Haute RE Magazine

There has never been a better time than now, in a changed world, to step into a personal story.

W

hile it’s possible to experience new perspectives when reading fiction, the truth that seeps from memoirs adds a thick layer of inspiration, awe, or compassion. Memoirs offer a glimpse inside another life’s journey, a life that’s often very different to ours. But amongst these many differences, there’s also relatability. We are each simply human, after all.

Open one of these classic or contemporary, raw or uplifting memoirs.

Book1

A History of My Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt is an intimate look at queer Indigenous life. As the youngest winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize, Belcourt’s prose is unsurprisingly poetic as it traces his struggles with sexuality and race in Canada. There’s a hint of the book’s tender contents on the back cover, which reads in bold, “To love someone is firstly to confess: I’m prepared to be devastated by you.”

Book2

You may have heard of photographer Sally Mann — the haunting black-and-white portraits of her children have been a topic of controversy since the 1990s. Her memoir, Hold Still, puts these images into context with her thoughts on motherhood. A dramatic narrative of her family’s scandalous history in the American South is a chilling bonus.

Book3

A rich story of New Orleans is told through the eyes of a house in Sarah M. Broom’s The Yellow House. Home to her enormous family, including 11 siblings, she unveils layer upon layer of living until the house’s demise when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. It’s not only a book about familial love; it’s about the evolution of a city, and displacement in the aftermath of disaster.

Book4

Safe to say, no memoir so lyrically captures 1960s New York City as Just Kids by Patti Smith. The musician, poet and author details her early career and relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe against the bohemian backdrop of Greenwich Village. The book reveals an enlightened awareness of self, and lays bare the beauty that arises from art, collaboration, and love.

Book5

In a collection of personal essays, Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning, poet Cathy Park Hong examines her experience as an Asian American. She opens the door to the realities, perceptions, and distortions of the country’s immigrant landscape with humour and sincerity. All the while, she calls herself an unreliable narrator without the authority to write such a book — don’t believe it.

Book6

Explore Scotland’s stunning geography in Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain, a memoir written in the 1940s and finally published in 1977. The iridescent narrative magically describes the writer, poet, and lecturer’s experiences traversing the Cairngorm mountains. An astute observer, Shepherd meditates on nature, presence, and solitude.

WORDS

SANDRA O’CONNELL

@sandraoco