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My favorite memoirs by women: female authors

People often ask me who my favorite female authors are. They also often ask me what my favorite memoirs are. So today, I thought I’d share my list of favorite memoirs by women writers.

It wasn’t easy to make this list, but it was a pleasure to make it!

I don’t know about you, but I can feel overwhelmed by the amount of information and media that is all around us all the time. Our computers and phones are portals into an endless stream of information. Wherever we go, we’re bombarded by information, noise, media—much, perhaps most, of which is not helpful, not true, and de-centering.

One way that we can reclaim ourselves is by choosing what we pay attention to. We can choose what voices we listen to and how we spend our time.

After all, the world we live in is shaped by the stories we tell.

So it was a pleasure to think about the time I spent immersed in these thoughtful, smart, moving, insightful, talented voices. It was a pleasure to think about the strong female authors who have influenced and taught me.

These writers took time to be with themselves, to listen deeply, to value and share their own voice and story, and I feel so lucky we have these books.

This list is very personal. It is not a list of the “best” memoirs by women writers (everyone’s “best” is different). Nor is it a list of the most representative memoirs by women writers. Rather, it’s a list of some of the books books that I’ve moved loved reading and that I think you might also like, too.

We live in a time and place in which many women have more freedoms and voice than ever before. And also a time in which many–and even most–women are still limited in their freedom and voice in some way, and a time in which the freedoms that women have gained are under pressure.

I offer this list as an act of love and also an act of solidarity. We can all of us, women and men, continue to value and speak our truth and continue to listen deeply to one another.

If you’re a writer, remember, reading is the single best and most important ingredient to your writing life. Read greedily! I always tell my students to read as a writer– the more you read greedily, the more you will nourish your own voice, story and freedom through your reading.

Maxine Hong Kingston

My 10 favorite memoirs by women (at least favorite at this moment)

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings—Maya Angelou
Fun Home– Alison Bechdel (graphic memoir)
A Woman’s Story, A Man’s Place, Cleaned out,— Annie Ernaux
Diary of Anne Frank–Anne Frank
Woman Warrior—Maxine Hong Kingston
Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam– Zainab Salbi
Persepolis 1 and Persepolis 2-– Marjane Satrapi (graphic memoir)
A Field Guide to Getting Lost–Rebecca Solnit
Educated—Tara Westover
Refuge—Terry Tempest Williams

Jacqueline Woodson

More memoirs I love by female authors

The Poet X—Elizabeth Acevedo (fictionalized memoir in verse for young adult and adult readers)
Infidel (though I don’t love the author’s politics, I do love this book)– Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl—Harriet Jacobs                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The Story of My Life—Hellen Keller
Traveling with Pomegranates : A Mother and Daughter Journey to the Sacred Places of Greece, Turkey, and France—Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor
Zami–Audre Lorde
Brown Girl Dreaming—Jacquiline Wilson (memoir in verse for young adult and adult readers)
Patterns of Childhood—Christa Woolf (thinly veiled memoir in the form of fiction)
Essays and Diaries—Virginia Woolf (A Room of One’s Own, Three Guineas, Moments of Being are favorites)

One more favorite woman author

Though this is NOT a memoir, I can’t help adding it to this list of women’s memoirs (very unconventional of me) because I love it so much and because there is such a strong female first person voice:

The Neopolitan Novels —Elena Ferrante

I hope you’ll explore these books if you haven’t already.

Let me know what you think! I’m sure some of your favorite memoirs by women aren’t on this list–what are they? And maybe you’ll find some new favorites here!

Most importantly, I hope these strong women’s voices will encourage you to listen to and express your own unique and powerful voice!

I firmly believe that everyone’s voice matters!

With love,
Nadia

Read about the importance of the stories we tell come to this post where I talk about another favorite author: https://nadiacolburn.com/how-books-help-us-get-our-stories-straight.html

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