Category Archives: Biography

Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936

mary_astor_purple_diaryThis book caught my eye because of the cover; yes I judge books by their cover. The author, Edward Sorel, is a cartoonist, illustrator, and caricaturist whose work has appeared in Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and many other magazines. Given his career he chose to do an illustrated biography on the actress Mary Astor after a serendipitous find while renovating his New York apartment in the 1960’s. I found it refreshing to read a bio where the author intersperses his subject’s life with anecdotes of his own; it gave a context to both. The fact that he illustrated it was icing on the cake. Many of the scandals we hear about in the entertainment field now are nothing new, it appears they have been around since there are been actors on stage – just a play being reworked and put back on view again for a new generation (Submitted by RZW)

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The Girl With No Name: The True Story of A Girl Who Lived With Monkeys

 

The-Girl-with-No-Name1It’s one of those books that you may wish you haven’t started reading (it can be painful to read some parts of this book), but then, all of a sudden- you can’t let go of it. It’s suspensefully captivating.

The book, written by Marina Chapman, is based on a true survival story of Marina, who was kidnapped at the age of 5, and abandoned in the jungles of Colombia. Miraculously, Marina lived on and found a ‘family’ in a troop of monkeys that she befriended. One day, everything changes and Marina returns back to civilization, yet she faces a lot of trials and great misfortunes.

Regardless of all the challenges depicted in the book, there is always optimism and something good invisibly present at all times. The beauty of this narrative is in how strong the main character turns out to be and although Marina is quite agnostic, there is a powerful presence of faith and hope throughout her life’s journey. It’s a story of not giving up, discovering the world, and building oneself from scratch. The novel reads with ease and simplicity; author’s choice of diction creates a vivid picture out of everything. (Submitted by Mariya)

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They Called Me Number One by Bev Sellars

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If you are looking to learn more about First Nations in BC, check out author Bev Sellars.  Her childhood memoir They Called Me Number One about life in a church-run residential school is powerful and easy to read.  Continue your learning with Sellars’ second book  Price Paid: The Fight for First Nations Survival.  Price Paid is a personal view of First Nations history in Canada and helps explain the historic reasons for First Nations issues today.  Highly recommended! (Submitted by Kristen).

 

 

 

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast

Many of us in our `middle ages` are dealing with aging parents in various stages of decline.  Roz Chast, the writer and New Yorker cartoonist, uses the graphic novel format to document her journey through this challenging time in her memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

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From first noticing that things seem to be `falling apart`, to realizing that she must take control of the uncontrollable, and then on through moving her parents into care, and experiencing their passing, Chast weaves her story with humour, grace, and brutal honesty.

The most important messages I took from this endearing memoir are that:

  • we are not alone,
  • having a sense of humour is a survival skill, and,
  • in the midst of complicated family relationships and challenging situations there is still, always, love.

(Submitted by KS).

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Gorge, my journey up Kilimanjaro at 300 Pounds by Kara Richardson Whitely

Image result for Gorge, my journey up KilimanjaroTo hike Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, is already an accomplishment. To do it twice is a triumph, but to do it while weighing 300 pounds, well, that was thought to be impossible. Kara’s struggling story of food addiction, family problems, low self-image, and her raw feelings of failure and shame are honest and unforgettable. The way that she was able to overcome these challenges are an inspiration. (Submitted by YR.)

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Sophia: princess, suffragette, revolutionary by Anita Anand

This was a fantastic biography with great writing. It was super interesting–I absolutely loved it! If you want to read about an interesting life, this is a great choice. Sophia was born into Indian royalty and raised in an English palace. She surprised everyone when she returned to India as a revolutionary battling injustice.  Highly recommended. (Submitted by JF).

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Reeva: A Mother’s Story by June Steenkamp

In 2012, during the London Olympics, the Blade Runner Oscar Pistorius inspired the world by becoming the first para-athlete to compete in both Paralympic and Olympic Games as a sprinter. Several months later he made the news headlines again, this time for fatally shooting his model girlfriend of three months, Reeva Steemkamp, in the middle of the night in his posh Pretoria villa.

Reeva’s mother, June Steenkamp, wrote this fascinating memoir describing the long months after she received the phone call that her beautiful, youngest daughter had been killed. In this painfully honest and unflinching account of Reeva’s life, she talks about Reeva’s wonderful childhood and what really went on in her mind as she sat in the packed Pretoria court room day after day and how she is coping in the aftermath of the verdict. Reeva is an amazing and very well written true insider’s account of this tragic story. (Submitted by Monika).

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