The Glass Castle is a memoir by Jeanette Walls describing her turbulent childhood years, and how she and her siblings survived poverty and neglect against all odds. Her father was an alcoholic who she longed to trust, but who let her down time and time again. Her mother was an artist with her head in the clouds, with little grip on the realities of hunger and child safety. The Walls family lived a “nomadic” lifestyle, often voluntarily living without a roof over their heads. Despite the many struggles of their childhood, the Walls children became successful in life. They succeed in spite of their parents.
The tone of the novel is set when within the first chapter, Jeannette burns herself cooking food over an open flame (at age three) and her father subsequently breaks her out of a hospital. What follows are the many, some humorous, several depressing, exploits of Jeanette’s father Rex Walls. One of the main focuses of the memoir is Jeannette’s relationship with Rex, who cares for her deeply, but who can’t give up alcohol for his children. An ongoing question that the reader must ask is whether this love is genuine, and whether his stated care for Jeanette justifies his many flaws. Rex always promised his children that he would build them a house made entirely of glass- a glass castle. It is up to the reader to interpret whether this castle was ever intended to be built.
This book truly is a must-read. It is not simply a novel; it is a recording of real life. It is full of danger and emotion, and brimming with moments that will make you laugh, and (quite often) cry. If you are looking for a page turner of a success story, look no further.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.
It’s said that a mother is one of the most important people in a person’s life. To Maya Angelou, her mother, Vivian Baxter, was no exception. As Maya Angelou said about her mother, “You were a terrible mother of small children, but there has never been anyone greater than you as a mother of a young adult” (197).
Mom and Me and Mom follows Maya Angelou through her journey learning to trust and love herself and the people in her life. After being abandoned and sent to live with her grandmother until her early teenage years, Maya was astounded that she would have to live with her “movie-star” mother. Maya just could not get used to Vivian Baxter; she was so different than her grandmother. It would take years before Maya would call her mother Mom, frequently referring to her as Lady or Mother. Also, though Maya asked for advice from her mother, she took no charity and moved out to live on her own as soon as she was able.
But thanks to her mother’s guidance, Maya led an extraordinary life, raising her son and working so many unique and varying jobs that took her all over the world.
This novel was incredible! Maya Angelou is such an inspiration, with what she made of her life, despite some of the situations she was dealt. My favorite part of the book was how easy to read it was, even when dealing with tough topics. Maya Angelou told it as it was, with a level of grace that was amazing.
I heard about this autobiography through Our Shared Shelf on Goodreads. Emma Watson, in tandem with her work for UN Women, created Our Shared Shelf to promote feminism and equality. Their current recommended novel is The Handmaid’s Tale, which I can’t wait to read next!
– Leila S., 11th grade
Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.
Farewell to Manzanar is Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s personal, non-fiction account of life inside the Japanese internment camps that the US government put in place during World War ΙΙ. Although many Americans acknowledge the injustice that was done to Japanese Americans during the period that they were relocated to camps along the western interior of the US, less Americans understand the full truth of what life was like inside these war relocation camps. In Farewell to Manzanar, Wakatsuki tells the story of her family’s time in Manzanar, their assigned camp, as well as detailing the repercussions that this experience had on her family.
One of the most interesting parts about Wakatsuki’s story is that she puts a great deal of focus on her life pre and post war. She does not talk only about her family’s incarceration, but also of their home before the turmoil of the war. She laces the chapters with memories from before her time in Manzanar. Wakatsuki also taps into the memories of her family in chapters where she is not the narrator. This story is not simply one about war; it also talks about a young girl growing up and discovering her interests in a place far from her home.
Farewell to Manzanar is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.
The book The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom is a story about surviving the Holocaust. Corrie was the daughter of a watch storekeeper, her father, with her sister, Betsie ten Boom in Holland. The ten Booms lived above their shop. Their lives changed when they accepted the risk of hiding Jews after Germany took over their home country. Corrie was assisted with the concealment of the Jews from a contractor who built them a secret. The room was located in Corrie’s bedroom, and the contractor informed that it will be the last place they will look. He also installed an alarm.
While resting in her bed with the flu, Corrie heard the alarm go off. After, the police entered and took Corrie, Betsie, and their father to concentration camp. The authority found out that they were keeping Jews in their home. Now Corrie and her family have to go through the struggle and hardships while trying to live at the camp. All Corrie has is her sister, father, and her faith in Jesus.
I really enjoyed this book because it described how live was during the Holocaust. The book was very descriptive. I was highly interested in this story and how the author explained her experience from entering and to being released from the concentration camp. I would recommend this to ages 12 and up. I hope you read this book.
-Samantha S., 8th grade
Positive is a memoir by Paige Rawl with Ali Benjamin that tells the story of Paige’s life growing up being HIV positive since birth.
Positive was a unique book choice for me as I typically do not read memoirs; in fact, I usually avoid them like the plague. My problem with memoirs is that they are often written by people that while they have experienced something unique in their life are just ordinary people, not writers. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the stories told in memoirs, I do, it’s that too often they feel like assigned reading that I just can’t get through to matter how much I may want to.
I had this problem with I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, it wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate her story, it was just clearly not written by a writer, and I just couldn’t get through it, despite the captivating story. Still even with my past difficulties getting through these types of book something about Paige’s story interested me enough to give it a go, and I am so glad that I did.
Heaven is For Real is a book written in 2010 about a little boy named Colton Burpo by his father Todd Burpo. When Colton was almost 4 years old, he became very sick with appendicitis – and almost died. However, he didn’t. All his doctors and nurses thought this was a miracle in itself because he was that sick. Even more miraculous, Colton later told his parents that he went to Heaven during his surgery. That’s right. Colton went to Heaven!
Now one’s reaction at first would be “What? No way! Impossible!” and then be flooded with questions that they just have to ask. Even though Colton’s dad is a pastor, he too felt this way. Mr. Burpo’s book takes you through the impossible yet true journey of his little boy’s experiences as told by Colton to him. It really is extraordinary, and the book itself is definitely worth a read. Especially since it’s a true story about Heaven – a topic many of us wonder about and not many people know much about.
Now recently, the movie based on the book came out. It’s never expected that a book-to-movie-adaption will be exactly the same as the original book (even the Director’s Cut, which is what I saw). But I did love this movie, and it stayed very close to the book! I suggest watching the movie first, as it’s a type of movie that leaves you wanting more, and the book is the perfect solution for that as the book goes into much more detail!
As for the movie itself, I think it’s really good! It seems harder to believe though versus reading the book. Also, some of the special effects are a little cheesy and made the experience harder to believe. The movie makers changed/unincluded some significant things from the book which I think that if they would’ve kept those things the way it had actually happened, it might’ve been more emotional.
I definitely recommend the book over the movie. It comes straight from Colton’s dad, and everything in it is true. But I’m not ruling out the movie, it was very good as well!
-Danielle L., 6th grade
“‘Most of humanity’, he said, ‘have eyes that are so caked shut with the dust of deception they will never see the truth, no matter who tries to save them'”
Eat, Pray, Love is a memoir written by Elizabeth Gilbert which captures her journey across what she calls “the three I’s.” After a messy divorce with her first husband, Gilbert decided to take a journey to Italy, India, and Indonesia. In each of the three countries she made a specific goal; in Italy, to eat and learn the culture surrounding Italian food, in India, to learn about spirituality (hence the word pray), and finishes her year abroad in Indonesia, where she will experience love. I loved the book, and although it starts off slowly, you will fall in love with the book once her trip begins.
“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life”
-Sara S., 10th grade