5 Women Who Have Written Moving Memoirs

Everyone has a unique life story to tell, and when talented writers put their personal history down on paper, it can become a moving work of literature. The five women listed here have different experiences and different styles, so whether you're interested in poetry, Broadway, or what it's like to grow up Latina in New York, there's something here that should capture your interest. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Writers Of Thought-Provoking Memoirs

Name Title of Memoir
Jessica Jacobs Take Me with You, Wherever You're Going
Raquel Cepeda Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina
Jaquira Díaz Ordinary Girls
Jamie Bernstein Famous Father Girl
Alba Arikha Major/Minor

The History of Memoirs

Memoirs can be traced back all the way to the days of Ancient Rome. Julius Caesar wrote about his experience in battle in his work Commentarii de Bello Gallico, which translates to Commentaries on the Gallic War. Documenting life is also a longstanding custom in Japan. The Japanese tradition of nikki bungaku, or poetic diary, dates back to around the year 935. This unique form of journaling is made up of several autobiographical poems, interspersed with sections of prose. In the 18th century, memoirists were generally people who were exceptional in their profession, who wrote in order to provide the public with an official account of their exploits. In the 20th century, many of these books began to focus on war, especially World War II, a subject that has been explored for decades through all sorts of media. Memoirs written by ordinary people began to gain popularity in the early 1990s, as a result of technological advances (such as the Internet) that made it easier for people to share their stories with the world.

8 Great Movies Based on Memoirs

  1. Girl, Interrupted (1999)
  2. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)
  3. A Mighty Heart (2007)
  4. Eat Pray Love (2010)
  5. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
  6. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
  7. October Sky (1999)
  8. Persepolis (2007)

How To Write A Memoir

In Depth

Reading the personal stories of others can elicit feelings of heartbreak, inspiration, and joy. Here, in no particular order, are five accomplished writers who have written memoirs that range from poignant coming of age tales to explorations of ancestry and ethnicity, garnering worldwide acclaim and legions of readers along the way.

At #1 is Jessica Jacobs, the author of Take Me with You, Wherever You're Going, a memoir in poems about coming of age in Florida and the complexities and joys of early matrimony between the poet and her wife, Nickole Brown. Named one of Library Journal's Best Poetry Books, which praised Jacobs's voice as immediately captivating, the autobiography contains such titles as A Question to Ask When the Honeymoon is Over, In the First Fall of Our Marriage, and Between the Shoreline and the Sea.

Her debut collection, Pelvis with Distance, a biography in poems about artist Georgia O'Keeffe, was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Awards. She holds an MFA from Purdue University and a BA from Smith College. Jacobs's poetry, essays, and fiction have appeared in such publications as Orion, New England Review, Crazyhorse, and O, The Oprah Magazine. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Jacobs's poetry, essays, and fiction have appeared in such publications as Orion, New England Review, Crazyhorse, and O, The Oprah Magazine.

In the #2 position is Raquel Cepeda, author of Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina. Equal parts memoir about her coming of age in New York City and Santo Domingo, and detective story chronicling her yearlong journey to discover the truth about her ancestry, the book also examines what it means to be Latinx. The companion curriculum, developed and written by Karen Robinson, a senior education officer at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Speak Truth to Power initiative, is also available.

Born in Harlem to Dominican parents, Cepeda is an award winning writer, filmmaker, and producer. People, Associated Press, The Village Voice, MTV News, and CNN, have all featured her work. She edited the critically acclaimed anthology, And It Don't Stop: The Best Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years, which won a PEN Award. She lives in New York City.

Coming in at #3 is Jaquira Diaz, the author of Ordinary Girls: A Memoir, chosen as one of Good Housekeeping's Sixty Best Books, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Notable Selection, and Library Reads pick. Chronicling her childhood in housing projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach while living with a schizophrenic mother, the book has drawn comparisons to Educated by Tara Westover and The Liars' Club by Mary Karr.

Chronicling her childhood in housing projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach while living with a schizophrenic mother, the book has drawn comparisons to Educated by Tara Westover and The Liars' Club by Mary Karr.

Diaz's work has been published in Rolling Stone, The Guardian, and The Best American Essays, among other publications. She is the recipient of an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council and an NEA Fellowship to the Hambidge Center. A former visiting assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's MFA Program in Creative Writing, she splits her time between Montreal and Miami Beach, with her partner, the writer Lars Horn.

Taking the #4 spot is Jamie Bernstein, an author, narrator, and filmmaker. Her memoir, Famous Father Girl, details growing up with her father, composer Leonard Bernstein, whose works include the musicals On the Town and West Side Story. He also served as chief conductor of the New York Philharmonic, and counted friendships with choreographer Jerome Robbins, John Lennon, and Lauren Bacall.

Bernstein's documentary, Crescendo: the Power of Music, focuses on children in struggling urban communities who participate in youth orchestra programs for social transformation inspired by the El Sistema movement. She has written and narrated concerts for audiences of all ages about Mozart, Aaron Copland, and Igor Stravinsky, among others. Her articles and poetry have appeared in such publications as Town & Country, Opera News, and Musical America.

She has written and narrated concerts for audiences of all ages about Mozart, Aaron Copland, and Igor Stravinsky, among others.

Finishing up the list at #5 is Alba Arikha, whose memoir, Major/Minor was shortlisted for the Spear's Awards, and selected by the New Yorker as one of its Best Books. The coming-of-age story set in Paris in the 1980s spotlights family memories of war and exile and the Holocaust. The author's father, the artist, Avigdor Arikha, her mother, the poet, Anne Atik, and godfather, playwright Samuel Beckett, feature prominently in the autobiography.

Arikha is a member of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain and the Society of Authors. She teaches creative writing for First Story and the Royal Academy of Arts, and Guardian masterclasses on short fiction. She has taught nonfiction as a visiting lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire and been an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University in New York.