately earned emotional and mental deliverance, it is a challenge to look back at one’s life then encapsulate it all in a set number of pages where there is a definite beginning, middle, and end.
By the early 2000s, and after the late ’80s and ’90s slew of celebrities testimonials, titles like Girl, Interrupted; I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; The Autobiography of Malcolm X; and The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass had become canonical beyond the literary world. Some memoirs and the sub-category of autobiographies had achieved the status of being imperative readings for the scholarly and anti-establishment. What followed during the heyday of the TRL era was also a new generation of memoirists that while nubile in the eyes of English professors and literary critics, because most autobiographies are written by the post-35 set, it was with startled curiosity a discovery that there were middle-America, middle class everyday girls, along with the city girls, that had a lifetime or film trilogy worth of intended reckless adventures but also improbable shifts in the personalities they thought they once knew and survival and personal setbacks.
Particularly, it was young women new to the author title, that retrieved deep into their recollections and life advice that offered some of the most deviant memoirs since Drew Barrymore’s. What arrived was a language that was raw and truthful in transpiring the original reasoning or excuses for actions executed and an attainment of self-reflection that felt humbling . Prozac Nation was the start, and a few others also touched the social radar like such as Koren Zailckas’ Smashed (who despite her detailing of co-dependency, insisted she wasn’t alcoholic), and along with films like Thirteen, ushered in was a case study and real look inside the underworld of girlhood, guided by those that lived it.
Admittedly, a lot of the new wave of adolescent and college-aged memoirs do feature sex, drugs, depression, delusion, and crooked-like behavior, but the both extremes of these events or moments were shown as they were remembered as validating or degrading. While suggested that every woman should at one point have read The Color Purple and A Room of One’s Own and The Bell Jar, what succeeds are a bin of memories by a defiant young women and while their chosen public diaries are not as potentially wistful as past female memoirists, they are honest and unleash spurts of conscious self-growth. In the current age of Roxanne Gay’s audacious essays under the title of Bad Feminist, being bad maybe didn’t always feel so good and being ridiculed certainly does not, love lost, copious pain, and a wandering mind eventually leads to a road of amazing survival tales that should be heard (or read).
The following slideshow features 5 under the radar female written memoirs: