Memoir / Autobiography
by Oanh Ngo Usadi
Plot: The determination and perseverance of the author and her family are truly admirable. This memoir is gripping and well crafted.
Prose: Beautifully written, this powerful memoir uses concise, deliberate language to convey the family's emotions and struggles as they experience triumphs and setbacks in their quest to stay together, sustain themselves, and acclimate.
Originality: This story of perseverance, resourcefulness, and determination is original and important.
Character Development: Readers get a strong sense of the author and her parents as their journeys unfold. The personas of her siblings, in particular, and the people they encounter along the way are not as well developed, and the reader doesn't really get to know them as people.
by J.J. Maze
Plot: This memoir is skillfully plotted and perfectly structured. Readers will relate to and understand the author's decision to run away.
Prose: The writing here is very strong and one of the book's chief pleasures.
Originality: The topic of teen runaways has been done before. But this book is as strong as other volumes, or stronger. The author's prose elevates the work to a higher level.
Character Development: At times, readers will have to remind themselves that the protagonist is a teen, not an experienced woman. The author's dialogue and character insights are organic and believable.
Blurb: An honest, unflinching, tightly crafted look at the life of a teen runaway—from the inside. A stunning memoir of loss and redemption.
by Bernadette Nason
Plot: Nason’s experiences and adventures are thrilling and unfamiliar, and the pacing of the memoir is perfect—it begins with her moving from England to Libya and ends with her returning home, highlighting her experiences along the way.
Prose: Nason’s prose is carefully crafted and highly descriptive. She inserts humor into the story while also communicating the intensity of each anecdote. Nason's narrative voice is engaging and honest.
Originality: This memoir is absolutely original and authentic and reads like an artifact from another time. The use of journal entries, book excerpts, and photographs also enhances the unique qualities that make this memoir stand out.
Character Development: Readers will immediately become attached to Bernadette. Secondary characters are also written with great depth and detail. The characters, along with the setting, will captivate readers and immerse them in Bernadette’s unbelievable adventures.
by Hanna Perlstein Marcus
Plot: This memoir is almost perfectly plotted. The only issue is the ending, which drags on a bit too long with an epilogue and end notes.
Prose: The prose here is as excellent as the storytelling. A pleasure to read.
Originality: The author has crafted a compelling, emotional, and original story.
Character Development: The author has created vivid and memorable characters. Over the course of the book, the daughter comes to understand the mother in a way that will be rewarding for readers.
by Christine Bauer
Plot: Bauer’s story progresses at a rapid pace, from the moment of her positive pregnancy test to the necessity to make a quick decision on keeping and raising a child. The book is perfectly constructed and a compelling read.
Prose: Bauer’s prose is free of errors, and her strong narrative voice enhances and lends authenticity to the story. Bauer broaches serious and often-overlooked subjects in a thoughtful way, including adoption, abortion, suicide, and terminal illness.
Originality: Bauer’s story is an emotional tale that will have readers glued to the page. Bauer infuses a very serious and beautiful story with humor, warmth, and wisdom.
Character Development: Bauer’s characters are emotionally complex and her descriptions of their fears and desires truly encapsulate what family members must have been feeling during difficult periods.
Blurb: A simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking tale about time and love lost, rediscovered, and strengthened.
by Joann Castle
Plot: This memoir is well structured and well written. The author focuses just the right amount of attention on each stage of her life and development, keeping her story moving and holding reader interest.
Prose: This is a memoir from a gifted writer. The prose is polished, eloquent, and concise. The author paints a vivid portrait of life in the '60s in Detroit, with apt, relevant descriptions featuring the perfect balance of detail, characterization, and action.
Originality: Although the subject matter is not new, this memoir feels fresh and original due to its fascinating protagonist and the author's deft storytelling.
Character Development: The author does a stellar job with character development. She offers insight into her own actions, but also provides context about the Civil Rights movement and the city of Detroit itself.
Blurb: Eloquent and engrossing, Castle's memoir is a must-read for all those interested in the Civil Rights Movement. Providing an honest, first-hand account of Detroit's racial divide in the 1960s, the author takes readers on an inspirational but harrowing journey through a painful time in the city's history.
by Russel Lazega
Plot: The author tells his tale to perfection. He adds just enough details and explanation without breaking the rhythm of the prose. A compelling read.
Prose: The prose is near perfect, reminding the reader of a beautiful melody. The descriptions are vivid and memorable.
Originality: The author has mined his grandmother’s stories and created a unique book about a familiar subject.
Character Development: Bubbie is a fully realized, rich character. The author has captured her voice from the first page—and this remains with the reader long after the book is finished.
Blurb: Managing Bubbie is a skillfully written memoir with an endearing cast of characters. The author brings to vivid life the struggles of an amazing woman.
by Susan Aranda
Plot: This memoir is well structured and full of tension, which moves the story along at a quick pace that will have readers turning pages.
Prose: This prose has it all: intensity, wit, intelligence, and what is often unique phrasing. Outstanding!
Originality: Memoirs about abuse and caregiving are common, but this one is different, unapologetic, thorough, and sassy.
Character Development: The characterization of the protagonist is perfect. Additional characters are also extremely well rendered.
by John and Mahin Goodall
Plot: The authors successfully craft a layered story told from two diverse viewpoints, with the disparate stories proceeding in tandem until protagonists John and Mahin's worlds collide. The co-authors meaningfully explore cross-cultural conflict, ultimately rendered insignificant in the face of abiding love.
Prose: The authors’ narratives are distinct from one another, yet the transitions between the two voices are smooth, and their sections ultimately coalesce into a harmonious, shared narrative experience.
Originality: The dual narrative approach offers a unique storytelling, while the focus on the evolution of a single loving and lasting relationship, is unconventional.
Character Development: The authors provide detailed reflections on their relationship from its earliest stages, evoking warmth and romance, while societal tensions and expectations threaten to keep them apart. The pairing first-person perspectives allow for a full and nuanced portrait of the authors’ individual lives and the life they pursue together.
Blurb: A Bride's Confession is a heartfelt, often funny tale of true love found that defies the senseless limitations imposed upon love by global cultures.
by Cynthia Garner
Plot: This anthropological travelogue set in Guatemala proceeds along at a wonderful pace, and the inclusion of the author's spiritual journey is just as compelling, enhancing rather than overwhelming the travel experiences.
Prose: This is a novel rife with smart, descriptive prose and vibrant descriptions of people, places, and emotions, actively engaging all of the senses.
Originality: The perspective of Cindy, the Fulbright scholar, lends a stimulating professional quality to this memoir about adventures in Guatemala.
Character Development: The author's personality is remarkably clear and likable. Many additional peripheral characters are often detailed through their interactions with each other, which illuminates the nature and temperament of each individual.
Blurb: Out of Grace is a scholar's memoir, so richly detailed that readers can see, feel, smell, and taste Guatemala.
by Alba Castillo
Plot: This well-constructed, well-paced memoir reads like a novel. Readers will be engaged from the very beginning.
Prose: The prose here is no-nonsense and effective. This allows for compelling storytelling that draws readers into the story.
Originality: The author of this book tells her story in a reliable, truthful way that feels fresh and original. She tells awful truths with such brutal honesty and empathy that readers will keep turning pages until the very end.
Character Development: The characters are beautifully developed. The author's voice is strong, full of truth, humility, anger, and empathy.
by Susan Wilbur
Plot: Safely Home is the riveting, dynamic story of the grueling efforts, trials, and tribulations that Wilbur and her husband endured to successfully adopt a baby from Russia.
Prose: This book is very descriptive and emotionally-charged, without being sentimental. Wilbur has shared with readers a realistic look at how frustrating and frightening the international adoption process can be.
Originality: While adoption memoirs are not rare, Wilbur composes her story with the same finesse as a seasoned novelist.
Character Development: Starting with her parents, and continuing with the characters the author and her husband meet along the road to adoption, the cast of this book is realistically and carefully depicted, and the impact these individuals had on Wilbur's new family before, during, and after the adoption process is evident and heartwarming.
by Amber Lea Starfire
Plot: This memoir is an engrossing, skillfully plotted insider's history of the counter-culture movement that will have readers turning pages.
Prose: The prose is strong; the voice is conversational and the writing features some lovely turns of phrase.
Originality: While this memoir treads familiar ground, the author's tale is original, unique, and fascinating.
Character Development: The characters in this memoir are well crafted and vivid. Even minor characters feel fleshed out and real.
Blurb: An unnerving reminder of how easily the mind of an intelligent, independent young woman can be stifled.
by Debie Monax
Plot: The memoir is skillfully structured and engaging. Readers will care about the characters and find themselves quickly turning pages until the very end.
Prose: The prose is conversational in tone and accessible. However, at times, there is too much telling and not enough showing. The author would do well to slow things down and create detailed scenes with dialogue.
Originality: Although the subject matter is not unique, the author's story feels original, fresh, and vital.
Character Development: Debie is a brilliantly developed character who changes over the course of the book. Readers will care about her story. Secondary characters are also well rendered.
by Robin Farnsworth
Plot: Farnsworth’s memoir is well-paced and strongly written. The story is full of unexpected surprises and coincidences, both pleasant and horrific. Readers will be riveted.
Prose: Farnsworth’s prose is clean, clear, and well crafted. She recreates her story in ways that are always realistic and intriguing.
Originality: Farnsworth’s story is unique and interesting. The moments in which her world is turned completely upside-down are shocking and memorable.
Character Development: Farnsworth's memoir includes a colorful, well-developed cast of characters. The most interesting character is the narrator herself—and readers will root for her as they watch her grow and change over time.
by C.W. Lockhart
Plot: This memoir of healing travel has adventure, emotional tension, commonsense insights, honesty, and good humor. All of this helps to keep the pages turning. Overall, the book is well constructed, with some humor helping to offset more emotionally painful vignettes.
Prose: The voice is distinct and the prose moves the story along at a good pace. The straightforward, contemporary tone is augmented by some admirable turns of phrase.
Originality: There is no shortage of memoirs about physical and spiritual journeys, but this one is unique because of its protagonist. The Camino de Santiago trek will be different for every traveler, and Lockhart uses an excellent voice to capture that fact.
Character Development: All of the players—even the secondary characters—are vivid, engaging, and well rendered.