So, summer is almost over and all of my favorite things will turn into new favorite things—long hot days and nights that give way to cool autumn mornings and warm afternoons (you know the kind where you can’t quite figure out how to dress your kids and thank goodness someone invented the hoodie). The sounds of summer cicadas and frogs yield to crunchy leaves underfoot and the smell of suntan lotion is taken over by that scent of campfire that permeates every bit of hair, clothing and skin it comes in contact with. But I’m jumping ahead here because, frankly, I love summer and I don’t really want to talk about fall just yet. What I do want to talk about is, this summer, instead of reading lighthearted novels in a plastic lounge chair (which isn't really something I do anyway), I somehow found myself engrossed in soul-searching memoirs and hopeful/sad books that brought tears to my eyes and made me think about life in a way that even a really good self-help book will never be able to do.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit here that as I stumble more towards getting older, I’ve been slightly less brooding and a tad bit more thoughtful and slowly becoming more comfortable in my skin. All of which has, in turn, left me seeking stories of others who did not grow from childhood to adulthood in the “normal” follow-the-right-path-put-together ways. The ones who sort of did everything backwards and much more difficultly. Not to say this is the wrong way of doing things. It's just that from the outside, the inside seems easier and less painful, albeit maybe less fun. Thusly, into my life walks the memoir. I've always been a memoir junkie and usually skim through them at alarming rates looking for juicy bits of info to apply to my life in the most Zen of ways. But this summer I found two that I read with intent and meaning (can you tell I've also been skimming through Buddhist texts lately) and did not want them to reach an end.
The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch, is a memoir that made me feel like I had found a new best friend, a new partner in crime (minus the crime since it seems we were both healing from a wilder youth). Reading this memoir was like broken people finding solace in other broken people, comfort in numbers, and all of that. A book about adolescent family dynamics, rebellion, searching for freedom, learning to be an adult, and well, water (Pisces here!). It’s true that my emotional side read most of this book in tears and my healing side devoured all of its kindred spirit life knowledge and, honestly, I really did feel better after reading it. Not that I particularly felt bad before, but when you are searching for answers it’s nice to find them on your library shelves instead of never finding them at all. I’m also not ashamed to admit that I recommended it to all my favorite reader friends, read it cover to cover twice, and currently have it on hold for myself, again. And I rarely re-read anything, so, frankly, that is saying a lot.
Not only am I a memoir addict but I equally love a good coming-of-age novel. Michelle Tea's memoir How to Grow Up is a coming-of-age story—if you came of age in your 30s. Think "how to grow up as a grown up," if you will. Tea's stories are funny in the same way that we all have to laugh and make light of our failures and transgressions because how else would we cope and still have the gumption to try again and again until one day you wake up and realize you have grown up a little and you want more. Not only is Tea hilarious and forthcoming but she will also make you feel good in her "I messed up in my life, too, here's an affirmation" sort of way. My favorite affirmation being, "Holy [email protected]*&! Thank You," a reminder to not take the little things in life for granted. In this way, she too reminds me of my best friend. We trade therapy texts and she is constantly reminding me to stay thankful despite life's lows.
Now that summer is coming to an end and August gets thick with dying heat (the heavy dead end of summer), pick up a good memoir, stick with it, learn from it, laugh out loud, shake your head at the similarities between yourself and the author, maybe cry, and then DO NOT make the same mistake as I and follow it up with, The Fault in Our Stars because you will be red-rimmed and puffy-eyed for however long it takes you to read it (although I do recommend reading it, as it is very good). Maybe follow your memoir spree with books on surfing, or cooking, or some straight teen drama like the Pretty Little Liars series by Sara Shepard, (yes, my 14 year-old daughter got me hooked) because, hey a little bit of fictional teen crisis is just what we need to keep on growing and growing up.