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Know a memoir or autobiography you think college students would enjoy?

 
 
Reply Wed 22 Dec, 2010 09:04 am
I teach developmental writing and first year composition.

As I explained in this thread http://able2know.org/topic/165651-1

I want to put together a list of projects, as I call them, for my students. I thought a memoir or an autobiography might work well.

I know that the reading of memoirs/autobiographies is a pastime for older people but I thought if there were a personality who produced a literary memoir* that was fairly short but relevant, the kids might respond positively and have a good springboard for other writing. The "projects" are supposed to generate two essays: a compare and contrast essay and a research paper.

*I remember when one of the volumes of Henry Kissinger's memoirs was published. A critic said that unlike Charles De Gaulle and Winston Churchill, Kissinger had no literary talent.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Dec, 2010 09:09 am
@plainoldme,
Perfect, I had thought of "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" for the other thread but it's not really scientific enough. It's a good memoir though!

http://www.amazon.com/Surely-Feynman-Adventures-Curious-Character/dp/0393316041
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Dec, 2010 09:47 am
Frederick Douglass's autobiography is short, easy to read, and an important historical document to boot. Also, it's available for free on the intarwebs.
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Dec, 2010 11:12 am
@sozobe,
My ex-husband read that years ago. I forgot all about it. Thanks! That sounds great!
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plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Dec, 2010 11:15 am
@joefromchicago,
That sounds like the perfect autobiography for them because there are a lot of historic issues they can research, using the book as a starting point.

There is a piece from the autobiography of Malcolm X that is in the text I had been using for remedial English. Its the chapter about his struggle to become literate and how he wrote out the dictionary in long hand. That sort of determination impresses the students.

Thank you!
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Dec, 2010 11:31 am
I originally hesitated to respond here, as the memoirs i could think of were by historical figures as opposed to celebrities, and i didn't think they would answer. However, Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon, wrote memoris of the reign of Louis XIV, and is an important source for the latter part of Louis' reign. Under the rubric of Saint Simon, his memoirs can be downloaded from the Gutenberg project.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Dec, 2010 11:32 am
Joe's post reminded me that the same can be said of the memoirs of Benjamin Franklin.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Dec, 2010 12:56 pm
Another good autobiography is Jane Addams's Twenty Years at Hull House. That's longer, but the chapters devoted primarily to Addams make up about half of the book. It's also available on the internet.
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Dec, 2010 03:29 pm
@plainoldme,
I LED 3 LIVES by Herbert Philbrick
0 Replies
 
Always Eleven to him
 
  1  
Reply Thu 23 Dec, 2010 10:13 am
I'm reading The Autobiography of Mark Twain right now. Yes, it's long, but his biting wit and tales of famous folk are great!
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tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 23 Dec, 2010 10:26 am
@plainoldme,
Patti Smith Just Kids is a great depiction of two artists struggling to understand how to tame their aimless creativity while struggling to live below the poverty line.

Patti Smith's depiction of two iconic pop culture figures Robert Mapplethorpe and herself give this memoir a retro~appeal for those students are sentimentally fascinated with the 1960s and 1970s gritty authentic NYC experience they missed out on.

Plus the writing makes it a smashing great read! There is a reason she won the National Book Award (see my present day signature). Plus the 304 pages is a snappy read. For students with an already burdened with their heavy workload, they can actually appreciate the book itself instead of resenting you (the teacher), the writer, and the assignment at hand.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 23 Dec, 2010 10:39 am
My favorite autobiography, Benvenuto Cellini's, could be enjoyed by a college student right from the first page, where he starts in complaining about his father's plans for what he should do...

however, I'm not so sure I'd recommend it as one of your selections for a general class... could depend on the students.

I suppose it's available printed out online, but I don't know. Aha, yes, I see it's available on Kindle. I've read more than one translation, but don't remember which I preferred. The penguin edition here is probably swell..

http://www.amazon.com/Autobiography-Benvenuto-Cellini-Penguin-Classics/dp/0140447180

Uh oh, hah, a nude is pictured on the front cover. So it goes. Not all editions have that. Anyway, that could spark interest..

Here's some more. Now I remember that I had the Symond's fancy edition and liked it, my copy being very old and tattered and falling apart. Note, illustrations by Salvadore Dali.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_42?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=autobiography+of+benvenuto+cellini+symonds&sprefix=autobiography+of+benvenuto+cellini+symonds
0 Replies
 
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Thu 23 Dec, 2010 10:41 am
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. My favorite autobiography.

Cycloptichorn
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 23 Dec, 2010 10:42 am
@Cycloptichorn,
Oh, I liked that too.
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Sun 26 Dec, 2010 10:59 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
Does he talk about his heroin addiction in the book?
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 26 Dec, 2010 11:09 pm
@plainoldme,
I don't remember, not sure. Is that a requirement for you re an interesting book?
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 26 Dec, 2010 11:48 pm
@ossobuco,
Sorry for the taunt, Pom. I couldn't help it..
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Mon 27 Dec, 2010 04:10 pm
@plainoldme,
plainoldme wrote:

Does he talk about his heroin addiction in the book?


Yes.

Cycloptichorn
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Tue 28 Dec, 2010 12:36 pm
@joefromchicago,
I have to read the Jane Addams book. A dear friend, who was in her 80s when I came to know here, worked with Jane Addams.
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plainoldme
 
  2  
Reply Tue 28 Dec, 2010 12:38 pm
@tsarstepan,
Wow. I knew that the book was well regarded but I hadn't realized that she won the National Book Award. I suspect it might not be available in paperback yet. I'll check. I heard her read a part of it on NPR.
 

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