New and noteworthy biography + memoir

July memoirs are full of hard fought emotional journeys and explore where we draw strength during periods of extreme adversity and pain. Below are eight uniquely compelling books for those looking to explore journeys of identity and belonging through another’s eyes.


three-martini-afternoon-memoir

Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz by Gail Crowther

Introduced at a workshop in Boston University, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton formed a friendship that would soon evolve into a fierce rivalry, colored by jealousy and respect in equal terms. In the years that followed, these two women would not only become iconic figures in literature, but also lead curiously parallel lives. With weekly martini meetings at the Ritz to discuss everything from sex to suicide, theirs was a relationship as complex and subversive as their poetry.

Based on in-depth research and unprecedented archival access, Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz is a remarkable and unforgettable look at two legendary poets and how their work has turned them into lasting and beloved cultural figures.


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Where We Swim by Ingrid Horrocks

Ingrid Horrocks had few aspirations to swimming mastery, but she had always loved being in the water. She set out on a solo swimming journey, then abandoned it for a different kind of immersion altogether - one which led her to more deeply examine relationships, our ecological crisis, and responsibilities to those around us.

Where We Swim ranges from solitary swims in polluted rivers in Aotearoa New Zealand, to dips in pools in Arizona and the Peruvian Amazon. Part memoir, part travel and nature writing, this generous and absorbing book is about being a daughter, sister, partner, mother, and above all a human being living among other animals on this watery planet. Read our review here.


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Recipe for a Kinder Life by Annie Smithers

Part meditation, part memoir, the book offers practical advice and wisdom gleaned from a life dedicated to seasonal food and living lightly on the ground beneath her feet.

Annie’s story spans thirty years of productive gardens and kitchens across country Victoria. Now settled on a plot of land in Lyonville, which she farms for her family and her restaurant, du Fermier, she shares her hard-won lessons: setting up du Fermier, the gardens and the buildings on the farm; working with the weather, water and resident animals; and seeking the emotional stability so often elusive amid the crushing pressures of the restaurant industry. Recipes that celebrate the harvested produce and local environs accompany each step of the journey.


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Late Bloomer: How an Autism Diagnosis Changed My Life by Clem Bastow

Clem Bastow grew up feeling like she’d missed a key memo on human behaviour. She found the unspoken rules of social engagement confusing, arbitrary and often stressful. Friendships were hard, relationships harder, and the office was a fluorescent-lit nightmare of anxiety. It wasn’t until Clem was diagnosed as autistic, at age 36, that things clicked into focus.

With wit and warmth, Clem reflects as an autistic adult on her formative experiences as an undiagnosed young person and challenges the broader cultural implications and ideas around autism, especially for women and gender-diverse people. Read our review here.


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The Mother Wound by Amani Haydar

Amani Haydar suffered the unimaginable when she lost her mother in a brutal act of domestic violence perpetrated by her father. Five months pregnant at the time, her own perception of how she wanted to mother (and how she had mothered) was shaped by this devastating murder. After her mother’s death, Amani began reassessing everything she knew of her parents' relationship. A lawyer by profession, she also saw the holes in the justice system for addressing and combating emotional abuse and coercive control.

Writing with grace and beauty, Amani has drawn from this a story of female resilience and the role of motherhood in the home and in the world. Read our review here.


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Daughter of the River Country by Dianne O'Brien

Born in country NSW in the 1940s, baby Dianne is immediately taken from her Aboriginal mother. Raised in the era of the White AustraliaVal promises Dianne that one day she will ‘tell her a secret'. But before she gets the chance, Val tragically dies.

Abandoned by her adoptive father, Dianne is raped at the age of 15, sentenced to Parramatta Girls' Home and later forced to marry her rapist in order to keep her baby. She goes on to endure horrific domestic violence at the hands of different partners. But amazingly her fighting spirit is not extinguished. At the age of 36, while raising six kids on her own, Dianne learns she is Aboriginal and that her great-grandfather was William Cooper, a famous Aboriginal activist. Miraculously she finds a way to forgive her traumatic past and becomes a leader in her own right, vowing to help other ‘stolen people' just like her.


secret-superhuman-strength-memoir

The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel

All her life, Alison Bechdel has searched for an elusive secret. The secret to superhuman strength. She has looked for it in her favourite books, the lives of her heroes, celibacy, polyamory, activism, therapy, and most obsessively, in her lifelong passion for exercise. You name it, she’s tried it.

In this, her third graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel has written a deeply layered, personal story about selfhood, self-sabotage, mortality, addiction, bliss, wonder, and the concerns of a generation. This is an extraordinary, laugh-out-loud chronicle of the conundrums we all grapple with as we seek our true place in the world. Read our review here.


escape-from-manus-memoir

Escape from Manus: The Untold True Story by Jaivet Ealom

In 2013 Jaivet Ealom fled Myanmar’s brutal regime, where Rohingya like him were being persecuted and killed, and boarded a boat of asylum seekers bound for Australia. Instead of receiving refuge, he was transported to Australia’s infamous Manus Regional Processing Centre. Blistering hot days spent in shipping containers on the island melted into weeks, then years until, finally, facing either jail in Papua New Guinea or being returned to almost certain death in Myanmar, he took matters into his own hands.

Drawing inspiration from the hit show Prison Break, Jaivet meticulously planned his escape. He made it out alive but was stateless, with no ID or passport. While the nightmare of Manus was behind him, his true escape to freedom had only just begun.

Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz

Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz

Gail Crowther

$45.00Buy now

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