Biographies & Memoirs
Kate Waller Barrett (1857-1925), gently raised daughter of a prominent Stafford County family, was confronted as a young woman by a heart-wrenching scene that played out before her in her home. It stirred her heart and propelled her into a public life. The humanitarian work inspired by Kate Waller Barrett’s experience led eventually to established shelters and services across this country and abroad known generally as the Florence Crittenton Mission.
When you’re thirteen, it seems as though everything will be the same always, especially if you live in a traditional culture. For John Bul Dau, life with his large family and many friends as cattle keepers in the Dinka tribe was wonderful. The elders were wise and taught them what they needed to know to become strong men and women. There was time for work and time for play. All of that changed the night the Northern soldiers destroyed their village, as told in John Bul Dau and Martha Arual Akech’s Lost Boy, Lost Girl: Escaping the Civil War in Sudan.
Lucy Knisley's graphic novel Relish: My Life in the Kitchen zigzags between biography, cookbook, travelogue, and manifesto of all things culinary. What's more, her fun, vibrantly colorful artwork often made me very hungry. This is the mark of success for such a book.
Relish explores every aspect of food's vast appeal, whether it is for purposes of comfort, nourishment, or to just satisfy that insatiable craving for sautéed mushrooms.
Richard Feynman was one of the younger scientists entrusted to work on the atomic bomb, but the graphic novel biography Feynman shows that there is so much more to his life than just those few years.
For one thing, the Nobel-winning physicist was equally fascinated with art, using diagrams to explain his science in a way for which he could not always find the right words. What better representation for an artistic scientist's life than a graphic novel?
Jessie Knadler, transplanted from Montana, is living a less than satisfying life in the Big Apple. She’s just been laid off from her position as a magazine editor; she recently learned that her lover has a proclivity for (really) young girls; and she’s certain that her late nights spent drinking into the wee hours will not prolong her life. When she’s offered a freelance opportunity to return to Montana to write a story on a popular rodeo event, Jessie figures she’s got nothing better to do…plus there’s always the nagging fact of needing cash. In Rurally Screwed: My Life Off the Grid with the Cowboy I Love, Jessie’s trip back West will dramatically change her life.
Have You Seen Marie? is a picture book, but it is aimed at adults. The author and illustrator created it as an attempt to help them deal with their grief, for each of them has lost a parent.
The story is about Sandra Cisneros who suffered from depression after her mother’s death. Her doctor encouraged the author to take antidepressants, but she resisted taking medication. Her friend came to visit her and while there lost her cat, Marie. The act of trying to find her friend’s cat forced Cisneros out of the house and into the world again in order to help her friend. This picture book introduces all of her colorful neighbors as she tries to find Marie.
When New York Times reporter Bill Carter recently broke the story that NBC was planning on gently escorting Tonight Show host Jay Leno out the door for a younger, fresher face, it felt a little like déjà vu. That's because the same decision happened about ten years ago.
Carter's definitely the most qualified person to reveal such information. The news made me seek out his book, The Late Shift. The title is a breakthrough account of the shake-up at NBC after Johnny Carson surprisingly announced his plan to retire within a year. The network famously snubbed their Late Night host, David Letterman by hiring Leno, who had been a successful guest host for the legendary Carson.
“She was always very generous with her time and hospitality to me, and I loved working with her. She helped me with my walking tour as well. I have not been in touch with her over the past several years, but to this day whenever I give one of my walking tours downtown, I make sure that all on the tour with me are made aware that the basis for most of the information shared on the walking tour is the result of the great work and passion of one Ruth Coder Fitzgerald and her book -- A Different Story. In my view, Ruth was always a caring and powerful voice for the underdog, the ‘little guy,’ and her lifelong commitment to inform, to teach, and advocate for that particular constituent speaks volumes about her makeup, her sense of fairness for all, and her heart of gold. My admiration and love for Ruth, and what she stood for, is never-ending.”
--Jervis Hairston, former City Planner and local historian
On April 10, 2013, a highly-regarded pioneer in local African American history died at her home in downtown Fredericksburg. Ruth Coder Fitzgerald was well-known throughout the community for her historical research and writings as well as for her championing of an important cause for Vietnam veterans.
One of the most popular humanitarian nonfiction books of the 2000s was Greg Mortenson’s best seller Three Cups of Tea. Three Cups of Tea was marketed as a call for humanitarian aid to impoverished Central Asian nations such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, but Mortenson’s life story of dedicating himself to providing education to the people of Central Asia was the emotional connection that sold many readers on the book. Mortenson traveled across the U.S., giving lectures, setting up charities to provide money for his Central Asia Institute (CAI), and appearing on numerous talk shows to promote his book. As beautiful as his humanitarian mission seemed, it was ultimately revealed as too good to be true by writer Jon Krakauer, whose expose Three Cups of Deceit explored the lies in Mortenson’s story and the lack of effectiveness in the CAI’s schools program. Although Three Cups of Deceit can be a depressing read at times, it also makes for a fascinating study in media awareness and image manipulation.
Young Lee Bennett Hopkins was an unlikely candidate to go down in the Guinness Book of World Records for having edited the most poetry anthologies ever. He spent half his childhood in the projects of Scranton, New Jersey, and hated school. His father left the family when Lee was fourteen, leaving him to look after his younger brother and sister. His mother had her own problems, but she did love her children.
What made the difference for him was a special teacher who gave him hope. In eighth grade, Mrs. Ethel Kite McLaughlin encouraged him in his writing and urged him to go to as many plays as possible, some of which he managed to see by slipping into the theatres during intermission and catching this second act. This opened a new perspective for Lee, and he was soon on different path, away from the poverty and street life he had known.