If you’re feeling nostalgic for the 2021 Common Reader, Rough Beauty: Forty Seasons of Mountain Living by Karen Auvinen, or the 2021 Convention theme, Metamorphoses, here are some autobiographies, memoirs, and story collections written by authors from the Southwestern Region that also showcase their strength, perseverance, and determination.
Born in El Paso and raised in Arizona, Sandra Day O’Connor and H. Alan O’Connor’s Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest describes their family’s life on their Arizona ranch. It is a unique look into the childhood of who would eventually become the first female justice to serve on the US Supreme Court after being appointed by President Reagan in 1981.
Kathryn Ferguson, Norma A. Price, and Ted Parks’s Crossing with the Virgin: Stories from the Migrant Trail is a timely, heartbreaking collection of dozens of migrants’ stories who have crossed into Arizona seeking a better life. Ferguson, Price, and Parks are a part of a volunteer group who attempt to assist the migrants as they make their way through the state, and the stories they compiled into this collection come from those they have helped along the way.
Raised in Hot Springs, Shirley Abbott‘s The Bookmaker’s Daughter: A Memory Unbound shares her memories of her father, who was into the business of betting on the ponies. In spite of this, Alfred gave his daughter her love of literature and raised a strong, independent girl who eventually needed to leave the home her father’s activities provided her to fully grow into the woman he wanted her to be.
From her time as an evangelical teen living in Prairie Grove (population 1,000), suffering from eating disorders, and her eventual diagnosis and struggles with mental illness, Stacy Pershall‘s Loud in the House of Myself masterfully and comically captures how she has had to begin again more than once during her journey but eventually found positive and non-harmful ways to cope and express herself.
Diane Ackerman‘s The Twilight of the Tenderfoot offers another in-depth glimpse into life and the ins and outs of living on a working ranch. Instead of being raised on a ranch like the O’Connors, Ackerman fell into it as an adult, trading in high stress for horses, and, she thought, her restlessness for ranching.
When Mabel Dodge Luhan first arrived in Taos, it was sparsely populated and years away from formally incorporating. Her memoir, Winter in Taos explores what led her to her staying in Taos during the wintertime when many of its residents opted to stay elsewhere where it was warmer and illustrated what a break from the world around offered both decades ago and now.
US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo‘s Crazy Brave details her formative years riddled with abuse and fear outside of Tulsa. Living in such a damaging environment, Harjo desired to get out, and her memoir shows how these and other pivotal experiences molded her into the per-eminent writer she is today.
The former chief of the Cherokee Nation (and the first woman voted into the position), the late Wilma Mankiller shares her drive for political and social activism that eventually earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in Mankiller: A Chief and Her People. Offering not only her personal backstory, Mankiller’s memoir also offers a much-appreciated #OwnVoices perspective of the history of the Cherokees.
From an education in the segregated Houston school system to the first Black female congressperson from the South after returning from law school, Barbara Jordan‘s memoir is a fascinating look into what formed her into the person she became. Her memoir only goes up to the late 1970s and misses out on several later experiences like speaking at the 1992 Democratic National Convention, but Barbara Jordan: A Self-Portrait provides an in-depth look at one of the most trailblazing political figures of the twentieth century.
Mary Karr‘s The Liars’ Club, Cherry, and Lit is a three-volume collection that extends from Karr’s childhood in southeast Texas, her teenage years of experimentation and plans to escape her rough (and at times traumatic) childhood, her struggles with full-blown addiction, and all the way through her eventual recovery, her life as a mother, and her career as a writer and professor.