Modern American Memoirs: 1917-1992

3 Apr

Many excellent memoirs fall outside the scope of this volume. Those published before 1917 appeared too, early, and those published after 1992 appeared too late. Many, of course, are not American in setting; many are, by genre, more properly travel or nature writing, or strictly accounts of other people, or accounts of specific events or ordeals. Some few, like John Updike’s Self-Conciousness and Wilfred Sheed’s Frank and Maisielose flavor in excerpts.  Some, like Alfred Kazin’s A Walker in the Cityare too expensive to reprint.


Among the following are many personal favorites.


Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
Chinua Achebe, No Longer at Ease
Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Mary Austin, Earth Horizon: Land of Little Rain
Kim Barnes, In the Wilderness
Judith Barrington, “Inititation”
Mary Catherine Bateson, With a Daughter’s Eye
Elizabeth Bishop, “The Tinshop of Uncle Neddy”
Louise Bogan,  Journey Around My Room
Margaret Bourke-White, Portrait of Myself
John Malcolm Brinnen, Dear Heart, Dear Buddy: Dylan Thomas in America; Sextet
Anatole Broyard, Kafka Was the Rage
June Burn, Living High
Franklin Burroughs, Billy Watson’s Croker Sack
Eilliam de Buys, River of Traps
Mary Cantwell, An American Girl
Mary Chestnut, A Diary from Dixie
Joan Colebrook, A House of Trees
Chen Congwen, Recollections of West Hunan
Joseph Conrad, The Mirror of the Sea
Jill Ker Conway, The Road from Coorain
Bernard Cooper, Maps to Anywhere
Edward Dahlberg, Because I Was Flesh
Richard Henry Dana, Two Years Before the Mast
Peter Davison, Half Remembered
Clarence Day, Life with Father
Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness
Sarah and A. Elizabeth Delany,with Amy Hill Hearth, Having Our Say
Nichiloa Delbanco, Running in Place: Scenes from the South of France
Deboray Digges, Fugitive Spring
Izak Dinesen, Out of Africa
Ivan Doig, This House of Sky; Heart Earth
Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Andre Dubus, Broken Vessels
Katherine Dunham, A Touch of Innocence
Gerald Durrell, My Family and Other Animals
Lawrence Durell, Bitter Lemons
Charles A. Eastman, Indian Boyhood
Gretel Ehelich, The Solace of Open Spaces; A Match to the Heart
Annie Ernaux, A Man’s Place; A Womans’s Story
A. B. Facey, A Fortunate Life
Wendy W. Fairey, One of the Family
Steve Fishman, A Bomb in the Brain
Robert Fitzgerald, The Third Kind of Knowledge
Ford Madox Ford, Your Mirror to My Times
Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography
James Galvin, The Meadow
George Garrett, “My Two One-Eyed Coaches”
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Colored People
Ellen Glasgow, The Woman Within
Albert Goldbarth, A Sympathy of Souls
Marita Golden, Migrations of the Heart
Ray Gonzales, Memory Fever
Maxim Gorky, My Childhood: My Apprenticeships; My Universities
Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant
John Graves, Goodbye to a River
Robert Graves, Good-bye to All That
Lucy Grealy, Autobiography of a Face
Henry Green, Pack My Bag
Graham Greene, A Sort of Life; Ways of Escape
Doris Grumbach, Coming into the End Zone; Extra Innings
Alec Guiness, Blessings in Disguise
Donald Hall, String Too Short to Be Saved; Their Ancient Glitt’ring Eyes; Life Work
Edward T. Hall, An Anthropolgy of Everday Life
Patricia Hampl, A Romantic Education; Virgin Time
Curtis Harnack, We Have All Gone Away; The Attic
Moss Hart, Act One
Ben Hecht, A Child of the Century
Samuel Heilman, The Gate Behind the Wall
Lillian Hellman, Pentimento; An Unfinished Woman
Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa
Michael Herr, Dispatches
Edward Hoagland, Walking the Dead Diamond River; The Tugman’s Passage; Balancing Act
Garrett Hongo, Volcano
Paul Horgan, Tracings: A Book of Partial Portraits
W. H. Hudson, Faraway and Long Ago: The Purple Land
Langston Hughes, The Big Sea
John Hull, Touching the Rock
Charlayne Hunter-Gault, In My Place
Elspeth Huxley, The Flame Trees of Thika
Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Henry James, A Small Boy and Other; Notes of a Son and Brother
James Weldon Johnson, Along This Way
Teresa Jordan, Riding the White Horse Home
Alice Kaplan, French Lessons
Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted
Nikis Kazantzakis, Report to Greco
Alfred Kazin, A Walker in the City
Garrison Keillor, Lake Wobegon Days
Helen Keller, The Story of My Life
Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
James Kilgo, Deep Enough for Ivorybills
David Lavender, One Man’s West
T. E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom
Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz; The Reawakening
Harry Levin, Memories of the Moderns
Claude Léve- Stausss, Tristes Tropiques
C. S. Leis, Surprised by Joy
Jacques Lusseyran, And There Was Light
Robert Macneil, Wordstruck
William Manchester, “Okinawa: The Bloodiest Battle of All”
Robert Mason, Chickenhawk
Hilary Maters, Last Stands
Mark Mathabane, Kaffir Boy
Gavin Maxwell, Ring of Bright Water
William Maxwell, Ancestors
David McKain, Spellbound
Jean McKay, Gone to Grass
Rollie McKenna, Rollie McKenna: A Life in Photography
Tim McLaurin, Keeper of the Moon
Ved Mehta, Vedi: Face to Face; Up at Oxford: Daddyji; Mamaji
James Merrill, A Different Person
Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain
John Hanson Mitchell, Living at the End of Time
Joseph Mitchell, McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon
Susan Mitchell, “Dreaming In Public”
N. Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain; The Names
Paul Monette, On Becoming a Man
Susanna Moodie, Roughing It in the Bush
Edwin Muir, An Autobiography
John Muir, The Story of My Boyhood and Youth; My First Summer in the Sierra; Travels in Alaska
Pauli Murray, Song in a Weary Throat; Proud Shoes
Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory
V. S. Naipaul, Finding the Center: The Enigma of Arrival
Richard K. Nelson, The Island Within
Eric Newby, Love and War in the Apennines
Michael Ondaatje, Running in the Family
Gayle Pemberton, The Hottest Water in Chicago
Brendan Phibbs, The Other Side of Time
Mary Helen Ponce, Hoyt Street
Gene Stratton Porter, Moths of the Limberlost
Dennis Puleston, Blue Water Vagabond
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Cross Creek
Richard Rhodes, A Hole In the Worlds
Richard Rodriguez, Hunger of Memory
Antoine de Saint-Exupérey, Wind, Sand and Stars
Mari Sandoz, Old Jules
Jean-Paul Sartre, The Words
Evelyn Scott, Escapade
Mary Lee Settle, “London-1944”
Anton Shammas, Arabesques
Wilfred Sheed, Frank and Maisie; My Life as a Fan; People Will Always Be Kind; In Love with Daylight
Eileen Simpson, Poets in Their Youth
Annick Smith, Homestead
Lillian smith, Killers of the Dream
William Jay Smith, Army Brat
Wole Soyinka, Ake
Muriel Spark, Curriculum Vitae
Art Spirgelman, Maus
Brent Staples, Parallel Time
Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Don Talayseva, Sun Chief
Lewis Thomas, The Youngest Science
Flora Lweis Thompson, Lark Rise to Candleford
Henry David Thoreau, Walden; Cape Cod; The Maine Woods
Susan Allen Toth, Blooming: A Small Town Girlhood: Ivy Days:
Making My Way Out East
Katharine Trevelyan, Through Mine Own Eyes
Calvin Trillin, Remembering Denny
Diana Trilling, The Beginning of the Journey
Anthony Trollope, An Autobiography
John Updike, Self-Consciousness
Gloria Wade-Gayeles, Pushed Back to Strength
David Foster Wallace, “The Awakening of my Interest in
Annular Systems”
Ethel Waters, His Eye Is on the Sparrow
Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings
Edith Wharton, A Backward Glance
Bailey White, Mama Makes Up Her Mind
E. B. White, “Once More to the Lake”
Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge
William carlso Williams, Autobiography
Edward O. Wilson, Naturalist
Kimberley Wozencraft, Notes from the Country Club

For an intelligent consideration of classic American memoirs read Herbert A. Leibowitz’s Fabricating Lives.
Readers might especially enjoy certain selections among the above list from around the world: Edwins Muir’s An Autobiography, Sartre’s The Words, Nabokov’s Speak, Memory, Chen Congwen’s Recollections of West Hunan, Naipaul’s The Enigma of Arrival, Kazantzakis’s Report to Greco, Dinesen’s Out of Africa, Gorky’s trilogy beginning with My Childhood, Antoine de Saint-Expupérey’s Wind, Sand, and Stars, Jill Ker Conway’s The Road from Coorain, Conrad’s The Mirror of the Sea, Susanna Moodie’s Roughing It in the Bush, Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz and the Reawakening, Flora Lewis Thompson’s Lark Rise to Candleford, and Claude Lévi-Stauss’s Triste Tropiques.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: