13 Memoirs By Millennials That Prove You're Never Too Young To Tell Your Story
In literary circles, there are plenty of ideas about who is old enough to write a memoir (and who isn’t.) “Young” memoirists are typically considered to be any writer under 40, while millennial memoirists — those born after 1980 — are even younger. The argument makes sense: with age comes experience, with experience comes wisdom, experience plus wisdom equals an engaging and thought-provoking memoir. Even memoirist extraordinaire, Mary Karr — whose first memoir, The Liars' Club, was published when the writer was 40-years-old herself — argues in her 2015 title The Art of Memoir that young-ish aspiring memoirists might be served well by a few more years under their belts before publication.
The memoirists on this list defy conventional memoir-writing wisdom, it seems — and readers are grateful for it. Each of these millennial memoirs was written by someone who may not have racked up the years of experience many of their other literary peers have, but what they’re lacking in age they make up for in experience. And killer storytelling ability, to boot. They’ve traveled the world, overcome addiction, tackled mental and physical feats of resilience, endured devastating loss, and found a way to write about it. Maybe age, after all, really is just a number.
Check out these 13 must-read memoirs by millennials.
'Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North' by Blair Braverman
This is a newer memoir that I am absolutely obsessed with, and if you haven’t read Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North, add it to your TBR pile stat. This travel memoir tells the story of Blair Braverman, who first left home at just 19-years-old to work as a dog sledding tour guide on an Alaskan glacier. In an arctic terrain dominated by men, Braverman not only braved the cold, she pushed through all of her physical and mental limits, surviving and ultimately thriving in this otherworldly landscape.
'Priestdaddy' by Patricia Lockwood
A poet and recent-memoirist whose readers love to love her on social media, Patricia Lockwood has a distinct voice — funny, lyrical, candid — that you won’t be able to put down. Her 2017 memoir, Priestdaddy, shares the story of Lockwood’s childhood marked by the strange and obsessive presence of the Catholic church. As a married adult, Lockwood finds herself (and her husband) living under her uniquely devout parents’ roof once more, and finally begins to find peace (and humor) with her past.
'Fury: A Memoir' by Koren Zailckas
From the writer behind the bestselling memoir Smashed, which shed light on the use and abuse of alcohol in young American women, comes Fury: A Memoir — the 2010 follow-up to the story that memoirist Koren Zailckas told in her first book. Staying sober while struggling through writer’s block, depression, anxiety, and the fallout of an ended relationship, Zailckas starts to mine her past for what the years of her drinking actually cost her, leading her to discover a deeply-rooted anger she didn’t know she’d been avoiding.
'The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost' by Rachel Friedman
For wanderlusting readers, Rachel Friedman’s The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost is a must-read. The quintessential “good girl” surprises everyone in her life — and perhaps no one more than herself — when upon college graduation she books a spontaneous flight to Ireland and spends the next year traversing three continents, finding friends, adventure, and a love of travel she never knew she had.
'A Long Way Gone' by Ishmael Beah
A very different kind of millennial memoir, A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah tells the unbelievable and heartbreaking story of Beah’s experience as a child solider in Sierra Leone — a fate that has been suffered by over 300,000 children worldwide in recent years. In A Long Way Gone, Beah sheds light on this devastating crisis while negotiating the acts he was personally forced to commit at just 13-years-old, sharing how he managed to survive and make his way to the United States in order to finish high school.
'Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir' by Eddie Huang
The raw and hilarious memoir that inspired the hit television series, Eddie Huang’s Fresh Off the Boat tells a candid and relatable immigrant story — one of family, food, friends, and more food, as Huang’s American experience intersects with his Taiwanese heritage. After trying on a number of roles in law, fashion, and comedy, Huang finally found the perfect way to blend his family’s past with his present: by opening his own restaurant and celebrating the diverse cultural forces that inform who Huang is today.
'Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness' by Susannah Cahalan
With echoes of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar — only in memoir — Susannah Cahalan’s Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness begins when the memoirist wakes up in the hospital at just 24-years-old, with no memory of how she ended up there. What transpires is Cahalan’s diagnosis with a rare and previously unnamed disorder, one that begins with psychosis and leads to seizure, coma, or even death. Cahalan paints a vivid and painful picture of her loss of control over her mind, and her journey to recovery.
'I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban' by Malala Yousafzai
This is the memoir that readers haven’t stopped raving about since it first landed on bookstore shelves in 2012. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban tells the story of Malala Yousafzai, an outspoken, teenage blogger for the BBC, who was shot at 15-years-old for writing about the realities of life for women in her Taliban-ruled country. The memoir of this globally-recognized advocate of peace, women’s education, and women’s rights — and millennial! — isn’t one to miss.
'Son of a Gun: A Memoir' by Justin St. Germain
When you hear “the gunfight at the O.K. Corral” the first thing that comes to mind is probably a high school U.S. History instructor who was trying to liven up an otherwise dry lesson. But when memoirist Justin St. Germain transports you to that same landscape of the American wild west, blending past events with present, the effect is anything but dry. The author’s debut memoir, Son of a Gun, takes you to Tombstone, Arizona — an unforgiving landscape where guns and violence permeate — as St. Germain navigates the murder of his mother and his own journey to grow into the man he believes his mother wanted him to be.
'Tweak' by Nic Sheff
Nic Sheff’s Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines is the New York Times bestselling memoir telling a story all-too-common to addicts in the United States: one of starting to drink as a pre-teen, before soon succumbing to more serious substance use and abuse — in Sheff’s case, crystal meth and heroin addictions. Sheff describes the toll drugs take on both the mind and the body, and what a journey through recovery, relapse, and recovery again really looks like.
'Imagine Wanting Only This' by Kristen Radtke
Published earlier this year, Imagine Wanting Only This was written and illustrated by Kristen Radtke and is a haunting and beautiful account of loss, grief, ruin, and endings. The death of Radtke’s uncle and an abandoned mining town converge to inspire this graphic memoir, which asks two essential questions: ‘why are we here on this planet?’ and ‘what will we leave behind once we’ve gone?’.
'Land of Enchantment' by Leigh Stein
Like many transforming stories begin, Leigh Stein’s life changed with a single phone call. In the summer of 2011, Stein learned that her ex-boyfriend, a young man who was simultaneously charming and captivating, controlling and violent, had died in a motorcycle accident. Though the couple, in their early twenties, were no longer together, the loss forces Stein to grapple with the nature of their relationship — now unquestionably over — and the young woman she became within it.
'The Glass Eye' by Jeannie Vanasco
Memoirist Jeannie Vanasco was named after her half-sister — a girl who died at 16-years-old, 23 years before Vanasco herself was born. In the wake of her father’s death, which left the memoirist devastated and wading through a field of mental illness and obsessive mania, Vanasco begins to sort through her family’s complicated history and the first Jeanne’s life, in order to make sense of her own. Published this month by Tin House, Jeannie Vanasco’s The Glass Eye is the beautiful and multilayered journey of a writer paying tribute to her father, while also discovering herself.