The memoir: a genre that was once the ugly stepchild of literary tradition is now celebrated enough to be included as a stand-alone in university curriculum and has garnered respect of myriad critics. For the longest time, the only memoirs lauded by academia required a person who endured war, rape or some sort of chemical dependancy. Today it may seem as if the only memoirs to snag the top-sellers list has been penned by a former “actress” of the porn industry or a colorful reality TV personality. Au contraire, there actually does exist worthy offerings that uplift the spirit and remind readers to follow their wildest dreams without traipsing down the slippery slope of ultimate despair or self-help. So, without further adieu, here is my personal list of memoirs that every woman should read!
My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme
Julia Child traces “her period of transformation…awakening of the senses” in la belle France in this memoir of a woman who never took herself too seriously but attended her work with meticulous devotion and gusto. One of the most exquisite stories of a late-bloomer’s evolution to ever be told, My Life in France reminds us all that it’s never too late to lead an extraordinary life and follow your dreams. Filled with words that create sensory overload at its finest, this book is filled with aromas that jump off the page and settings that awaken a need to hit the cobblestoned streets of Paris.
Ambyr’s Recommendation: Cook Julia’s Boeuf Bourguignon from Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Volume 1) and enjoy with a bottle of Burgundy while you read this mouth-watering tome.
Me: Stories of My Life by Katharine Hepburn
Katharine Hepburn was more than a silver screen icon, she was a woman who made her own rules and challenged roles dictated for women by men. She was not only the first female to be admitted in The Plaza Hotel in her characteristic slacks, she was the first woman to purchase screen rights to a script and negotiate her own contract when studios still called the shots in a performer’s career. In this empowering work, Kate the Great traces her life, loves and career in her own candid voice. If you weren’t a Hepburn devotee before reading this, you will undoubtedly be one afterwards.
Ambyr’s Recommendation: Make Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies (google it) and watch Philadelphia Story. This will give you “ a picture of home life that will stand your hair on end.”
The Unlikely Lavender Queen: A Memoir of Unexpected Blossoming by Jeannie Ralston
When chic, New York writer Jeannie Ralston sacrifices her urban dreams for the love of her life, she’s transplanted into the desolation of Hill Country’s Blanco, Texas. Just as it seems as if she’s traded her literati lifestyle for one of bumpkins and scorpions, her new life blooms into something more fulfilling than she ever could have imagined when she and her husband embark on an adventure to create a lavender farm in the arid Texas earth. This inspiring tale of reinvention may be the spark you need to create a life you have only dreamed of in seemingly dire circumstances.
Ambyr’s Recommendation: Buy a bundle of lavender then read this with a helping of chips and homemade salsa.
Liar’s Club by Mary Karr
Liar’s Club is told through a young East Texas girl’s eyes yet the subject matter and insight is anything but childish. Sprouted from two self-destructive parents and living in a town, “too ugly not to love,” Mary Karr guides us through the world she left behind. With a heavy drinking, blue-collar Dad and a fading sparkplug of a mother with grandiose aspirations and a penchant for mental muddiness, Karr navigates her way through childhood with devil-may-care authenticity. Her incredible southern voice leaps off the page and reaches out to every reader who encounters her. It’s the style and moxie in the telling of this story that makes it not only mesmerizing but wholly complete.
Ambyr’s Recommendation: Follow this read up with a game of pool and a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
A Pig in Provence by Georgeanne Brennan
Before Georgeanne Brennan became a renowned, award-winning cookbook author, she carved out a life for herself in Provence where she made chevre (the sweet nectar of the cheese gods), ran a goat farm and started a family. Her story of acclimation to and embrace of her village in Provence offers literary escapism at its finest, but it also brings with it inspiration for following your passions in splendid detail.
Ambyr’s Recommendation: Cook from her recipes at the end of every chapter if you truly want to be transplanted into the heart of Provence.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Bossypants, written by a woman who broke down ample taboos for female comediennes, should be purchased with adult diapers. It’s that funny. Tina navigates us through a coming-of-age that is painfully and charmingly self-deprecating to the height of success as she takes her place as show creator and star of 30 Rock. This text celebrates every woman’s right to a witty forked-tongue and redefines geeks as hot, capable and appealingly intelligent. Read it. Immediately.
Ambyr’s Recommendation: Watch the SNL skits of Tina as Sarah Palin. Hearing her exclaim, “and I can see Russia from my house,” will make you appreciate her all the more.