The best contemporary memoirs by women

Susie Orbach Author Of Bodies
By Susie Orbach

Who am I?

Memoirs have crept up on me as favorites. I could list many more. Please let me! As a psychoanalyst, I listen to the pains and struggles of individuals trying to become more at ease with themselves. They engage with their demons and try to make sense of how to manage the way their personal history has created their worldview and how to expand it enough to enter a present. Memoirs are another way of addressing such struggles. They have an elegance and a universality that emerges out of their individual stories. We learn about the other and we learn about ourselves.


I wrote...

Bodies

By Susie Orbach,

Book cover of Bodies

What is my book about?

Susie looks at how we get the bodies we have. We think of them as predetermined and unfolding but in reality our bodies reflect the familial, cultural, geographic, raced, gendered, and classed positions we are born into and develop from.

Bodies looks at cultural differences – that the Kaypoo bite where we would kiss for instance; at the importance of touch; at the earliest body to body relationship between infant and carers; at the meaning of clothing, of body shape. The democratisation of beauty and the selling of the western and body as a way to enter modernity produce huge profits for the beauty, fashion, food, and diet industries which Bodies discusses. Bodies looks at all the themes through her clinical work with individuals as a psychoanalyst.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Every Secret Thing: My Family, My Country

Why this book?

Gillian Slovo’s mother was assassinated by the South African Govt. Her father was considered public enemy #1. She reflects on being a child of revolutionaries, leaving her home suddenly and arriving in England on her 12th birthday and seeing snow for the first time. This is a book of making sense, acceptance, confrontation, and truths, Beautifully written, compelling, and gives us a way into a world very few people will experience and yet will want to know about.

Every Secret Thing: My Family, My Country

By Gillian Slovo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Every Secret Thing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A passionate witness to the colossal upheaval that has transformed her native South Africa, Gillian Slovo has written a memoir that is far more than a story of her own life. For she is the daughter of Joe Slovo and Ruth First, South Africa's pioneering anti-apartheid white activists, a daughter who always had to come second to political commitment. Whilst recalling the extraordinary events which surrounded her family's persecution and exile, and reconstructing the truth of her parents' relationship and her own turbulent childhood, Gillian Slovo has also created an astonishing portrait of a courageous, beautiful mother and a father…


Book cover of Everyday Madness: On Grief, Anger, Loss and Love

Why this book?

Lisa’s husband dies as he is being treated for cancer. She writes about the first year after in which grief, madness, confusion, isolation, and fury coincide with Britain’s beginning Brexit madness. Nothing can be made sense of and yet we need words to express what’s happening. And then words provide for consoling and managing.

Everyday Madness: On Grief, Anger, Loss and Love

By Lisa Appignanesi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Everyday Madness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'You will find all of life in this' Deborah Levy

After the death of her partner of thirty-two years, Lisa Appignanesi was thrust into a state striated by rage and superstition in which sanity felt elusive. Then, too, the cultural and political moment seemed to collude with her condition: everywhere people were dislocated and angry.

In this electrifying and brave examination of an ordinary enough death and its aftermath, Everyday Madness uses all Lisa Appignanesi's evocative and analytic powers to scrutinize her own and our society's experience of grieving. With searing honesty, lashed by humour, she navigates us onto the…


Book cover of Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Why this book?

Jeanette returns to her life story twenty-five years after Oranges are the Only Fruit. She escapes the religious cult she grew up in and finds solace and excitement in sexuality and learning. And she takes us on the journey of discovering her routes, her biological mother, her acceptance of Mrs. Winterson, and her struggles to live with the wounds of displacement, of being the wrong child, of bringing joy to those who love her words.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

By Jeanette Winterson,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The shocking, heart-breaking - and often very funny - true story behind Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.

In 1985 Jeanette Winterson's first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was published. It was Jeanette's version of the story of a terraced house in Accrington, an adopted child, and the thwarted giantess Mrs Winterson. It was a cover story, a painful past written over and repainted. It was a story of survival.

This book is that story's the silent twin. It is full of hurt and humour and a fierce love of life. It is about the pursuit of happiness,…


Red Dust Road

By Jackie Kay,

Book cover of Red Dust Road

Why this book?

Jackie and her brother were adopted by a loving working-class family in Glasgow. They were communists and thoughtful about the adoption process. Jackie becomes a beloved poet and a wonderful public performer. She was recently made the Poet Laureate of Scotland – The Scots Makar. In this book, she traces her childhood and her quest to meet her father in Lagos and to discover her biological parentage and story. It’s a story of belonging and of not belonging. Of finding, fitting, and not fitting. It moves and uplifts us.

Red Dust Road

By Jackie Kay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Red Dust Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Taking the reader from Glasgow to Lagos and beyond, Red Dust Road is a heart-stopping memoir, a story of parents and siblings, friends and strangers, belonging and beliefs, biology and destiny.

With an introduction by the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon.

From the moment when, as a little girl, she realizes that her skin is a different colour from that of her beloved mum and dad, to the tracing and finding of her birth parents, her Highland mother and Nigerian father, Jackie Kay's journey in Red Dust Road is one of unexpected twists, turns and deep emotions. In a…


Book cover of Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging

Why this book?

Afua’s father is from a Jewish refugee family, her mother is Ghanian. She grows up in an affluent middle-class suburb of London. As she explores her Black and Ghanian identity she looks at what it means to be British; the political heritage, race, and identity from the inside of a loving mix raced family. It is an important commentary on her experience of being in more than one place at the same time.

Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging

By Afua Hirsch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Brit(ish) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From Afua Hirsch - co-presenter of Samuel L. Jackson's major BBC TV series Enslaved - the Sunday Times bestseller that reveals the uncomfortable truth about race and identity in Britain today.

You're British.

Your parents are British.

Your partner, your children and most of your friends are British.

So why do people keep asking where you're from?

We are a nation in denial about our imperial past and the racism that plagues our present. Brit(ish) is Afua Hirsch's personal and provocative exploration of how this came to be - and an urgent call for change.

'The book for our divided…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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