When I was a kid, I have fond memories of going to the Wychwood library and checking out biographies , usually bound in orange cloth covers (e.g. Alexander Graham Bell). To this day, I continue to be interested in reading about the lives of others. This posting highlights 15 autobiographies, biographies and memoirs  from the world of the famous, from authors and some unknown heroes. that I’ve recently enjoyed.


ALL THE RAGE by Brad Fraser

The subtitle of this book reads: “A Partial Memoir in Two Acts and a Prologue” which provides readers with a structure that Fraser uses to tell the story of his life from birth to 2000.  Brad Fraser is one of Canada’s most important playwrights (Wolfboy, Unidentified Human Remains; Poor Super Man). In the Prologue readers learn about Fraser’s impoverished abusive childhood but in the final two acts of the memoir, we learn about the challenges of getting a play produced, the often critical reception to his work, and coming to terms with financial survival and with living a life of drinking, drugs and sex and love. There is lots of bouts with drinking. There is lots of sexual escapades. There are many travels across the globe. There are many addresses he has lived in. There are many ups and downs of finding love.  Because much of the playwright’s creative work takes place in the 80’s and 90’s , the AIDS epidemic filters through his life and those whom Fraser worked closely with. As a queer man, a queer artist, Brad Fraser is a champion for taking on the establishment and unapologetic about fighting for rights “I will not be disappeared. (p. 338). He may be considered to be a polarizing playwright as his work is staged throughout the world. Like every artist, he has had his ups and downs, but Brad Fraser fights through ‘all the rage’   his life as writer, director, activist shine on the wings of tenacity and talent. In this book Fraser proves himself to be a hero. This memoir ends in 2000. (There are surely more  more struggles and triumphs that continue his story  in the 21st Century.) 


“I make no apologies for my appetites and I make no apologies for the techniques, conscious nor not, I’ve developed for coping with being queer in a straight world and being a truth-teller in a world of liars…. I may not always succeed, but I have never stopped trying.” (p. 337)

GETTING BETTER by Michael Rosen 

Michael Rosen was appointed Children’s Laureate (2007-2009) in the UK and is a renowned poet, performer, and broadcaster. Loss has been a part of Michael Rosen’s life. He has lived with a chronic hypothyroid  illness grieved over the loss of his mother and over the sudden death of his son due to meningitis (meningococcal septicaemia). During the Pandemic, Rosen was in a coma for 40 days and 40 nights, facing death in intensive care for 48 days in a London hospital and then recovering in rehab for three weeks.  Getting Better provides essays of how Michael Rosen, struggled to recover from trauma and grief and helps readers understand how we can find it within ourselves to live well again, during and after dark times.  The subtitle of this book is Life Lessons on Going Under, Getting Over it and Getting Through It.  What a brilliant writer, Michael Rosen is!. What a courageous soul. Michael Rosen  is so grateful for his writing, so grateful for getting through life’s shit that came his way. so grateful for the loving care of family and friends.  He may consider himself to be lucky. We are lucky to have him and his writing, especially for helping us  take a journey on the path to being better, getting better.

IM by Isaac Mizrahi, a memoir

I bought this book when it was first published in 2019 but it was sitting on my shelf. On a recent trip to New York, I found myself sitting in a restaurant at a table opposite where Isaac Mizrahi was sitting. I didn’t approach him but this incident prompted me to take the book off my shelf and get to it. I’m glad I did. I loved it. It was one of my most enjoyable reads this summer. Isaac Mizrahi, fashion designer and celebrity is a force. The recounts of his life growing up in Brooklyn, attending the Yishiva, worried about being fat and knowing that he was gay held my interest. His journey in NY’s performing arts high school, Parson’s school of Design and his entry into the world of fashion by working with the Perry Ellis and Chanel make for a good story of tenacity, resilience, chance and dreams. Along the way we learn of connections to Audrey Hepburn, Barbra Streisand, Meryl Streep, Oprah Winfrey and Anna Wintour. Mizrahi also shares his connections to family with his mother being a major influence and cheerleader for his talents.  When Mr. M tells us about a the people in his life he often writes that they were ‘good friends’. Lucky him to have many friends he could count on. Descriptions of the good life in New York – theatre, restaurants, clubs – hooked me (a bit of envy?). He also discusses his escapades and encounters with gay dudes until he meets the love of his life. Isaac Mizrahi decided to change directions as a fashion star and follows his dreams to be a cabaret performer (he recently was on stage at 54 Below). I was always fascinated by Isaac Mizrahi’s stories that he shares with honesty. I wonder what I would have said to him if I were able to join him at his restaurant table in NY. Do we have anything in common? 

I’M GLAD MY MOM DIED by Jennette McCurdy

I wasn’t familiar with  celebrity Jennette McCurdy (I never watched  the TV show iCarly) but there’s been lots of buzz around this book and the title sure is captivating.  The book recount her entry into stardom under the mighty force of her mother, who makes Mama Rose in the musical Gypsy seem like Mary Poppins. Her mother had dream to make her daughter a tar, no matter the cost (i.e., harassing her for her calorie restricted diets, taking showers with her even when she was a teenager). No wonder McCurdy is glad her mom died (of cancer). But in part two of the book, we read more about the anxiety, shame and self-loathing. She embarks on eating disorders (bulimia) and unhealthy relationships. This was a heartbreaking, tough read (told with humour at times about dealing with the past and embarking on a journey to grow out of being a celebrity, having a tormented youth  and moving forward. Fascinating!

MANY DIFFERENT KINDS OF LOVE: A story of Life, Death and the NHS by Michael Rosen

Shout out to Chris Ridell’s illustrations that introduce each of the 8 sections.

Stricken by coronavirus, British writer Michael Rosen hospitalized with an induced coma for six weeks and weeks then spent weeks of rehab and recovery. This is the story of that time period. How does he get to tell remember his experiences, when in a coma? The first part of the book presents transcripts of emails that his devoted wife Emma had written to friends and family reporting her husband’s progress.  Also, a notebook was kept by his bedside where the nurses who provided him with care wrote letters of hope, support and love. h of the book is presented as remarkable prose poems, where Rosen writes about his near-death experience and he many different kinds of love that spurred him on to survival. This is a beautiful beautiful book about the  that life might send our way, the trauma  of death hanging over our heads and the indomitable spirit and care of the National Health Service and especially the important people in our lives that carry us through dark times. This is a book of Health, Hope and Heart.  each with a capital ‘H’.  It is a sobering read that should be put in time capsule paying tribute to the resilience of those who suffered through Covid-19. This poetry memoir (published in 2021) is absolutely at the top of the list favourite reads this year.  You are a hero, Michael Rosen. From the back cover:

A doctor is standing by my bed

asking me if I would sign a piece of paper

which would allow them to put me to sleep pump air into my lungs.

‘Will I wake up?’

“There’s a 50:50 chance.’

‘If I say no?’: I say.


And I sign.

THE LIBRARIAN OF AUSCHWITZ: the Graphic novel, based on the book by Antonio Iturbe (ages 12+)

The bestselling novel by Antonio Iturbe tells the story of fourteen-year old Dita who was, along with her mother and father imprisoned in Auschwitz. For Dita, the horrors of the concentration camp were counterbalanced when she was asked to become the librarian of Auschwitz and take charge keep safe, the 8 books that were smuggled past the guards. The books along with real stories told by prisoners educated the children in the camp, even though they discovery of the books in Block 31, the children’s camp would prove to be dangerous, perhaps resulting in execution. Iturbe’s story is based on the true story of Dita Kraus, a Holocaust survivor. This graphic novel adaption synthesized the 400 pages of the original novel by presenting historical facts and  powerful narratives. The strong images  illustrated by Loreto Aroca along with the narrative captions and dialogue match the power of the original novel in presenting another haunting historical account of the Holocaust. Novel: Spanish author, Antonio Iturbe; adapted by Salva Rubio; translated by Lligt Zekulin Thwaites; illustrated by Loreto Aroca.

PAGEBOY by Elliot Page

Elliot Page has a powerful story to tell about being a celebrity about coming out and about transitioning. This memoir takes readers on Page’s journey of discovering himself.  His dreams, desires, anxieties, and pressures are revealed through deep honest reflections. Each chapter seems to be like a therapy session in which Elliot page confronts his family and romantic relationships, as he struggles to conquer the expectations of others and of himself. This is a brave, intimate, story of a tenacious, talented queer person.  Pageboy is not told as a linear autobiography but readers will cheer Page on and worry about his suffocations and celebrate his successes, both personal and professional. Note: at times, paragraphs seem to blend into each other with meandering thoughts and narratives and I would have liked a stronger edit. 

PAUL NEWMAN: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man: A memoir

In 1986, Paul Newman and his close friend Stewart Stern, embarked on a project to compile an oral history about the famous actor’s life. Throughout the book, transcripts of anecdotes from family and friends provide an additional perspective of how he lived his life. This book is an honest account of a five year project documenting Newman’s early family life, his initiation into the theatre world and his rise to fame as a Hollywood actor (e.g., Hud, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Verdict).  He had two main loves in his life, but it is his marriage to actress Joanne Woodward was a deep relationship that lasted  until his death in 2008 at the age of 83. Reading about his traumatic childhood, the many jobs he had, his insecurities,  his rise to stardom, his drinking and his passion for race car driving is candid and enlightening. Particularly poignant his the way he describes his relationship with his six children. This is a fascinating and revelatory memoir of a sexy, talented, driven celebrity – and philanthropist. 

RUN TOWARDS THE DANGER: Confrontations with a Body of Memory by Sarah Polley (essays)

Let me start by quoting Margaret Atwood who reviewed this book by writing “Fascinating, harrowing, courageous, and deeply felt.”  “Absolutely”, says I.  Run Towards The Danger is a collection of six essays written by the oh-so-talented actor, screenwriter and director, Sarah Polley. Polley digs into her past and  bravely attempts to capture memories and their meanings of those relationships as they appeared in the past and helped to frame the person she has become. The first story of stage fright while playing Alice in Wonderland at the Stratford Festival was a punch in the gut. Other stories of sexual assault,  a troubled childbirth, of being. child actor working under a domineering director, of the aftermath of concussion each punch the gut and hit  the heart. When dealing with her traumatic injury, Sarah Polley was advised by a specialist to ‘run towards the danger’. “In order for my brain to recover from a traumatic injury, I had to retain it to strength by charging towards the very activities that triggered my symptoms. This was  a paradigm shift for me – to greet and welcome the things I had previously voided.” (page 2)

WOW! WOW! WOW! This astonishing book is certain to be at the top of my year end list of favourites. This is a special read. Thank you, Ms. Polley for your storytelling, bravery and courage. ‘Harrowing and courageous’ indeed.

SHY: The Alarmingly Outspoken Memoirs of Mary Rodgers by Mary Rodgers and Jesse Green

Mary Rodgers was the daughter of the celebrated songwriter, Richard Rogers. She was also the daughter of a domineering mother. Father and mother were not forthcoming in their love for their daughter. Talented in her own right, Mary worked hard to move out of the shadow of her father’s talents and decided to become a composer herself.  Her musical Once Upon a Mattress, starring Carol Burnett as the ‘shy’ princess in a musical based on the story The Princess and the Pea. Although she is acknowledged for her unique talents as a woman composer, she never (could never) achieve the success that her father had., particularly with his work with Oscar Hammerstein (i.e., Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, The Sound of Music.). Mary Rodgers never gave up and would embark on whatever projects came her way.  Fame did come when she authored the children’s book Freaky Friday.  in this memoir, Mary Rodgers works alongside theatre critic, Jesse Green and pours out stories of family, fame, philanthropy, failed relationships and motherhood. Shy is a fascinating report of the golden age of musical theatre. It is a dynamo account of a dynamo figure respected by many from New York’s entertainment world. (including Stephen Sondheim). Stories are funny, wise, gossipy, candid and delicious making for a remarkable read from “the alarmingly outspoken”, Mary Rodgers.

SPARE by Prince Harry

When you tell people that you are reading Spare, they (many) tend to roll their eyes. But Daniel Pennac, author of the Readers Bill of Rights claims that we have ‘the right to not defend our tastes’. Why do feel I need to defend my reading of this autobiography? Why do folks make such strong judgements about Harry’s book without having read it? Why argue with 3 million+ purchases of this book which the Guinness World Book of Records claims was the fastest nonfiction title ever?  All that being said, I liked the book. I was intrigued. I respected that the Prince now had the chance to tell his story. Granted, kudos must go to the ghostwriter  J. R. Moehringer who listened carefully and then shaped and presented the anecdotes and ‘in-the-head’ thoughts of Prince Harry with clarity. We are definitely given an inside glimpse of the royal family. We absolutely come to recognize that Prince Harry was /is haunted by the death of his mother. We absolutely believe that he is strongly devoted to his wife, Meghan and his children. And there was no doubt (for me) that media and the paps (Paparazzi) haunted the members of the Royal Family and especially interfered with Harry’s happiness. There’s trouble in the Harry’s relationship with father, brother, sister-in-law and many of the Royal staff but this is Harry’s story to tell and I believe his truths and understand why he needed to rebel and remove himself from what was expected of him.  Spoiled? Rebellious? Contentious?  Brave? Loyal? Get into groups and discuss. 

WE SHOULD NOT BE FRIENDS: The story of a friendship by Will Schwalbe

I very much enjoyed reading two recent publications by Will Schwalbe. In this memoir, the author examines the friendship between two improbable friends. Will, a literate gay student,  first met Chris Maxey, a fairly boisterous jock while enrolled in Yale University. The seeds of a friendship were planted in secret society that had been established at the school. Though different in demeanour and interests there was some connection.  The story of this friendship is presented over the decades as Schwalbe and Maxey phoned each other and occasionally met up.  As the two reached their fifties and sixties, the friendship seemed to strengthen as they discussed ambitions, relationships, and health. Maxey’s commitment to establishing an independent school in Eleuthra thra is very much part of the narrative in the final half of the book. This is a story that helps us think about our friendships, the truths we share, the secrets we withhold (“You didn’t ask me!”) and the devotion that can emerge through commitment and trust story also helps readers to think about  encountering possibilities and the need to find  strengths to meet challenges and dreams through our work and our family – and our friendships.

WELCOME TO ST. HELL: My Trans Teen Adventure by Lewis Hancox (graphic memoir) YA 

In this frank graphic autobiographic, Lewis Hancock tells the story of heartbreaking and often funny, journey as a trans male. We are given a first-hand account of what it means to hate your body and be be confused about what to wear, who to snog and how to convince family and friends about what it means to fight for the truth of your gender identity. This is an honest story, a hopeful one that will bring comfort to many who question who they are and who they need to become. In this book, Lewis has a conversation with his younger self (as Lois) surviving hellish years in high school  and college trying to figure out what it means to be ‘normal’. Comic art work is presented in black and white graphic panels. Thank you for sharing your story Lewis. 

YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT WAR IS by Yeva Skalietska (Ages 12+)

This diary by a twelve year old Ukrainian girl documents the horrors that she and her grandmother encountered when the city of Kharkiv was suddenly under attacked. The journal begins on February 24, 2022 and records the journey she and her grandmother from sheltering underground, escaping the  Ukraine, passing through Hungary and finally settling in Ireland. Her entries are straightforward tellings of what Skalietska, her neighbours and friends encountered as bombs destroyed her city. Readers learn about the realities of the conflict of the war raging around innocent people. The journal describes long train rides, the experience of in an overcrowded refugee centre as well as the kindness of strangers and the media who helped Yeva and her family forge a new life and dream of returning HOME. 


Every knows the word war. But very few people understand what it truly means. You might say that it’s horrible and frightening, but you don’t know the scale of fearit brings. And so, when you suddenly find you have to face it, you feel totally lost, walled in by fright and despair. All of your plans are suddenly interrupted by destruction. Until you’ve been there, you don’t know what war is. 



This is a memoir presented as a series of love [oems, letters, recipes and remembrances. I am a Kwame Alexander fan and am always eager to buy a new publication by this celebrated Black author of children’s literature. He has received the Caldecott (The Undefeated) and the Newbery awards (The Crossover). (I have a hunch that his new title An American Story is destined for 2023 awards.).He is a poet extraordinaire and with this new book, Alexander presents a non-traditional memoir, sharing the journey of his parents as newlyweds, the ups and downs of his own two marriages, and his relationship with his daughters.  He also provides insights into his writing journey. His connection to the poet (and professor) Nikki Giovanni, is a powerful story. This is a multi-genre presentation of the author’s life and it is one filled with an honest, open heart.  The book jacket blurb announces that the book defines ‘the whirlwind woes and wonders of love.”  In the epilogue to this book, Kwame Alexander informs readers that writing Why Fathers Cry at Night provided him with an artifact that forced hime to have ALL of those hard talks (with father, wife, children). It is obvious that the memoir sparked “difficult and necessary conversations that ultimately make us much better. With our loved ones and with ourselves”. A stellar publication that will be at the top of my list for 2023.

Excerpt from the poem ‘How to Read This Book’ (p. 10)

Let these humble meditations and musings

carry you close, permanent, abreast – a wave.

Go, raise a toast.



all the words

that hold you

hopefully inspiring

a sea of new ones.

Now trust your heart

and the ocean of sweet possibility

brewing inside.