When I Was a Kid...

Northeast LibraryStaff Picks

When I Was a Kid...

Memoirs and biographies of childhood.

Our past experiences set a foundation for the rest of our lives and shape who we are today.  Growing up and coming of age is not easy no matter the circumstances, and readers of the following books will see that there is no such thing as an ordinary childhood.  Some of these experiences may be perceived as familiar and conjure nostalgia, while others will provide reason for thoughtful insight and gratitude.  These autobiographical tales of youth are sure to inspire and enchant, and to evoke both sorrow and cheer.  

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

“Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood,” recounts the author of this heartbreaking memoir of tribulation, loss, resilience, and forgiveness.  Set during the Great Depression and World War II, Angela’s Ashes provides an intimate portrayal of Frank McCourt’s childhood growing up in the slums of Limerick, Ireland.  The eldest son of a slew of neglected children belonging to an alcoholic father and codependent mother, McCourt manages to recount his childhood in a manner that manages to leave readers laughing in spite of and in between their tears, in an incredibly original and authentic voice.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

In a beautifully written novel in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming provides readers a collection of memories that describe growing up during the 1960’s and 70’s as a young African American girl coming of age amidst the growing Civil Rights Movement. Jacqueline Woodson creates stunning imagery through eloquent poetry that captures both the beauty and the adversity of moving from Ohio to South Carolina to New York throughout her childhood against a rich historical backdrop.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Jeanette Walls tells a powerful story of endurance in the face of hardships that no child should ever have to face.  One of four children of a charismatic but alcoholic father and free spirited but completely neglectful mother, Walls describes growing up in the 1960s and 70s in extreme poverty.  Nomadically moving all over the country to escape creditors, the Walls children live without plumbing and must forage food from the garbage or resort to stealing to survive.  What makes this memoir such a captivating chronicle is the unflinchingly straightforward and journalistic tone in which Walls presents the facts of her childhood, neither demonizing her negligent parents nor ever asking for pity.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, Marjane Satrapi recounts her childhood in the repressive Islamist regime of war-torn Tehran. Through vivid black and white graphic comic strips, Satrapi presents bearing witness to the horrors of political instability and savage violence as the intelligent and spirited child of radical Marxist parents.  Intertwined with bits of humor and presented from the unique perspective of an innocent and courageous child’s eyes, Persepolis provides an emotional yet illuminating historical perspective on the human side of war and oppression.

Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl

Looking for something a little lighter?  Master storyteller Roald Dahl offers a glimpse into his own childhood growing up in England in the 1930’s.  Boy is composed of adventurous anecdotes told with the same whimsical eccentricity and dark comedy prevalent in Dahl’s works of fiction.  Readers will delight to ascertain the true inspiration to write Charlie and the Chocolate Factory through Dahl’s affinity for Cadbury chocolate, cringe at the tale of him having tonsils removed without anesthetic, and ponder the similarities between Dahl’s fictional villains and the cruel schoolmasters and shopkeepers of his childhood.