While fiction books are always fun to read, there’s something irresistible about a good memoir. Maybe it’s because they give us a glimpse into the inner worlds of those we admire – actors, entrepreneurs, politicians. Name any influential person, and there’s a good chance they have a memoir.
While we can often scroll through their Instagram grids, there’s nothing more intimate than reading their own stories. By sharing anecdotes about their childhoods, careers and relationships, those who write memoirs offer us lessons and sparks of inspiration that stay with us, long after finishing the books.
From a Hollywood writer’s reflection on the “dream job” to an Obama White House aide’s flashback to dating a gang member, here are seven new memoirs by women authors.
Walk Through Fire by Sheila Johnson
This is a story about the first African American woman to become a billionaire. Sheila Johnson, cofounder of the network Black Entertainment Television, overcame obstacles to get to where she is now, starting at age 16 when her father left her mother for another woman, leaving her family in shambles. Johnson ended up in an emotionally abusive marriage of her own just a few years later. In her adult life, she struggled to find her life’s purpose amidst a string of new heartbreaks, including losing a child and going through a divorce. In the “third act” of her life, she had to build from the ground up – so she tapped into her entrepreneurial savvy. After founding several successful businesses, Johnson not only became the first Black woman billionaire, but she also became the first Black woman to co-own three professional sports teams. Her memoir serves as a testament to her resilience, and proves that it’s never too late to start a new chapter in life.
End Credits: How I Broke Up With Hollywood by Patty Lin
This memoir from television screenwriter Patty Lin – known for shows like “Friends,” “Breaking Bad” and “Desperate Housewives” – comes at an important time. As the WGA writers’ strike continues to shake up the entertainment industry, Lin gives readers an inside look at the writers’ rooms of the most popular shows – and reveals what caused her to retire from Hollywood at age 38. In this book, she seeks to answer the question people frequently ask her: “Why would you quit such a cool career?” To do this, she looks back on her experiences in those writers’ rooms as one of the few women, and also as the only Asian person. Her story isn’t just relatable to writers; her recollections of unequal conditions and a toxic work environment are sure to resonate with most readers who have, at some point in their lives, been unhappy with their jobs. This is not a traditional memoir because it does not just tell a story of how one woman clawed her way to the dream job – it also dares to ask, “At what cost?”
Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World by Naomi Klein
Activist and writer Naomi Klein has spent her life criticizing fascism, capitalism and corporate globalization. And, she has a doppelganger: Naomi Wolf, the once feminist icon who is now a conspiracy theorist and anti-vaxxer, and stands for everything Klein has publicly denounced. So it’s understandable that Klein has some thoughts on always being confused for this woman who looks eerily similar to her and shares her name. In this memoir, Klein writes two stories at once: the one of her doppelganger and the one of doppelgangers she sees in society every day. She writes about AI-generated text vs. text written by humans, democracy vs. authoritarianism, conspiracy theories vs. truth. All of these concepts are regularly confused for one another, as we are living in a world where reality becomes harder and harder to define. By telling her own personal story, Klein asks important philosophical questions about a world in which we are always seeing double.
Strip Tees: A Memoir of Millennial Los Angeles by Kate Flannery
Kate Flannery is widely recognized and adored for her role as Meredith Palmer in “The Office” – but that’s not what this story is about. In her memoir, the actor tells us a different kind of Hollywood story – one of her early days in L.A., fresh out of an all-girls college and just starting a new job at an up-and-coming clothing company called American Apparel. During that time, she was thrown in the middle of all the scandals that the brand is now infamous for. This includes risqué photo shoots and a “cult-like devotion” to the brand’s founder, Dov Charney, who would later be accused of sexual misconduct by both models and employees. Flannery recalls the fever dream of early-2000s L.A., where everyone wore rhinestone baby tees and the line between sexualization and sexual liberation was a blur. In a style that has been described as “Hunter S. Thompson meets Gloria Steinem,” Flannery writes a deep-cutting story of power dynamics and feminism.
Everything/Nothing/Someone by Alice Carrière
Alice Carrière’s childhood was different from most. The daughter of renowned artist Jennifer Bartlett and European actor Mathieu Carrière, she grew up in a bohemian household in Greenwich Village with very few boundaries. Her parents’ burdens – including her mother’s recovered memories of ritualized sexual abuse – fell on her, and later on led her to a battle with dissociative disorder. As an adult she went down a self-destructive path that sucked her into the social circles of downtown musicians and bad-intentioned older men, and eventually psychiatric hospitals. She spent a significant part of life convinced she did not exist, and only managed to come back to herself when she confronted the trauma from her childhood. She cared for her dementia-stricken mother and grounded herself in a love affair with a recovering addict. Carrière’s memoir, A New York Times Editor’s Choice, is a psychological evaluation of parents and children and how trauma travels between the two.
Tell Me Everything by Minka Kelly
While Minka Kelly is well-known for her roles in popular television shows like “Euphoria” and “Friday Night Lights,” there is a lot that people don’t know about her personal life – especially her childhood. In this memoir, she tells her story of being raised by a single mother who worked as a stripper and had addiction problems. Her living situation was so unstable, they often bounced from place to place – and even lived in storage units during especially hard times. It was only later on that she reconnected with her father, Aerosmith guitarist Rick Dufay, and landed in Los Angeles in search of an acting career. Overall, the book centers around her relationship with her mother, whom she finally learned to understand and appreciate in adulthood. She has said that “Tell Me Everything” is a tribute to all working-class mothers, but especially her own.
First Gen by Alejandra Campoverdi
Alejandra Campoverdi has, at different parts of her life, been: a child on welfare, a White House aide to Barack Obama, a Harvard student, a gang member’s girlfriend and a candidate for U.S. Congress. All the aspects of her identity have, on occasion, been difficult to navigate – which is why she maps it out in this memoir. A major theme of her life she writes about is the concept of being the “first and only.” She’s a first-generation Latina raised by a single mother in Los Angeles, and has grown up grappling with the idea of belonging. This book, described as “part memoir, part manifesto,” reflects on the multidimensionality that lots of first-generation people – especially women – don’t feel like they are allowed to have. She writes about all the different parts of her life and career without worrying about fitting them together into a neat puzzle. This is a must-read for any woman who has felt pressured to fit a certain image for the benefit of others.