6 Must-Read Books If You Love EDUCATED

January 8 2020

If you read and loved Tara Westover’s unforgettable memoir EDUCATED, we have your next favorite reads! From true stories about unconventional and often dysfunctional families to finding your own place in the world after suffering abuse, these powerful memoirs contain the same heart as EDUCATED, introducing us to people who found their own way against all odds.

The Glass Castle
by Jeannette Walls

A perennially bestselling, one-of-a-kind memoir, The Glass Castle is a remarkable story of resilience and redemption. When sober, Jeannette’s brilliant and charismatic father captured his children’s imagination, but when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn’t want the responsibility of raising a family. The Glass Castle is truly astonishing—a memoir permeated by the intense love of a peculiar but loyal family.

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The Glass Castle
Jeannette Walls

Jeannette Walls grew up with parents whose stubborn nonconformity was both their curse and their salvation. In this astonishing memoir—the basis of the forthcoming film starring Brie Larson—Walls recounts how her family’s dysfunction left her and her siblings to fend for themselves, weather their parents’ betrayals, and finally find the resources and will to leave home.

Read a review of THE GLASS CASTLE here.

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Heartland
by Sarah Smarsh

An essential read for our times: an eye-opening memoir of working-class poverty in America that will deepen our understanding of the ways in which class shapes our country. Beautifully written, in a distinctive voice, Heartland combines personal narrative with powerful analysis and cultural commentary, challenging the myths about people thought to be less because they earn less.

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Heartland
Sarah Smarsh

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Southern Discomfort
by Tena Clark

A “raw and deeply honest” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) memoir set in rural Mississippi during the Civil Rights era. Grammy Award-winning songwriter and producer Tena Clark shares the story of her coming of age in a repressive society and the woman who gave her the strength to forge her own path—the black nanny who cared for her.

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Southern Discomfort
Tena Clark

For fans of beloved memoirs like Educated and The Glass Castle, a “raw and deeply honest” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) true story set in rural Mississippi during the Civil Rights era about a white girl coming of age in a repressive society and the woman who gave her the strength to forge her own path—the black nanny who cared for her.

In her memoir that is a “story of love and fury” (Jackson Clarion-Ledger), Grammy Award-winning songwriter and producer Tena Clark recounts her chaotic childhood in a time fraught with racial and social tension. Tena was born in 1953 in a tiny Mississippi town close to the Alabama border, where the legacy of slavery and racial injustice still permeated every aspect of life. On the outside, Tena’s childhood looked like a fairytale. Her father was one of the richest men in the state; her mother was a regal beauty. The family lived on a sprawling farm and had the only swimming pool in town; Tena was given her first car—a royal blue Camaro—at twelve.

But behind closed doors, Tena’s family life was deeply lonely and dysfunctional. By the time she was three, her parents’ marriage had dissolved into a swamp of alcohol, rampant infidelity, and guns. Adding to the turmoil, Tena understood from a very young age that she was different from her three older sisters, all of whom had been beauty queens and majorettes. Tena knew she didn’t want to be a majorette—she wanted to marry one.

On Tena’s tenth birthday, her mother, emboldened by alcoholism and enraged by her husband’s incessant cheating, walked out for good, instantly becoming an outcast in their society. Tena was left in the care of her nanny, Virgie, even though she was raising nine of her own children and was not allowed to eat from the family’s plates or use their bathroom. It was Virgie’s acceptance and unconditional love that gave Tena the courage to stand up to her domineering father, the faith to believe in her mother’s love, and the strength to be her true self.

Combining the spirit of brave coming-of-age memoirs such as The Glass Castle and vivid, evocative Southern fiction like To Kill a Mockingbird, Southern Discomfort is “an unforgettable southern story… [that] sings brightly to the incredible strength of family ties and the great power of love” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) and is destined to become a new classic.

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MENTIONED IN:

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Estranged
by Jessica Berger Gross

Jessica Berger Gross’s “gripping memoir about growing up in—and growing out of—a deeply dysfunctional, abusive family” (Glamour.com) redefines our understanding of estrangement. Jessica breaks through common social taboos and bravely recounts the painful, self-defeating ways in which she internalized her abusive childhood, how she came to the monumental decision to distance herself from her family, and how she endured the difficult road that followed.

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Estranged
Jessica Berger Gross

Jessica Berger Gross’s “gripping memoir about growing up in—and growing out of—a deeply dysfunctional, abusive family” (Glamour.com) redefines our understanding of estrangement and celebrates the ability to triumph over adversity.

To outsiders, Jessica Berger Gross’s childhood—growing up in a “nice” Jewish family in middle class Long Island—seemed as wholesomely American as any other. But behind closed doors, Jessica suffered years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her father, whose mood would veer unexpectedly from loving to violent.

At the age of twenty-eight, still reeling from the trauma but emotionally dependent on her dysfunctional family, Jessica made the anguished decision to cut ties with them entirely. Years later, living in Maine with a loving husband and young son, having finally found happiness, Jessica is convinced the decision saved her life.

In her “unsentimentally courageous memoir” (Kirkus Reviews), one of Elle’s “Best Books of the Summer,” Jessica breaks through common social taboos and bravely recounts the painful, self-defeating ways in which she internalized her abusive childhood, how she came to the monumental decision to distance herself from her family, and how she endured the difficult road that followed. Ultimately, by removing herself from the damaging patterns and relationships of the past, Jessica has managed to carve an inspiring path to happiness—one she has created on her own terms. Her story, told here in a careful, unflinching, and forthright way, completely reframes how we think about family and the past. Estranged is “a memoir of love, abuse, despair, and hope…a reminder that any family can hide a secret and that many victims of abuse go their entire lives without speaking out about it” (Booklist).

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MENTIONED IN:

6 Must-Read Books If You Love EDUCATED

By Off the Shelf Staff | January 8, 2020

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The Memory Palace
by Mira Bartok

In the tradition of The Glass Castle, two sisters confront schizophrenia in this poignant literary memoir about family and mental illness. Through stunning prose and original art, The Memory Palace captures the love between mother and daughter, the complex meaning of truth, and family’s capacity for forgiveness.

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The Memory Palace
Mira Bartok

In the tradition of THE GLASS CASTLE, two sisters confront schizophrenia in this poignant literary memoir about family and mental illness. Through stunning prose and original art, THE MEMORY PALACE captures the love between mother and daughter, the complex meaning of truth, and family’s capacity for forgiveness.

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The Escape Artist
by Helen Fremont

In the tradition of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home or George Hodgman’s Bettyville, Fremont writes about growing up in an intemperate household, with parents who pretended to be Catholics but were really Jews—survivors of Nazi-occupied Poland. She shares tales of family therapy sessions, disordered eating, her sister’s frequently unhinged meltdowns, and her own romantic misadventures as she tries to sort out her sexual identity.

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The Escape Artist
Helen Fremont

A luminous family memoir from the author of the critically acclaimed Boston Globe bestseller, After Long Silence, lauded as “mesmerizing” (The Washington Post Book World), “extraordinary” (The Philadelphia Inquirer), and “a triumphant work of art” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

In the tradition of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home or George Hodgman’s Bettyville, Fremont writes with wit and candor about growing up in a household held together by a powerful glue: secrets. Her parents, profoundly affected by their memories of the Holocaust, pass on, to both Helen and her older sister, a penchant for keeping their lives neatly, even obsessively compartmentalized, and a zealous determination to protect themselves from what they see as danger from the outside world.

She delves deeply into the family dynamic that produced such a startling devotion to secret keeping, beginning with the painful and unexpected discovery that she has been disinherited in her mother’s will. In scenes that are frank, moving, and often surprisingly funny, Fremont writes about growing up in such an intemperate household, with parents who pretended to be Catholics but were really Jews—survivors of Nazi-occupied Poland. She shares tales of family therapy sessions, disordered eating, her sister’s frequently unhinged meltdowns, and her own romantic misadventures as she tries to sort out her sexual identity.

In a family devoted to hiding the truth, Fremont learns the truth is the one thing that can set you free. Scorching, witty, and ultimately redemptive, The Escape Artist is a powerful contribution to the memoir shelf.

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