Tag Archives: Memoirs

The Prison Doctor: Women Inside by Dr. Amanda Brown

Overview

Title: The Prison Doctor: Women Inside
Author: Dr. Amanda Brown
Series: The Prison Doctor #2
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Medical, Memoirs, True crime
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2020

Thoughts

This was one of those memoirs that I did have to stop and start a little. Mostly because the topic was pretty emotionally dense. But, on the flipside, I also couldn’t wait to pick this up all the time because Brown does such an amazing job of writing about this. She deals with some incredibly complex and intense issues in a frank and open matter. And she does so with an amazing amount of respect.

I must admit, some of the stories told in this book made me seriously think about my own preconceptions and biases. I’m pretty open minded, but there were a few moments that made me sit back and rethink my approach to criminality and jail. Particularly when Brown very simply states the facts and highlights the damn injustices and inequalities in the world. There was a lot of this novel that made me pause and think.

Each chapter of this story is filled with experiences and anecdotes. And unlike many of the other medical memoirs that I’ve read, there isn’t always a satisfactory conclusion to the story. After all, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of women that Brown sees once. And never again. It’s somehow a lot more realistic and got my right in the feels.

I love that there is a key theme throughout all of the stories that Brown picks to create this memoir. I didn’t actually see it until I got to the final chapter, and Brown completely laid it bare. But once she explains that underlying theme, there is a huge penny drop moment. It brings all of the individual tales together and made me stop and think about the same issues that we face down here in Australia.

<- The Prison DoctorThe Prison Doctor: Foreign Bodies ->

Image source: Amazon

A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter

Overview

Title: A Woman in the Polar Night
Author: Christiane Ritter
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Memoirs, Nature
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 1938

Thoughts

A Woman in the Polar Night is a stunning and incredibly emotive memoir. I can see how it is a popular classic. Ritter’s writing is just filled with emotive imagery that I doubt I’ll ever get out of my head. You can feel her love for the landscape and journey with every passing paragraph. You can also feel the different challenges she faces to her mental health as she undergoes a night that lasts for over 100 days.

Living at the north pole like this would be a phenomenal journey all on its own. But to do this almost 100 years ago? I can’t even imagine the intensity and difficulties of such a journey. I love how as you go on this journey with Ritter, you can slowly begin to process the difficulties of this life right alongside her. As Ritter realises that there are unforeseeable and dangerous challenges, you grow to appreciate them too. As Ritter falls in love with the landscape, so do you.

There is something incredibly soothing about the whole tale. I’m not sure if it’s the idea of the endless night and solitude, or the beauty of the landscape. But there is most definitely something about the dark Polar nights that leave you with a sense of serenity and peace. Again, I think that’s just the incredibly powerful and emotive way with which Ritter writes about her journey.

I loved this memoir and will definitely look forward to picking it up again in the future. It is a wonderful tale of triumph and hardship. But also, the majestic beauty of the far-flung corners of the earth.

<- Anna: A Teenager on the RunGogo Mama ->

Image source: Kobo

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Overview

Title: Know My Name: The Survivor of the Stanford Sexual Assault Case Tells Her Story
Author: Chanel Miller
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Feminism, Memoirs, True crime
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2019

Thoughts

I knew that this was going to be one of the most emotional and confronting reads of my life. And I was completely right. But holy crap, this was amazing. I actually remember when this case went viral and Miller’s victim statement. It was a moment that made me (like many others) realise that we’re all fed up with this crap. But this review is about the book, not my soap box… so yes, holy crap, amazing book.

Know My Name made me cry multiple times throughout. And for so many reasons. To start with it’s just horrifying what Miller experienced throughout her whole ordeal. The legal system failed her again and again. As did so many other systems that are supposed to be there to assist, but instead retraumatised Miller again and again.

But then there’s the amazing love and support she received throughout the battle. Where at the beginning of the book I cried because of pain, then I started crying because of the beauty and hope that surrounds Miller. The amount of support she is surrounded by is phenomenal and reminds us in this shit storm that not everyone is a piece of crap. There is beautiful hope and light in even the darkest hours.

This is a terrible and tragic story, but there is a great sense of triumph and hope. I think this is a book that everyone needs to read. Something that can help people gain insight and understanding into a survivor’s journey. Into the toll that sexual assault takes on everyone, not just the victim. A phenomenal, life changing book that I want to read again. Just maybe not for a while yet, I need to emotionally recover.

<- The Beekeeper of SinjarRadium Girls ->

Image source: Penguin Books Australia

The Gender Games by Juno Dawson

Overview

Title: The Gender Games: The Problem with Men and Women, from Someone Who Has Been Both
Author: Juno Dawson
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, LGBTQI, Memoirs
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2017

Thoughts

This memoir is fantastic, intense, and seriously wonderful. It was also very thought provoking and sometimes confronting. Dawson has a great style of writing that makes you want to dive into her story page after page. Even in those moments that you might feel a little bit uncomfortable. There is just something about her writing that is enjoyable and emotional, even when the topic is sometimes difficult.

As one would expect, this memoir is a very intense look at gender and how it makes life difficult. Dawson is a lot more brutal with her analysis of that, but that’s the overall idea. I also love that Dawson is able to highlight the different challenges that come to each gender. Whilst she was identified to society as a male for the first twenty, thirty (I can’t remember exactly) years of her life, and then has started her transition, the expectations which are placed on us for an arbitrary classification are all encompassing. And Dawson has the unique experience of seeing this from both sides.

This was one of those slower reads for me. Not because it wasn’t brilliant, but because every single chapter was thought provoking. It took me a long time to absorb everything that Dawson had to say. And I honestly felt like Dawson’s words deserved that time to process. Gender and sexuality is something that has long fascinated me, and I really wanted to understand more of Dawson’s experiences. As much as someone who identifies as the gender, I was born ever can…

This memoir is brilliantly written, impossible to forget and just all round fantastic. I definitely fell completely in love with Dawson’s voice. And now that I know she is a YA author, I just want more of her work on my shelves!!!

<- An Appetite for WonderSurvival ->

Image source: Booktopia

50 Years at Gombe by Jane Goodall

Overview

Title: 50 Years at Gombe
Author: Jane Goodall
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Memoirs, Nature
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2010

Thoughts

Personally, I would recommend that you read In the Shadow of Man before reading 50 Years at Gombe. Mostly because it gives a much more in-depth insight into Goodall’s first experiences in Gombe. Which, then gives you so much more of a base from which to understand this wonderful 50th anniversary insight into Jane’s work.

This novel is a great overlook at all of the ground-breaking work that has occurred at Gombe over the years. It’s filled with images and snapshots into the many different aspects of not only life at Gombe, but Goodall’s life and her j fluency throughout the world.

I’ve always admired people like Jane and wished that I could accomplish what they have. But, for a long time, I didn’t actually understand the sacrifices that have to be made for this to happen. Goodall spends approximately 3 weeks a year at her home. She is amazing and so important to the survival of earth, but I can’t imagine the sacrifice that that would be.

I loved revisiting the world of Jane Goodall and Gombe, it’s reminded me that I want to dive into more of her books. And even watch the documentary about this phenomenal woman’s life and contributions not only to science, but the way we move through the world.

<- More Jane GoodallAfrica in My Blood ->

Image source: Amazon

Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman

Overview

Title: Survival Lessons
Author: Alice Hoffman
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Memoirs, Self help
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2013

Thoughts

This wasn’t quite the style and set up that I was expecting. I think I was expecting a much more prose style novel. Instead, this read a little like a collection of advice doled out. There isn’t really a flow of narrative and not much in the actual experience of the author. Rather, it was what she wishes people had said to her.

I would have enjoyed a little bit more biography and context to Hoffman’s experiences surviving breastfeeding cancer. I loved the “lessons” that she imparted. They were wise and honest, but also heartfelt with complete focus on happiness, love and living. I just wanted to know more about how she arrived at these realisations, those epiphany moments that filled her life.

All in all, this was a very inspiring book. It was a reminder that life is short and that you need to figure out what it is that makes you happy. It’s obvious that Hoffman has a focus on family and friends, which I share, so I found her advice sage and wise. Maybe nothing revolutionary and new, but a good reminder to stop and take stock of your life and priorities once in a while.

This is definitely worth a read. And will be a great reminder to live life to the fullest. I know that’s what I was reminded of when reading this, and my takeaway message.

<- The Story SistersThe Third Angel ->

Image source: Goodreads

Radio Okapi Kindu by Jennifer Bakody

Overview

Title: Radio Okapi Kindu
Author: Jennifer Bakody
Rating Out of 5: 3 (On the fence about this one)
My Bookshelves: Africa, Memoirs, Non-fiction
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2017

Thoughts

I wanted to love this story a whole lot more than I did. I mean, I am completely in love with Africa and fascinated by the politics. I have been since long before I actually got to travel to that amazing continent. Thus, the idea of a memoir that recounts working for the UN in the Congo sounded amazing. And it was GOOD. But not amazing.

I think one of the aspects of this story that was so difficult was the idea that this radio station was helpful to so many, many, many people. But after reading this, I honestly have no idea HOW. A lot of the information that might exist helped to understand just how a radio station was helpful was assumed knowledge. I might love Africa, but I know very little about the politics as a whole, let alone the specifics of the Congo.

I did enjoy the background on each of Bakody’s team and the tale of their journey to Radio Okapi Kindu. Again, it was hard to gain context because there was no timeline, and I would’ve liked to slot their experiences with the others in a bit more order. But this may just be how my brain processes information and memoirs.

All in all, I did enjoy reading this, I just didn’t love it. It’s not a tale I’m going to overstate and breathlessly recite to my friends. But it’s also not one that I will suggest they NOT read. Mostly for me, this was pretty ambivalent writing.

<- Confessions of a School NurseWorking Class Boy ->

Image source: Goodreads

Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson

Overview

Title: Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson
Author: Robert Kurson
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: History, Memoirs, Pirates
Pace: Medium
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 2015

Thoughts

I’ve had a bit of a thing about pirates since I saw Pirates of the Caribbean. I mean, who wouldn’t after Captain Jack Sparrow? There’s also something incredibly fun about the idea of the Caribbean (definitely on my bucket list to visit). Thus, reading a real life tale of pirates and the modern day race to find them? Yeah, I was pretty much sold on this from the beginning. And, luckily for me, Kurson is able to write about this in such a fantastic way that I honestly couldn’t put this book down.

Kurson is able to tell a number of stories throughout this memoir. Firstly, there’s the tale of John Bannister, the pirate who took on the Royal Navy and won. He’s the pirate that the John’s of the future are searching for (there’s a few John’s in this story). Kurson manages to tell his story and make you want to find his ship, the Golden Fleece, just as much as everyone else in this tale.

Then there’s the modern John’s. Both men are pioneers in the diving and salvage business. Their stories alone would make a good read I must admit. Both men went through som incredible experiences and have the stubbornness to pursue the holy grail of ocean treasure hunters. They’re definitely fairly stubborn and a lot admirable. Another set of stories of men who are determined and desire their freedom (which is ultimately what Bannister was hunting for).

Alongside these many stories of incredible men, there’s the journey to try and find (and identify) a pirate ship. I knew next to nothing about real life pirates before reading this novel. And now, I feel so damn educated. Everything I saw a family member throughout reading this, I word vomited all over them, I was just so keen to share everything that I learnt while reading this. Definitely one I am keeping on my shelves.

<- Twas the Nightshift Before ChristmasSmoky the Brave ->

Image source: Wikipedia

Shotgun Angels by Jay Demarcus

Overview

Title: Shotgun Angels: My Story of Broken Roads and Unshakeable Hope
Author: Jay Demarcus
Rating Out of 5: 3 (On the fence about this one)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Memoirs, Music
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Year: 2019

Thoughts

I absolutely love the music by Rascal Flatts. So I was excited to know a little bit more about their history and the journey to becoming a band. This really wasn’t about that. It was more about Demarcus’ faith. Which is fine, but definitely not my cup of tea.

I’m really funny about anything that is a little too Bible heavy. Again, just not my cup of tea. And although this was a sweet journey, it is incredibly obvious that this is a HUGE aspect of Demarcus’ life. It literally permeates everything in this story. And whilst I can see how a lot of people would find this incredibly uplifting, I just felt incredibly uncomfortable.

Because I did enjoy this, but also felt uncomfortable, I’m going to write a short review here. This was good and interesting. Definitely not too pushy with the belief. But also, not what I was expecting, anticipating and looking forward to reading.

<- Mao’s Last DancerThe Happiest Refugee ->

Image source: HarperCollins Australia

Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday

Overview

Title: Lady Sings the Blues
Author: Billie Holiday
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Memoirs, Music, Race
Pace: Slow
Format: eBook, Novel
Year: 1956

Thoughts

Two words reading this: HOLY CRAP. I know next to nothing about blues and jazz. In both the best and worst ways possible. I mean, the holy crap meant that it was impossible for me to put this book down. In a bad way, it was just a horrible life for someone to live. And, all that much sadder to know that Holiday passed away only a few years after this book was first published.

I loved the style and tone of voice throughout this biography. Holiday is immediately relatable and totally foreign. She has such a distinct voice and refuses to shy away from the reality of the world and herself. In fact, there are some truly and deeply horrifying moments recounted in this, but it’s not done in a woes-me way.

This is a seriously dark biography. There are very few moments throughout that I would consider to be a bright moment. It was horrifyingly dark and, even a few days later, sitting here to write a review… I’m in awe of all of the feelings this inspired. And, the strength of a woman who was able to overcome unimaginable odds.

A seriously brilliant and intense biography. One that I will pick up again in the future to totally destroy my emotions all over again.

<- An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on EarthSurviving Year Zero ->

Image source: Amazon