Never Fall Down  (2012) by Patricia McCormick was a finalist for National Book Award 2012 Youth Division. She interviews Arn Chorn-Pond about his time in Cambodia in the killing fields as a child  and his move to America. The true story gives insight into a child trying to survive and make sense of the world. An has the ability to make friends with adults and others who help him and eventually he learns to tell his story in America.


Laura Resau and Maria Virginia Farinango.

Based on a true story, this tale takes you to Mexico where a young indigenous girl is hired out as a servant but is more like a slave. Virginia enjoys the young boys she takes care of but she is determined to reach her own dreams through education and determination. this modern day story shows discrepancies between economic and social classes and the depths of poverty.

Author Janet Campbell hale tells her tale of strife with her mother and older half-sisters as she moves around Washington State. Her native background of the Couer d’Alene tribe on the reservation is combined with her urban Indian experiences in Tacoma and then back visiting relatives at the Yakama reservation too. This personal story demonstrates some of the common paths of the time period with native Americans.


Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome made Me the Teacher I Never Had by Brad Cohen with Lisa Wysocky. 2005

Brad’s story of growing up making uncontrollable noises, nics, knee bouncing and more shows a resilience to knowing himself and his eventual goal “to become a teacher.”  His success finally in school, with his family, in public speaking and group activities shows the hard times of being in public with an unknowing or worse uncaring people who do not know about the condition. His humor comes through the pain and his success as a grade school teacher is celebrated by winning the state first year teacher award and more.

Reflections of a Rock Lobster by Aaron Fricke. c. 1981 tells Aaron’s story. He became known for suing his school district because they     would not let him invite a male date to his prom.

Aaron shares laughter and mis-understanding and brutal teasing and beatings of himself and friends.

Breaking Night by Liz Murray 2010.

Liz tells the story of her family and herself as she deal with drug addicted and alcoholic parents that force her and her older sister to sometimes raise themselves. She shares the pain of loving her parents who are unable to provide for her needs. Eventually Liz is homeless and she lives off her friends. After a bad experience with a drug hustling boyfriend, Liz decides to try to return to high school at 17 with one single credit. She finds an alternative school that works for her and she wins a prestigious scholarship to Harvard.

A cousin of Emmett Till shares his story of the kidnapping. Simeon Wright shared the same room the evening two men came in and took Emmett away. Simeon followed the trial and daily remembers his cousin. This story allows him to share his feelings about the incident, the kidnapping and murder and subsequent many articles, books and films about Emmett Till.  Herb Boyd convinced Simeon to tell this story and he tried to pull the many feelings together. This book is background for the other books about the civil Rights movement and Emmett Till.

A Thousand Sisters: The Worst place on earth to be a woman. by Lisa Shannon. 2010

Lisa watch Oprah’s show on women’s mis-treatment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and it changed her life. She signed up to be a sponsor to one woman, then did a long run to raise money and more awareness in pledges for more sponsors. Eventually she traveled to Congo and met many women there and really listened to their stories. Shannon tells the emotional tales and how she changed. It is inspiring and sobering.

New Directions in Teaching Memoir: A Studio Workshop Approach by Dawn Latta Kirby and Dan Kirby. 2007

This teaching guide explores memoir writing in secondary schools. The authors share their time honed approaches to helping teens write  reflectively about their life experiences. The details about writing also include workshop style help for mini-lessons, group work and self-checking worksheets. There are bibliographies that help the reader separate memoirs by style and content including entire lists of culturally diverse memoirs. This is a valuable resource for your own memoir writing and for guiding teens.

I’m Down: A Memoir by Mishna Wolff. 2009.

Mishna grows up in a Black neighborhood in Seattle in the late 1970’s. While both her parents are white, her father impersonates Blackness and he encourages Mishna to belong by joining an all-Black basketball team even though she is unskilled. Mishna learns to navigate the neighborhood and how to use banter to make friends. When her parent divorce, Mishna attends a mostly white school and then her father re-marries, this time  a Black woman. Mishna is constantly navigating the race structures in American society and in this memoir, her experiences make the reader also wonder about these differences. This thoughtful story is humorous and sad.