I have been an avid reader since a very young age, and I have always gravitated toward fiction ever since I could remember. I have never been a nonfiction reader until a couple of years ago, that is. I discovered the delightful subgenre of nonfiction, memoirs, with my first memoir, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. I loved the book so much, and there was no turning back since that first time. I fell headfirst into the world of memoirs and gladly.
It is inspiring to read about the lives of people, celebs, and non-celebs, and understand their life journey – how they overcame their struggles, their way of life, their experiences, and so on. It gives us an insight into the lives of people from different places, cultures, religions, backgrounds, etc. In some cases, it helps give a face to a whole tragedy. After my first foray into memoirs, I have read many of them and got to meet different people, visit foreign countries, and experience various historically significant incidents while reading these books.
Best Memoir Audiobooks By Female Authors!
Since I discovered the joys of audiobooks, my go-to genre for listening to audiobooks is memoirs. I have heard a lot of books on audiobook apps, like Storytel and Audible. My favorite kind of memoir audiobook is when the author narrates the book. I feel it gives it a more personal touch and gives the reader/listener a closer look and insight into the author’s feelings, thoughts, and emotions while narrating their life story. I think audiobooks are a great medium to experience memoirs, irrespective of whether they are told by the authors themselves or by some other person, as it gives a voice to the person behind the book and makes it not seem like just any other story.
Recently, I have been gravitating towards memoirs authored by females and have been loving them. I love listening to the accounts of brave women who rose against all odds to their current state of life. I feel very inspired and motivated when I read books like this. To help other toe-dippers into the world of memoirs, like me, I will list down some of the books I consider a must-read or must-listen since I listened to the audiobook version of these books. Almost all these audiobooks are available on Audible. You can sign up for Audible and get 2 free audiobooks easily. 🎧
Author Narrated Audiobooks
This is my favorite type of audiobook memoir to listen to as I feel it makes the story almost tangible and gives it a personal connection. Here are some audiobook memoirs, narrated by the authors themselves, that I loved.
How Dare The Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana (with Abigail Pesta)
This story is about a war survivor from the Democratic Republic of Congo. The author talks about her life in Congo, her childhood growing up in her hometown Uvira before the war tore everything apart. She belonged to the Banyamulenge Tribe, a tribe that is often categorized along with the Tutsi tribe. The Tutsi tribe was always facing persecution in the neighboring country, Rwanda. That hatred spilled over the borders and contaminated the feelings of the Congolese people against their people, the Banyamulenge.
There were always wars breaking out, and the author and her family used to take refuge in the neighboring country, Burundi. Finally, in 2004 her family had to leave their land for the last time and move to a refugee camp in Burundi. That was not the end of their struggle. There they had to witness another massacre by rebel forces, a loss of a family member, and more displacement. After facing many losses, they reached the US through the United Nations program for refugees.
The family may have escaped from war, but now they had another battle in front of them; to acclimatize themself and regroup in a foreign country far from their own, whose language they did not speak. After facing war, struggling against racism and fighting racist perceptions and stereotypes became their new battle. Thus, we follow the author, Sandra Uwiringiyimana, on her journey in her new life as she faces off against new and different odds. You can get the audiobook here! 🎧
I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
This book is a recent publication and has been creating waves since it was published. This is the memoir of Jennette McCurdy, in which she tells her story of being abused and exploited as a child by her mother. Many trigger warnings need to be heeded in this book, such as child abuse, child exploitation, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and more. In this book, the author, Jennette, talks about the mental and emotional abuse she faced under her mom Debra, who was a narcissist.
Her mom was a cancer survivor who used this fact to manipulate her family into doing everything she demanded them to do. Jennette was the one who frequently came under her manipulations to heed everything her mother told her to do. She became a child actor at ten solely to please her mother, despite having no interest in becoming an actor. She acted in the hit Nickelodeon channel show iCarly, which helped her become famous. She talks about her negative experiences on set and the exploitation she faced by the adults who worked for a channel that was meant for children.
At a young age, she is pushed by her mother down an unhealthy path, which eventually leads to her various eating disorders and body issues. She tells her story in a very matter-of-fact tone, which ironically makes the subject matter seem even more horrifying than it already is. Listening to the audiobook is a preferable option because the author herself narrates the story and manages to bring out nuances that could be missed while reading the book. You can get the audiobook here! 🎧
Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner
The author, Michelle Zauner, is a singer and guitarist of the musical project Japanese Breakfast. She talks about dealing with the loss of her mother, who died of cancer. She wrote this as an essay that won a contest in the New Yorker magazine, following which literary agents asked her to expand on it; thus, she wrote this memoir. The author is of half-Korean and half-American descent. After her mother’s death, she goes to H Mart- where she spent meaningful time with her mother when she was alive- to reminisce about her and starts crying in grief, sparking the title of this memoir.
She begins recounting the memories she has of her mother. She talks about her mother’s love for cooking, her decorating knack, her artistic skills, and, most importantly, her love for Korean heritage and family. This book is not just an ode to the memory of her mother. It also talks about herself, her struggles with her career, her dysfunctional relationship with her father, and her attempts at finding her own identity and path in life. This memoir is like a reminder of the unbreakable bond of love between a mother and her daughter. One can’t help but become invested in the author’s life and shed a few tears as we reach the end of the story. You can get the audiobook here! 🎧
Know My Name: A Memoir by Chanel Miller
Chances are that people might have read or heard about the People vs. Turner case, popularly known as the Stanford Rape case. The victim, who was known as Emily Doe during the time of the popular trial, wrote this memoir to reclaim her identity and share her side of the story. Again trigger warnings have to be heeded with this memoir as it talks extensively of rape, misogyny, sexism, sexual harassment, and the aftermath and backlashes the victim faces. This is a powerful book coupled with dynamic writing, and the audiobook narrated by the author herself adds more emotion to the book as we listen to it.
This book has the power to move and impact us profoundly. Following the popularity of her victim impact statement that went viral after being published on Buzzfeed, she decided to compound the popularity. So she started writing this book to describe her traumatic experience in her own words and also to reveal her real name to the whole world. In this memoir, the author tells us about the events that led to the fateful incident and the aftermath of her rape, in which she was villainized even more by the media, both social and press.
She talks about how she struggled with coming to terms with her rape and the victim blaming she faced. She talks about her negative experience with the judicial system, which failed to offer her the justice she deserved. This increased the popularity of her case and led to other changes that significantly impacted the California legislature and the judicial system. One can’t help but think that Chanel Miller was always born to be a writer when reading this book, if only the circumstances that led to her literary career could have been different. You can get the audiobook here! 🎧
Kitchen Privileges: A Memoir by Mary Higgins Clark
Mystery lovers will be familiar with the name Mary Higgins Clark, one of the more prolific authors of this genre. I used to be a big fan of her books, so it surprised me that she had also written a memoir called Kitchen Privileges, published in 2002. The author herself narrates the audiobook version, and she talks about her life from childhood till the present (at the time of publication). She grew up during the Great Depression and was the middle sibling to two brothers.
Her family was affluent but fell on hard times due to their financial difficulties during the Depression. After the loss of the family patriarch, her mother had to make ends meet somehow to take care of her three kids, so she opened her home to boarders with a sign saying Kitchen Privileges allowed, hence the title of the memoir. The memoir follows her childhood through adulthood, interspersed with various happy events and the loss of loved ones. She also talks about her struggling writing career before she became a successful author.
She briefly talks about her other daughter, Carol Higgins Clark, who also became an author like herself. This short memoir spans a better part of the 20th century. We realize how many historical events the author must have experienced in her long life and how they have served as inspirations in her books. Fun, fast, and not without its moments of sadness, this is an excellent short memoir for anyone not looking for something too dark and horrifying, a welcome change from the usual tragedy-laced memoirs. You can get the audiobook here! 🎧
Non-Author Narrated Audiobooks
Narrating one’s story may not always be easy, but telling someone else’s story is a different ball game altogether. The narrator must take so much care to keep the feelings and emotions on point to help the listeners connect easily with the book. They are stepping into the author’s shoes and lending their voice to the author’s life experience, holding all the emotions, thoughts, and feelings hidden behind the words and doing justice to them. These are some books where the narrator did a commendable job and seamlessly connected the readers/listeners to the author’s story.
The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story About War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil (Narrated by Robin Miles)
This memoir tells the story of Clementine Wamariya, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. She belonged to the Tutsi tribe, which was ethnically discriminated against and targeted by the Hutu tribe in Rwanda. When the Rwandan Civil War broke out, the Tutsis were being killed in large numbers, so Clementine escaped with her sister Claire to seek refuge in neighboring countries, away from the genocide. The two sisters, displaced from their family, travel through seven different African countries, including Rwanda, Burundi, Zaire (now known as The Democratic Republic of Congo), Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and South Africa, in search of refuge.
After six years, in 2000, they were granted asylum in the United States. Now began another new struggle, in which they began to make a new life in a country so far removed from theirs and away from their family. In many ways, this story is similar to that Sandra Uwiringiyimana’s story in How Dare the Sun Rise. But I feel it is essential to read books that showcase the effects of war, the aftermath, and the struggles faced by the survivors, and also learn about historical events that are not American and European-centric. You can get the audiobook here! 🎧
The Girl With Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee with David John (Narrated by Josie Dunn)
Hyeonseo Lee grew up in North Korea, one of the most secretive countries in the world. She grew up listening to the propaganda and believed that her country was the best in the world. Her family was middle class and relatively affluent. They lived near the river Yalu, which bordered China. During the 1990 famine in North Korea, she witnessed many deaths and her people’s suffering. That was the first point at which disillusionment against her country began seeping into her.
On a whim, one day, she crossed the river into neighboring China, marking the most significant change in her fate. Then began a journey in which she took up various identities to stay alive and avoid being identified as North Korean for fear of being deported back to her home country, where she would be tortured and killed. After a while, it was not just her safety that was about to be jeopardized but also that of her family, whom she left behind in North Korea.
Escaping from North Korea once was an almost impossible task, but she set about to achieve the impossible mission yet again. This is the story of how a young girl not only defected from one of the most authoritarian countries in the world but also helped her family out using her intelligence, luck, and the help of good samaritans found along the way, despite the many obstacles in her path. Josie Dunn narrated this story masterfully, but if you are interested in listening to the author’s experience in her voice, check out her Ted Talk video on YouTube. You can get the audiobook here! 🎧
The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial by Maggie Nelson (Narrated by Cassandra Campbell)
True Crime meets memoir in this book by author Maggie Nelson. Throughout her life, she was aware of the tragedy that befell her family long before her birth, her aunt’s murder back in 1969. Her aunt Jane was one of the victims of a serial killer in Michigan. The case was never solved and was thought to have been abandoned due to no leads or evidence. She was obsessed with the case and wrote a poetry book titled Jane: A Murder. As fate would have it, 35 years after her aunt’s murder, right before the publication of her poetry book, in 2004, her mother received news that the case was being reopened as they had caught a new suspect.
In this book, Nelson details the events taking place in the trial and her thoughts about the accused. She goes back to her aunt’s murder and explains how the grief of the tragedy seemed to have been hanging as a dark cloud over her life growing up. She talks about how tragedies that took place a long time ago still have the ability to stay alive in the family for generations. Stark and to the point, this is a story of a family who has been waiting for justice and grieving the loss of a loved one without closure or justice for many years. You can get the audiobook here! 🎧
The Chief Witness: Escape from China’s Modern-Day Concentration Camps by Sayragul Sauytbay with Alexandra Cavelius (Narrated by Xifeng Brooks)
Sayragurl Sautbay tells her story of escape from China in this memoir. She is an ethnically Kazakh Muslim from East Turkistan, an area occupied by China, now called Xinjiang, has captured. She talks about her life growing up there before the advent of Chinese settlers. Her peaceful life is interrupted, and she begins to hear news of the capture and internment of Uyghur Muslims by the Chinese Communist Party, CCP.
Fearing for the safety of her and her family, she decided to leave for Kazakhstan, the land of their ancestors. Unfortunately, she is left behind and has to do whatever it takes to survive. She is sent to a concentration camp and made to teach the captives the Chinese language and the way of life under the CCP, as she is one of the Kazakhs well-versed in Chinese. She witnesses many horrific and unmentionable incidents and decides to escape and reach safety.
But she soon finds out that the CCP has long reaching power and escaping from them is very difficult. And even if she leaves the country, their influence is everywhere. The author managed to rally support from all over the world and has been able to shed light on the plight of Uyghur Muslims despite the risk to her and her family. She continues to defy the CCP and has published this book, notwithstanding the threats she has received. You can get the audiobook here! 🎧
Garbage Bag Suitcase: A Memoir by Shenandoah Chefalo (Narrated by Coleen Marlo)
This is also one of those books where the trigger warnings should be minded before reading. This book mentions child abuse, child neglect, and substance abuse. From a very young age, the author never had a stable life. She had a dysfunctional relationship with her parents and always lived in fear of upsetting them and getting punished. They never lived in one place for long; they moved homes in the middle of the night, packing everything they owned into garbage bags, hence the memoir’s title.
When she entered her teenage years, she discovered a dark secret about herself which led to her estrangement from her family and into the custody of the foster care system. She stayed in the foster care system, where her foster family exploited her until she went to college. Once she joined college, she strived to make a better life for herself. She became 1% of the people from the foster system who graduated from college.
Despite making a good life for herself, she struggled to overcome her childhood neglect and abuse and deal with abandonment issues. Her memoir reveals her plans to change how the US foster care system is handled. This is a story about the foster care system and one woman’s attempt to make a better life for herself despite all the odds she faced. You can get the audiobook here! 🎧
These are some of the memoirs that I feel everyone should read at least once. I think that memoirs give a good insight into people’s lives and their experiences, and it helps broaden our worldviews and makes us understand different cultures and, most importantly, empathize with people of all nationalities, color, ethnicity, religion, and so on.
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