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Staff Picks Category: Memoir

Hidden by Loïc Dauvillier []

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Memories of being hidden, and keeping those memories hidden… A grandmother tells a special story from her childhood in this touching graphic novel about being young during World War II.

Douina’s lives with her mother and father in Paris. Her life is relatively normal until she is made to wear a star on her jacket. Her father had told her it was a sheriff’s star but everyone begins to treat her differently. Soon her parents are taken away to work camps and Douina is left to be cared for by neighbors and kind strangers. As she settles into her new life and new name, Simone, she can’t help but miss her mother and father. Once the war has ended and it is safe again, she travels back home and begins the search for her parents.

This book offers children a glimpse into the past- what it was like to be young during WWII and how some children and families were affected by the Holocaust in France. Words by Loïc Dauvillier and art by Marc Lizano and Greg Salsedo

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Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown []

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A wonderful book about self confidence and being an individual! The story centers around a young Scottish-Peruvian girl who is extremely creative, confident, and embraces her mixed heritage. Everyone in Marisol’s life tells her that she doesn’t match- her clothes, her name, even her red hair. Marisol tries to change her appearance and the way she acts but ends up very unhappy. Her teacher asks her why she changed and Marisol could not find a reasons. In the end she realizes that other people’s opinions don’t matter and she is happy to be herself.

 

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Show Me the Magic by Paul Mazursky []

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riter/director/producer/actor Paul Mazursky’s autobiography is an anecdotal collection of Hollywood tales, international adventures and reflections on growing up in Brooklyn. A real page turner, too! I ignored those around me and read this cover to cover in two evenings. Mazursky, who directed classics such as Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, Blume in Love, Tempest, Moscow on the Hudson and An Unmarried Woman, has plenty of interesting tales to share.

The author recalls showbiz run-ins with Stanley Kubrick (Mazursky’s first major acting role was in Kubrick’s Fear and Desire), Orson Welles, Peter Sellers, George Segal, John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood among others. What’s possibly the most fascinating is his relationship with Federico Fellini. It’s a touching friendship and their meeting is something of legend. In addition, Mazursky includes several letters from the great Italian film director in his book.

The title “Show Me the Magic” comes from one of the most exciting pieces of cinema history; a piece of dialog from Mazursky’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Forever imprinted in my mind is the scene where John Cassavetes conjures up a small miracle… in a film that plays it straight up until that point. An unpredictable moment on screen and perfectly fitting coming the mind of a man who lived an exciting and unpredictable life.

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Trippin’ with Terry Southern by Gail Gerber with Tom Lisanti []

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Gail Gerber’s memoir recalls her time spent with the famous novelist and screenwriter Terry Southern (Dr. Strangelove, the Magic Christian, Blue Movie, Candy, etc.).  Despite the title, the book is not filled with madcap, drug taking adventures.  Rather, we see an intimate portrait of a couple’s life together through a thirty year period.  It also focuses on Southern’s idiosyncrasies, humor and career highs and lows.

Gerber, a stage actress and ballet dancer, also shares several of her professional and personal experiences ranging from early 60’s appearances in Beach Ball, The Loved One and a couple of Elvis Presley films to life as a casual farmer.

Trippin’ with Terry Southern is an interesting memoir and is certainly essential read for Southern fans.  In addition, those who enjoy reading about 1960’s and 70’s escapades will be really enjoy the memoir… just peak at the back index to see a list of all of the exciting characters who will pop up (there’s Dennis Hopper, Rip Torn and Stanley Kubrick just to name a few)!

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Blood, Bones, & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton []

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Hailed as “the best memoir by a chef ever” by Anthony Bourdain, and a NY Times Notable Book in 2010, this unusual memoir follows the life of Gabrielle Hamilton, now chef/owner of Prune in NYC. It is unusual in that Hamilton is such a good writer, and seemingly holds nothing back, allowing us to see the bad and ugly along with the good.
The quality of her writing is partially explained with her MFA from the University of Michigan, an experience she relates in ambivalent terms, “It’s a tired reading style…it attaches more importance to the words than the words themselves — as they’ve been arranged, could possibly sustain, and it gives poets and poetry a bad name. Which is not what I came to graduate school for; I want to forever admire poets.”
The bad and the ugly includes her wayward youth and relationship with her family after her parent’s divorce. How she develops from a lost girl to opening an award-winning restaurant in New York and a marriage with an Italian doctor (and his family), is a compelling story, with lots of detail of the food along the way, that never feels like it bogs down the story.
And here, as a treat to celebrate my last day before continuing on my journey, when we drove to the coast, past fields of shooting asparagus and trees about to burst forth, and we stopped finally at the water’s edge in St. Malo- here are platters of shellfish pulled that very morning from the sea-langouste, langoustines, moules, crevetted, huitres, bigorneaux, coques. These are the pearl-tipped hat pins stuck into a wine bottle cork for pulling to the meats of the sea snails. The tide ran out, and the fishing boats slumped in the mud attached to their slack anchors like leashed dogs sleeping in the yard. The particular smell of sea mud went up our nostrils as we slurped the brine from the shells in front of us, so expertly and neatly arranged on the tiers.

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The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman []

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Comedian and actor Sarah Silverman is known for her outrageously rude humor which belies her ingenuous appearance. Her memoir, subtitled “stories of courage, redemption, and pee,” revels in contradictions and brilliant comic timing. Silverman uses shame to promote self-respect. Her “potty humor” is bizarrely sophisticated. She uses meta-political incorrectness to express sincere liberal tolerance. She endears herself to her audience through obnoxiousness.
It’s hard to tell how much of these stories are factually true, but in Silverman’s comic style, the exaggeration and twistedness bring out a deeper truth.
Note: The subject matter and the short chapters make this ideal bathroom reading, though you might lose track of time in there, and the people waiting outside will hear you laughing.

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Bossypants by Tina Fey []

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SNL and 30 Rock star, writer and producer Tina Fey is as smart and irreverent as she is funny. This memoir gives an inside look at the improv comedy incubator Second City, developing material for Saturday Night Live, and how Fey and her contemporaries broke through the glass ceiling of comedy.*
Here in a quick engaging read is an honest tongue-in-cheek and witty look at success, motherhood, TV, sexism, and lots of famous people you may have been wondering about. A few classic scripts are included, notably the Sarah Palin/Hillary Clinton sketch that Fey and Amy Poehler did in the 2008 campaign season.

* “Women just aren’t funny.”–every male producer/director from the beginning of time.

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The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn []

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Flinn is an American journalist and computer executive in London and gets let go from a high power high stress job and decides to go to cooking school at the Cordon Bleu in Paris. When enrolling in cooking school, she set out to write a book about her experiences so this chronicles her year of self-discovery and finding love. It is full of humor, recipes and her adventures in a new country and language.

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Writings and Drawings by James Thurber []

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Thurber’s comic genius pervades this compilation of his short stories, essays and cartoons. It’s full of treasures like The night the bed fell, The catbird seat, The secret life of Walter Mitty, and the ever-current Fables for our time. His wit ranges from deadpan to farcical, from whimsical to satirical. His command of the American language is elegant and hilarious, his drawings without equal. The only drawback to this Library of America omnibus is that it doesn’t include everything and once addicted, you’ll have to go back to the shelves for more.

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Leaving church : a memoir of faith by Barbara Brown Taylor []

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A leading female preacher chronicles her personal odyssey of faith and the tensions of her religious life, a conflict that leads her to leave the church in order to maintain her relationship with God and that takes her on an unexpected path of belief.

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Look Me In The Eye by John Elder Robison []

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This book details the fascinating life of John Elder Robison growing up with Asperger’s syndrome, before it had a name. As if that weren’t hard enough, he does this with Augusten Burroughs parents. True, John Elder Robison is Augusten’s brother. His life is just as exciting with a stint as a sound magician for KISS, fiery inferno bathtubs and wacky stunts, I couldn’t put it down.

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