4 must-read autobiographies of women writers

Autobiographies are a very precious medium, all the more special when written by powerful literary women. Here are four of them you should not miss.

by Aisiri Amin

These women writers came in like a storm, shook up the society, challenged gender norms and became true forces to be reckoned with. Their writings, their characters, and their stories have been celebrated across the world.

And their autobiographies give us the rare opportunity to get a peek into the minds that created characters such as Hercule Poirot and Mrs Dalloway.

These four women have penned down their experiences, constant struggles with the self as well as the world, and their love for the words – which healed them, challenged them and strengthened them.  So here we go, four inspiring lives, told by four powerful women.

1. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

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© Amazon

This first volume of Maya Angelou’s six books of autobiography was originally published in 1969. It follows Marguerite (Maya’s original name) from the age of three to 16. Marguerite and her brother Bailey are sent off to live with their grandmother in a small southern town, Stamps, Arkansas.

There begins young Maya’s struggle with discrimination, racial as well as gender. The sense of abandonment and the quest to find her identity in the society that made her feel unwanted since her early childhood, are the highlighting themes of the book. The power of words, her love for literature fills her with the strength to stand up against brutal society she grew up in.

The title comes from a poem by African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. The ‘’caged bird’’ is a symbolic reference to slavery which is a theme that Angelou explores throughout this book and in her other works.

You can buy the book here.

2. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood – Marjane Satrapi

© Amazon

Funny yet haunting, the graphic autobiography by Marjane Satrapi takes us through the journey of a young girl in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution. Persepolis derives its title from the Persian Empire capital with the same name.

Brought up by Marxist parents, young Marjane struggles to understand the changes that come with the triumph of Islamic Revolution. The powerful yet simple comic strips tell a personal story encapsulated in a stormy political climate. The autobiography is a unique depiction of life during the war, through the eyes of a young girl.

You can buy the book here.

3. Moments of Being by Virginia Woolf

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© Barnes and Noble

These essays in this posthumous collection by Virginia Woolf are her only autobiographical writing. The five memoir pieces in the book open a small window for the readers to know Woolf intimately. The essays are some of her best writing,  giving us a glimpse of the uniqueness that Woolf is reckoned with. Deeply personal, the autobiography explores some significant events in Woolf’s life such as her mother’s death.

Words such as – “I have a deeply hidden and inarticulate desire for something beyond the daily life’’- makes us wonder if we have lost our extraordinary dreams, trying to keep up with this chaotic world.

You can buy the book here.

4.  An Autobiography by Agatha Christie

© Google Books

When the queen of mystery, pens her autobiography, you don’t doubt its brilliance. The mind that created great characters such as Hercule Poirot, who paved his way into our hearts with his sarcasm and genius and Miss Marple, who is the regular old lady in the neighbourhood except there is nothing regular about this woman.

Published two years after Agatha Christie’s death, the book has a conversational tone, filled with fascinating stories, reflections on life and the brilliance that she is famous for. In her autobiography, Christie describes life during the Victorian era, her romances and about her extraordinary career as a celebrated crime novelist.

You can buy the book here.

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