The thought of delving into another world for a time is appealing, but it is also valuable learning more about our own. Although nonfiction didn't always seem interesting or engaging to me, I have since realized the significance of memoirs. They enable us to learn more about the lives of people and appreciate the experiences they have had. Over Christmas break, I stopped at my local library and found several memoirs that helped me learn more about these individuals and what their stories say about our society: Stephanie Land (a single mother who worked as a maid / house cleaner in order to provide for her child), Susan Burton (a young woman who struggled with eating disorders), and Howard Dully (a recipient of the controversial lobotomy “treatment”). Here are their memoirs, and brief synopses:
- Maid by Stephanie Land
Stephanie Land finds herself struggling to make ends meet as she raises her first daughter, Mia. Working as a house cleaner and finding little support from her family, she feels the brutality of poverty in America. The same system that is supposed to assist her and help her get back on her feet also keeps her in poverty’s clutches. Maid by Stephanie Land is no Cinderella story, but reminds its readers of the hope in difficult circumstances
- Empty by Susan Burton
Susan Burton shares her experiences with eating disorders during her life. She shares the difficulties and disconnect she had with her mother after her parents’ divorce. After being preoccupied with being thin for years, Susan finds herself binging on food and eating when she is not hungry. Through her honesty about wrestling with her eating disorders, she shares how telling her experiences and reconnecting with her mom has helped her. Not only that, but Burton’s story brings awareness to eating disorders at a time when many individuals are struggling.
- My Lobotomy by Howard Dully and Charles Fleming
At only 12 years old, Howard Dully received one of Walter Freeman’s controversial “treatments” for mental illness. Instead of being a “cure” for his behavior (as Dully’s abusive stepmother thought), it was only an impetus to a difficult and dysfunctional life for Howard. Dully’s memoir reveals the injustice done by Dr. Freeman’s painful medical practices as well as his own family. Howard’s own family was responsible for permitting the lobotomy. Dully’s story tackles difficult topics like grief, abuse, and growing up in difficult, changing atmospheres.
These memoirs have proved to be thought-provoking and important. They make me ask questions and think about my understanding of America and myself. I challenge you to read these testimonies, or even think of your own story. What has shaped you? What do your experiences say about our society?