Best Memoir & Biography of 2021

A poetic life, a fractured family, and a tale of second chances. The best memoirs and biographies of 2021.

Broome, Brian. Punch Me Up to the Gods. Mariner. ISBN 9780358439103.

Broome is a debut author, but you wouldn't know it by his writing. He commands his story and readers' attention in a way that will have them laughing and crying along with him as he reflects on his childhood and navigates adulthood as a gay, Black man in the United States.

Burke, Tarana. Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement. Flatiron. ISBN 9781250621733.

With this debut book, Burke writes an im- portant memoir that powerfully illustrates a deeply personal political movement. Painful yet beautiful and necessary, this book deserves to be read for its political significance and literary merit. Burke’s writing shines when she describes finding her voice as an aspiring activist.

Ford, Ashley C. Somebodys Daughter. Flatiron. ISBN 9781250305978.

Ford creates a tender portrait of her fractured family, which was impacted by her father’s incarceration during her childhood. When she eventually visits him, the reunion is poignant and heartbreaking. The result is moving testimony about the effect of incarceration on the lives of those who live in its shadow.

Harjo, Joy. Poet Warrior. Norton. ISBN 9780393248524.

In this memoir combining narrative prose and poetry, three-term U.S. poet laureate Harjo offers an in-depth look at her life and her writing so far, especially what poetry brought to her and to others. The narrative lyrically moves through time and place, effectively showing how fluid a life can be.

Jaouad, Suleika. Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a LifInterrupted. Random. ISBN 9780399588587.

Jaouad, who chronicled her battle with cancer in the New York Times, expands on her experience in this debut. The title is a nod to Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor, and Jaouad does a beautiful job of writing from a place where she finds pain but also kinship and possibility.

Johnson, Katherine & others. My Remarkable Journey. Amistad. ISBN 9780062897664.

Johnson’s memoir recounts her childhood in West Virginia, her love of learning, her talent for math, and her career as a mathematician. This wonderful book is the perfect companion to Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures, which recounted the lives of Johnson and her colleagues Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.

Porter, Billy. Unprotected. Abrams. ISBN 9781419746192.

Television and stage star Porter bares his soul in this account of his life and career so far. This memoir, as exceptional as Porter himself, should please not only devotees of the actor and his work but also readers interested in a story of perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds.

Ruffin, Amber & Lacey Lama. You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories about Racism. Grand Central. ISBN 9781538719367.

With frank humor, Ruffin collaborates with sister Lamar to tell a series of stories describing life as a Black woman in the United States. This is a must-read that will have Black women feeling seen and heard and will allow others to better understand the effects of racism.

Turner, Dawn. Three Girls from Bronzeville: A Uniquely American Memoir of Race, Fate, and Sisterhood. S. & S. ISBN 9781982107703.

In this absorbing memoir, Turner presents a tale of second chances. She shares the stories of herself, her sister, and her close friend with aplomb, celebrating the bright moments of their lives while honestly depicting their suffering. This engaging work is a compelling testament to the power of women’s relationships.

Zauner, Michelle. Crying in H Mart. Knopf. ISBN 9780525657743.

Based on the viral New Yorker essay of the same name, this debut is an exceptionally vivid memoir that deftly explores the complex relationships between culture and family, mothers and daughters. The book will leave an indelible mark on anyone who reads it.

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