9 Memoirs About Complicated Parent-Child Relationships

By
Wed, 12 Sep 2018

Whether good or bad, parent-child relationships are rarely simple and small decisions can have life-long effects. These high emotional stakes make for fascinating and relatable stories. For this list, we have compiled nine memoirs that recount true tales about everything from growing up with a single, gay dad in the 1980s to being a mother while going blind.

9 Memoirs About Complicated Parent-Child Relationships

Title Author
1. Fairyland Alysia Abbott
2. Happiness Heather Harpham
3. Mother Daughter Me Katie Hafner
4. With or Without You Domenica Ruta
5. Bastards Mary Anna King
6. Born with Teeth Kate Mulgrew
7. Now I See You Nicole C. Kear
8. Kickflip Boys Neal Thompson
9. Coming Clean Kimberly Rae Miller

The Philosophy of Family Obligations

In Depth

Family can be many things, from comforting and reliable to frustrating and tough to deal with. But whether a familial relationship is good or bad, it's almost always complicated. No two families are alike, so there are a lot of diverse stories out there about parents and children. We've compiled several memoirs that tackle this universal theme in different ways. In no particular order, here is our list of nine.

No two families are alike, so there are a lot of diverse stories out there about parents and children.

At #1 is "Fairyland." After her mother died in a car accident, Alysia Abbott and her father, Steve, moved to San Francisco where her dad embraced the openly-gay culture of the city. Using her father's letters and journal entries, and her own recollections, she honestly details their resentments toward one another, and how she just wanted to live a normal life. With vividly heartbreaking descriptions, the book also depicts how AIDS affected the queer community in the 1980s as Abbott narrates her father's declining health and growing dependency on her.

After her mother died in a car accident, Alysia Abbott and her father, Steve, moved to San Francisco where her dad embraced the openly-gay culture of the city.

At #2 is "Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After." Heather Harpham tells the story of her newborn's long medical battle against a blood disorder, and her complex relationship with the baby's father, Brian, who was adamant about not wanting children. Her memoir captures the ups and downs of birth, illness, parenting, and love, and portrays the meaning of reconciliation as Brian becomes more involved with their baby. Harpham also depicts strength and endurance in the midst of a family crisis, making it an inspiring read for young parents.

Heather Harpham tells the story of her newborn's long medical battle against a blood disorder, and her complex relationship with the baby's father, Brian, who was adamant about not wanting children.

Next, at #3 is "Mother Daughter Me," which details Katie Hafner's attempt of reconciling her past with her 77-year-old mother, whom she has brought to live in her house together with her daughter, Zoe. The narrative weaves in flashbacks from her childhood years, which explain their present conflicts and unspoken burdens. She openly describes her family's rough history of divorce, emotional abandonment, and alcoholism, engaging readers with an introspective story about longing, forgiveness, and moving on.

Next, at #3 is "Mother Daughter Me," which details Katie Hafner's attempt of reconciling her past with her 77-year-old mother, whom she has brought to live in her house together with her daughter, Zoe.

Coming in at #4 is "With or Without You." Domenica Ruta chronicles her youth as the daughter of a single mother who lived a notorious life in the world of drugs and sex. She fearlessly details her coming-of-age tale as she describes her mother's unconventional way of raising her, and how her influence led her to a similar destructive lifestyle. Having found solace in writing, Ruta also narrates how she broke free from her own demons and presents how a strong maternal bond can pave the way for forgiveness and sobriety.

She fearlessly details her coming-of-age tale as she describes her mother's unconventional way of raising her, and how her influence led her to a similar destructive lifestyle.

At #5 is "Bastards," which tells the story of Mary Anna King's search for family and her place in the world. Being the second eldest of her parents' seven children, King watched her mother give away her newborn sisters for adoption one after the other. She vividly describes her dysfunctional childhood, and her struggles fitting in with her maternal grandparents, who legally adopted her. The memoir continues to the time she was reunited with all her siblings and shows how they explored their lost connection amidst confusion and trauma.

Being the second eldest of her parents' seven children, King watched her mother give away her newborn sisters for adoption one after the other.

At #6 is "Born with Teeth." Widely known for her role as Captain Kathryn Janeway on "Star Trek: Voyager," Kate Mulgrew fiercely unveils her off-screen life dating back to her childhood years. Having seen her mother's unfulfilled dreams at a young age, Mulgrew was determined to reach hers no matter what. So after giving birth at the age of 22, she gave up her newborn daughter for adoption just as her career took off with a starring role on the drama "Ryan's Hope." The book reveals her journey of being haunted by her decision, and her unlikely reunion with her biological daughter two decades later.

Having seen her mother's unfulfilled dreams at a young age, Mulgrew was determined to reach hers no matter what.

What we have at #7 is "Now I See You." After being diagnosed with an incurable eye disease at the age of 19, Nicole C. Kear made the most out of life to avoid her reality. Having found love, she narrates how she navigated through motherhood with her impending blindness, and tackles the challenges of being a parent while having a disability. With her frankness and humor, the memoir relays her funny and humiliating moments before she finally learned to let go and accept support from others.

Having found love, she narrates how she navigated through motherhood with her impending blindness, and tackles the challenges of being a parent while having a disability.

At #8 is "Kickflip Boys," which delves into Neal Thompson's struggle of raising two skateboarder sons. He chronicles their progression through skateboard culture, which eventually led them to start skipping classes, doing drugs and alcohol, and even committing crimes. As a former skateboarder himself, he also reflects on his own adolescence and shares various methods of discipline that he and his wife tried on their kids. With details about acceptance and forgiveness, this raw and vulnerable memoir will resonate with parents of young adults.

He chronicles their progression through skateboard culture, which eventually led them to start skipping classes, doing drugs and alcohol, and even committing crimes.

Finally, at #9 is "Coming Clean," a story about a young girl growing up with hoarder parents. Kimberly Rae Miller recalls her painful struggle as a child in a rat-infested house, dealing with her father's mental illness of hoarding. Her narrative sheds light on the emotional effects this had on her as she reveals feelings of shame and anger that eventually led her to a suicide attempt. Her honest storytelling depicts a complicated yet loving relationship with her parents, and presents her family's journey through recovery and redemption.

Kimberly Rae Miller recalls her painful struggle as a child in a rat-infested house, dealing with her father's mental illness of hoarding.