Memoirs from Gabrielle Union, Amy Tan, & Khizr Khan | Stephanie’s Picks

Hodgman, John. Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525497707. Read by the author.
Hodgman is an older white male monster with bad facial hair, wandering like a privileged Sasquatch through three wildernesses: the hills of Western Massachusetts where he spent much of his youth; the painful beaches of Maine that want to kill him (and some day will); and the metaphoric haunted forest of middle age that connects them. This work collects these real life wanderings, and through them listeners learn of the horror of freshwater clams, the evolutionary purpose of the mustache, and which animals to keep as pets and which to kill with traps and poison. There is also some advice on how to react when the people of coastal Maine try to sacrifice you to their strange god.

Kelly, Scott. Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery. Books on Tape. ISBN 9781524734190. Read by the author.
The veteran of four space flights and the American record holder for consecutive days spent in space, Kelly describes navigating the extreme challenge of long-term spaceflight, both existential and banal: the devastating effects on the body; the isolation from everyone he loves and the comforts of Earth; the pressures of constant close cohabitation; the catastrophic risks of depressurization or colliding with space junk, and the still more haunting threat of being unable to help should tragedy strike at home—an agonizing situation Kelly faced when, on another mission, his twin brother’s wife, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot while he still had two months in space.

Khan, Khizr. An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525524007. Read by the author.
An intensely personal story about the nature of true patriotism and what it’s like to risk everything you know for the promise of a 226-year-old piece of parchment. As Khan traces his remarkable journey—from humble beginnings on a poultry farm in Pakistan to obtaining a degree from Harvard Law School and raising a family in America—he shows what it means to leave the limitations of one’s country behind for the best values and promises of another. He also tells the story of the Khans’ middle child, U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed while protecting his base camp in Iraq, and the ways in which their undying pride in him and his sacrifice have helped them endure the deepest despair a parent can know.

Lake, Dianne & Deborah Herman. Member of the Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, and the Darkness That Ended the Sixties. HarperAudio. ISBN 9781538455647. Read by Dianne Lake.
Lake chronicles her years with Charles Manson, revealing for the first time how she became the youngest member of his Family. At age fourteen Lake—with little more than a note in her pocket from her hippie parents granting her permission to leave them—became one of “Charlie’s girls,” a devoted acolyte of cult leader Charles Manson. Over the course of two years, the impressionable teenager endured manipulation, psychological control, and physical abuse as the harsh realities and looming darkness of Charles Manson’s true nature revealed itself. From Spahn ranch and the group acid trips, to the Beatles’ White Album and Manson’s dangerous messiah complex, Lake tells the riveting story of the group’s descent into madness as she lived it. Though she never participated in any of the group’s gruesome crimes and was purposely insulated from them, Lake was arrested with the rest of the Manson Family, and eventually learned enough to join the prosecution’s case against them.

Lowe, Jaime. Mental: Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind. Books on Tape. ISBN 9780525499503. Read by the author.
In 1993, when Lowe was 16, she was diagnosed as bipolar and prescribed lithium. Here she shares and investigates her story of episodic madness, as well as the stabil­ity she found while on lithium. She interviews scientists, psychiatrists, and patients to examine how effective lithium really is and how its side effects can be dangerous for long-term users—including Lowe, who after 20 years on the medication suffers from severe kidney damage. Now, while she adjusts to a new drug, her pur­suit of a stable life continues as does her curiosity about the history and science of the mysterious element that shaped the way she sees the world. Lowe travels to the Bolivian salt flats that hold more than half of the world’s lithium reserves, rural America where lithium is mined for batteries, and to lithium spas that are still touted as a tonic to cure all ills.

Tan, Amy. Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir. HarperAudio. ISBN 9781538455432. Reader TBA.
By delving into vivid memories of her traumatic childhood, confessions of self-doubt in her journals, and heartbreaking letters to and from her mother, Tan gives evidence to all that made it both unlikely and inevitable that she would become a writer. Through spontaneous storytelling, she shows how a fluid fictional state of mind unleashed near-forgotten memories that became the emotional nucleus of her novels. Tan explores shocking truths uncovered by family memorabilia—the real reason behind an IQ test she took at age six, why her parents lied about their education, mysteries surrounding her maternal grandmother—and, for the first time publicly, writes about her complex relationship with her father, who died when she was 15.

Union, Gabrielle. We’re Going To Need More Wine. HarperAudio. ISBN 9781538455401.
One month before the release of the highly anticipated film The Birth of a Nation, Union shook the world with a vulnerable and impassioned editorial in which she urged our society to have compassion for victims of sexual violence. In the wake of rape allegations made against director and actor Nate Parker, Union—a 44-year-old actress who launched her career with roles in iconic ’90s movies—revealed her own trauma as a victim of sexual assault: “It is for you that I am speaking. This is real. We are real.”

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Stephanie Klose About Stephanie Klose

Stephanie Klose (sklose@mediasourceinc.com, @sklose on Twitter) is Media Editor, Library Journal.

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