The best (modern) Black-ish American memoirs & autobiographies

Jonathan T. Jefferson Author Of Mugamore: Succeeding without Labels - Lessons for Educators
By Jonathan T. Jefferson

Who am I?

The first twenty-five years of my life appeared to be atypical for an inner-city African American boy from a large family. Only a small number of children were bused to more “academically advanced” schools. I earned that honor by frequently running away from the local school. Overcoming the challenges of being a minority in a demanding, predominantly Jewish, school district eventually benefited me greatly. In the early 1970s, my parents did something unprecedented for a working-class African American family from Queens: They bought an old, dilapidated farmhouse in Upstate New York's dairy country as a summer home. What other unusual life experiences that impact people of color have taken place on the American tapestry? 

I wrote...

Mugamore: Succeeding without Labels - Lessons for Educators

By Jonathan T. Jefferson,

Book cover of Mugamore: Succeeding without Labels - Lessons for Educators

What is my book about?

Written from a unique in-depth child's point of view, this book is designed to trigger a paradigm shift from automatically labeling children to patiently allowing them to grow into themselves. The author compares common disabilities chapter-by-chapter in sync with the child's intentions (or lack thereof). This sharing of the educational lives of two children, coupled with peer reviewed literature and research, provides powerful motivation for change.

The books I picked & why

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Finding Fish: A Memoir

By Antwone Q. Fisher, Mim E. Rivas,

Book cover of Finding Fish: A Memoir

Why this book?

Without deliberately seeking to preach or teach, this book educates its readers about the depths of the struggles faced by children raised in the absence of loving adults. Coping mechanisms and resilience led Antwone Fisher to acquire his dreams. Unfortunately, many who have been in a foster care system never find themselves.  


How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir

By Saeed Jones,

Book cover of How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir

Why this book?

From childhood through college and a burgeoning career, the author’s honest and unambiguous voice matures as he paints a vivid picture of growing up poor, Black, and gay. Despite societal and familial challenges, having a loving single mother committed to his education helped him to navigate to success. Page after page, readers will find something relatable in unexpected ways.


Real American: A Memoir

By Julie Lythcott-Haims,

Book cover of Real American: A Memoir

Why this book?

As a reader, these shared life experiences may prove to be the closest you will ever come to walking in someone else’s shoes. This book would have the greatest impact on historically privileged Americans if read with an open heart. Immensely enlightening: Lythcott-Haims does more than take the reader on a walk through her lived experiences. She shared the complex building blocks found in England, Africa, and America that impacted her mother’s character, along with the extraordinarily successful professional life of her father.

Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout: How the Timeless Wisdom of One Man Can Impact an Entire Generation

By Rick Rigsby,

Book cover of Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout: How the Timeless Wisdom of One Man Can Impact an Entire Generation

Why this book?

This beautiful homage to a father from “The Greatest Generation” reads like a sermon with several urgent messages: To be kind, timely, and disciplined. Make helping a regular part of life, do every job right, listen and learn. Be a person of impeccable character, and stand strong even when times are tough.


I'm Down: A Memoir

By Mishna Wolff,

Book cover of I'm Down: A Memoir

Why this book?

Delightful, clear, and unpretentious. The author shared what she thought as a child during each stage of her unique upbringing. The juxtaposition of her state of happiness while living in poverty compared to that of her affluent teenage classmates was a stark revelation. Racial issues were not shied away from, but dealt with tenderly and humorously. 


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