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9 Memoirs About Surviving Dysfunctional Families

5 Books | by Likewise User verified icon

The writers behind these compelling memoirs survived complicated, sometimes traumatic childhoods.

I'm Glad My Mom Died

I'm Glad My Mom Died

Books

A heartbreaking and hilarious memoir by iCarly and Sam & Cat star Jennette McCurdy about her struggles as a former child actor—including eating disorders, addiction, and a complicated relationship with her overbearing mother—and how she retook control of her life. Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother’s dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. So she went along with what Mom called “calorie restriction,” eating little and weighing herself five times a day. She endured extensive at-home makeovers while Mom chided, “Your eyelashes are invisible, okay? You think Dakota Fanning doesn’t tint hers?” She was even showered by Mom until age sixteen while sharing her diaries, email, and all her income. In I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette recounts all this in unflinching detail—just as she chronicles what happens when the dream finally comes true. Cast in a new Nickelodeon series called iCarly, she is thrust into fame. Though Mom is ecstatic, emailing fan club moderators and getting on a first-name basis with the paparazzi (“Hi Gale!”), Jennette is riddled with anxiety, shame, and self-loathing, which manifest into eating disorders, addiction, and a series of unhealthy relationships. These issues only get worse when, soon after taking the lead in the iCarly spinoff Sam & Cat alongside Ariana Grande, her mother dies of cancer. Finally, after discovering therapy and quitting acting, Jennette embarks on recovery and decides for the first time in her life what she really wants. Told with refreshing candor and dark humor, I’m Glad My Mom Died is an inspiring story of resilience, independence, and the joy of shampooing your own hair.

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls

Books

“The book I wish I'd had growing up.” -Chanel Miller, author of Know My Name Best Books of 2019: Esquire O, The Oprah Magazine Variety Lit Hub Book Riot Electric Literature Autostraddle Finalist: NBCC John Leonard First Book Prize Lambda Literary Award New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice SelectionPaste Best Memoirs of the DecadeElle Best Books of the SeasonWashington Post Best Books of the Month Indie Next Pick Indies Introduce Pick "A fearless debut." -New York Times "[A] gorgeous reckoning." -Washington Post "Flat out breathtaking." -Lit Hub "Gripping and gloriously written." -Elle "Utterly unforgettable." -NYLON "Unnervingly satisfying." -Oprah Magazine "Deeply compassionate." -NPR.org "Truly stunning." -CosmopolitanAcclaimed literary essayist T Kira Madden's raw and redemptive debut memoir is about coming of age and reckoning with desire as a queer, biracial teenager amidst the fierce contradictions of Boca Raton, Florida, a place where she found cult-like privilege, shocking racial disparities, rampant white-collar crime, and powerfully destructive standards of beauty hiding in plain sight.As a child, Madden lived a life of extravagance, from her exclusive private school to her equestrian trophies and designer shoe-brand name. But under the surface was a wild instability. The only child of parents continually battling drug and alcohol addictions, Madden confronted her environment alone. Facing a culture of assault and objectification, she found lifelines in the desperately loving friendships of fatherless girls. With unflinching honesty and lyrical prose, spanning from 1960s Hawai'i to the present-day struggle of a young woman mourning the loss of a father while unearthing truths that reframe her reality, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls is equal parts eulogy and love letter. It's a story about trauma and forgiveness, about families of blood and affinity, both lost and found, unmade and rebuilt, crooked and beautiful.One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year: Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, The Millions, Nylon, The Rumpus, Electric Literature, Lit Hub, Refinery29, and many more

All Happy Families

All Happy Families

Books

The Glass Castle meets The Nest in this stunning debut, an intimate family memoir that gracefully brings us behind the dappled beachfront vista of privilege, to reveal the inner lives of two wonderfully colorful, unforgettable families. On a mid-August weekend, two families assemble for a wedding at a rambling family mansion on the beach in East Hampton, in the last days of the area’s quietly refined country splendor, before traffic jams and high-end boutiques morphed the peaceful enclave into the "Hamptons." The weather is perfect, the tent is in place on the lawn. But as the festivities are readied, the father of the bride, and "pater familias" of the beachfront manse, suffers a massive stroke from alcohol withdrawal, and lies in a coma in the hospital in the next town. So begins Jeanne McCulloch’s vivid memoir of her wedding weekend in 1983 and its after effects on her family, and the family of the groom. In a society defined by appearance and protocol, the wedding goes on at the insistence of McCulloch’s theatrical mother. Instead of a planned honeymoon, wedding presents are stashed in the attic, arrangements are made for a funeral, and a team of lawyers arrive armed with papers for McCulloch and her siblings to sign. As McCulloch reveals, the repercussions from that weekend will ripple throughout her own family, and that of her in-law’s lives as they grapple with questions of loyalty, tradition, marital honor, hope, and loss. Five years later, her own brief marriage ended, she returns to East Hampton with her mother to divide the wedding presents that were never opened. Impressionistic and lyrical, at turns both witty and poignant, All Happy Families is McCulloch’s clear-eyed account of her struggle to hear her own voice amid the noise of social mores and family dysfunction, in a world where all that glitters on the surface is not gold, and each unhappy family is ultimately unhappy in its own unique way.

Punch Me Up to the Gods

Punch Me Up to the Gods

Books

A poetic and raw coming-of-age memoir about Blackness, masculinity, and addiction “Punch Me Up to the Gods obliterates what we thought were the limitations of not just the American memoir, but the possibilities of the American paragraph. I’m not sure a book has ever had me sobbing, punching the air, dying of laughter, and needing to write as much as Brian Broome’s staggering debut. This sh*t is special.”—Kiese Laymon, New York Times bestselling author of Heavy “Punch Me Up to the Gods is some of the finest writing I have ever encountered and one of the most electrifying, powerful, simply spectacular memoirs I—or you—have ever read. And you will read it; you must read it. It contains everything we all crave so deeply: truth, soul, brilliance, grace. It is a masterpiece of a memoir and Brian Broome should win the Pulitzer Prize for writing it. I am in absolute awe and you will be, too.”—Augusten Burroughs, New York Times bestselling author of Running with ScissorsPunch Me Up to the Gods introduces a powerful new talent in Brian Broome, whose early years growing up in Ohio as a dark-skinned Black boy harboring crushes on other boys propel forward this gorgeous, aching, and unforgettable debut. Brian’s recounting of his experiences—in all their cringe-worthy, hilarious, and heartbreaking glory—reveal a perpetual outsider awkwardly squirming to find his way in. Indiscriminate sex and escalating drug use help to soothe his hurt, young psyche, usually to uproarious and devastating effect. A no-nonsense mother and broken father play crucial roles in our misfit’s origin story. But it is Brian’s voice in the retelling that shows the true depth of vulnerability for young Black boys that is often quietly near to bursting at the seams.   Cleverly framed around Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem “We Real Cool,” the iconic and loving ode to Black boyhood, Punch Me Up to the Gods is at once playful, poignant, and wholly original. Broome’s writing brims with swagger and sensitivity, bringing an exquisite and fresh voice to ongoing cultural conversations about Blackness in America.

What My Bones Know

What My Bones Know

Books

"A searing memoir of reckoning and healing from an acclaimed journalist and former This American Life producer investigating the little-understood science behind Complex PTSD and how it has shaped her life. By age thirty, Stephanie Foo was successful on paper: She had her dream job as a radio producer at This American Life and had won an Emmy. But behind her office door she was having panic attacks and sobbing at her desk. After years of questioning what was wrong with her, she was diagnosed with Complex PTSD-a condition that occurs when trauma happens continuously, over the course of years. Both of Stephanie's parents had abandoned her as a teenager after years of physical and verbal abuse and neglect. She thought she'd overcome her trauma, but her diagnosis illuminated the ways in which her past continued to threaten her health, her relationships, and her career. Finding few resources to help her heal, Stephanie set out to map her experience onto the scarce scientific research on C-PTSD. In this deeply personal and thoroughly researched account, Stephanie interviews scientists and psychologists and tries a variety of innovative therapies with the determination and curiosity of an award-winning journalist. She returns to her hometown of San Jose, California, to investigate the effects of immigrant trauma on a community, she uncovers family secrets in the country of her birth, Malaysia, and learns how trauma can be inherited through generations. Ultimately, she discovers that you don't move on from trauma-but you can learn to move with it, with grace and joy. Powerful, enlightening, and clarifying, What My Bones Know is a brave narrative that reckons with the hold of the past over the present, the mind over the body-and one woman's ability to reclaim agency from her trauma"--

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