YA Friday: In Their Own Words

hands typing on a laptop with a coffee and flowers

Non-Fiction Edition

Reading memoirs and autobiographies gives us a first-hand glimpse into the lives of people who have lived in different places and times. The writer's experiences may be very different from our own, but we can often learn or find inspiration from their stories.

Memoirs and Autobiographies

Book cover: Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card

Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi

Saedi, an Iranian-American, recounts her life as a teenager in San Jose in the 1990's. Her life is turned upside down when she discovers that she is undocumented and has to go through the naturalization process. She tackles coming-of-age and balancing two cultures with honesty and humor.

book cover: Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning

Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning by Leslie Odom, Jr.

Odom made a name for himself by originating the role of Aaron Burr in the musical sensation Hamilton. However, his road to success was not easy, and he shares his advice on becoming a performer and pursuing your dreams. This book would be enjoyed by aspiring artists and Hamilton fans.

Book cover: I am Malala

I am Malala: the Girl who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

A modern classic, Malala spoke up for her right to education and almost died because of it. At 16, she became the youngest person to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Book cover: Courage to Soar

Courage to Soar: a Body in Motion, a Life in Balance by Simone Biles with Michelle Burford

Simone Biles has set the record for most gold medals won by an American gymnast at a single Summer Olympics. She describes the hard work she went through to become a professional gymnast, and how faith and family have helped her through challenging times.

Book cover: Becoming Kareem

Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld

Growing up, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was shy and struggled to fit in with classmates. He had a talent for basketball, and became an NBA legend. In this memoir, he describes his journey from awkward kid to superstar. He also describes the racism he has faced, and his path to becoming a social activist.

Book cover: I Have the Right to

I Have the Right to: a High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope by Chessy Prout, with Jenn Abelson

When she was 15 years old, Prout was sexually assaulted at her boarding school. In this memoir, she recounts the traumatic event, the aftermath and trial, as well as her desire to use her voice to help other survivors of sexual assault feel empowered to speak out.

How Dare the Sun Rise, book cover

How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana with Abigail Pesta

Uwiringiyimana came to the United States as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She survived a massacre and lived in a refugee camp, and faced many challenges with adjusting to her new life in the US. This is a story of survival and hope, and how she has become a voice for her people.