I love reading memoirs because unlike fiction, you know as the reader this is the writer’s version of the events that happened in their lives. It is the edited version of course, which makes it that much more intriguing. The authors have to ask themselves what they want to share and who they want to name and what details should remain quiet. The magic of queer memoirs is that these create narratives that give voice to LGBTTQ+ experiences. Definitely not a new genre and there are so many authors to check out! Audre Lorde, Alison Bechdel, Leslie Fienberg and Jeanette Winterson have written autobiographies, and they are all available at Winnipeg Public Library! Read on for some suggestions of recent memoirs that have caught my eye.
Dirty River by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
This book is a quick, engaging read that contains some heavy content. It is a relatable coming of age story about Toronto-based activist/writer/artist Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha that details being broke, queer, and living with a disability in the 90’s, interspersed with the writers fraught relationship with her parents.
How to Grow Up by Michelle Tea
Speaking of coming of age stories, “How to Grow Up by Michelle Tea” is a memoir that focuses on becoming an adult. This title reads as a series of essays with advice for the reader. What I appreciated most about this book is the author’s honesty about how her path to “adulthood” has been a rather slow and twisty one, which I’m sure many of us can relate to.
A Two-Spirit Journey by Ma-Nee Chacaby with Mary Louisa Plummer
This book (technically an autobiography) details the amazing and very difficult events in the life of Ma-Nee Chacaby, an Ojibwa-Cree lesbian. Chacaby discusses how she was taught traditional knowledge by her grandmother, learning to survive through trapping and hunting. She also details her experiences with abuse, racism, addiction and poverty. Chacaby overcame these barriers, helping many people throughout her life including her own children and foster children. While not technically a memoir I had to put this item on the list as it is an incredibly inspiring book that has many gifts to offer potential readers.
My Body is Yours by Michael V. Smith
The first sentence of this book sets the tone – “I spent the first thirty years of my life trying to disappear”. Michael Smith grew up in a small town and did not fit into the strict understanding of gender and sexuality. His honesty in this memoir is striking, examining his life as a young queer person growing up in a working class town and not holding back all of the gritty details.
A Queer and Pleasant Danger: A Memoir by Kate Bornstein
This is “the true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology and leaves twelve years later to become the lovely lady she is today.” Kate Bornstein has a writing style that will bring the reader in and keep engaged from the first page. Bornstein explores her gender transition journey and doesn’t shy away from a lot of facts about her life. An honest and brave book recommended for anyone looking for a little inspiration.
Check out the LGBTTQ+ Info Guide for more books suggestions, new books, local resources and more.