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Friday, June 9, 2017

True stories can tell good stories

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Good stories aren’t limited to novels.  Many memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies tell very interesting stories, and we have many new ones at the library.

Between Heaven and the Real World: My Story is Stephen Curtis Chapman’s new autobiography.  The contemporary Christian musician starts with his childhood, chronicles his rise to stardom and his marriage, and shares stories of the children born and adopted into his family.  Chapman lost his five-year-old daughter in a tragedy in 2008, and he discusses this in the book.  He also tells the stories behind his songs.

Between Them: Remembering My Parents is novelist Richard Ford’s account of his parents’ lives.  It’s really two short memoirs in one, the first section about his father and the second about his mother, with the whole book being only 179 pages long. In it, the author examines his parents’ lives before and after his birth; they were married for sixteen years before he was born.  Book reviewers say this is a beautiful book about Ford’s love for his parents, as well as their love for him and each other.  Ford won the Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for his novel Independence Day.

Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom is a dual biography by Thomas E. Ricks.  Rather than covering their entire lives, the book focuses on the 1930s and ‘40s, when each did his part to fight authoritarianism.  In the mid-1930s, they both had close calls: Orwell was shot in the neck in the Spanish Civil War, and Churchill was hit by a car in New York City.  At the time, neither was experiencing success in his work.  These Englishmen went on, in their own ways, to help the world see that freedom is essential and that it requires, as the Star Tribune put it, “intellectual clarity and moral courage.”

Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage is a memoir by Dani Shapiro.  Shapiro is a respected author, having previously written memoirs on family tragedy, writing, and the search for meaning.  This time she examines her eighteen-year marriage, not as a chronological story but, again, as a search for meaning.  She highlights the fragility and strength of a marriage relationship, reflecting on how the events that happen in their lives shape it.  Together they have faced the loss of their parents, changes in their careers, and nearly losing their son to an illness. 

Jackie’s Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family is Kathy McKeon’s memoir of her thirteen years as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ personal assistant. McKeon was a new immigrant from Ireland when she began working for Jackie the year after JFK’s assassination.  She served as a nanny to the Kennedy children, as well.  Reviewers say the memoir is both honest and kind, a well-written insider’s perspective that really doesn’t violate the family’s privacy. 


Other new biographies and memoirs at the library include Man of the Year by Lou Cove; Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood; This is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe; Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life by Sally Bedell Smith; and Rebel Mother: My Childhood Chasing the Revolution by Peter Andreas.  Look for these and other true stories of people’s lives on the nonfiction shelves, both on the shelf of new books and in the main collection.