O Brother: New biographies and memoirs in the collection

Reading biographies and memoirs is like looking through the windows of other people’s lives. You can live vicariously through princes and pop stars, comedians and cults, or politicians and poets. We have a diverse crop of new titles for you to delve into, and here are a few from this month’s list.

O brother / Niven, John
“A memoir that is by turns heart-breaking and hilarious, O Brother evokes a working-class childhood of the 1970s and 80s and tries to answer the questions of guilt, culpability and regret that often haunt the survivors of suicide. John Niven’s little brother Gary was fearless, popular, stubborn, handsome, hilarious and sometimes terrifying. In 2010, after years of chaotic struggle against the world, he took his own life at the age of 42. It is about black sheep and what it takes to break the ties that bind. Fundamentally it is about how families survive suicide, ‘that last cry, from the saddest outpost.'” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Being Henry : the Fonz… and beyond / Winkler, Henry
“From Emmy-award winning actor, author, comedian, producer, and director Henry Winkler, a deeply thoughtful memoir of the lifelong effects of stardom and the struggle to become whole. Henry Winkler, launched into prominence as “The Fonz” in the beloved Happy Days, has transcended the role that made him who he is. Filled with profound heart, charm, and self-deprecating humor, Being Henry is a memoir about so much more than a life in Hollywood and the curse of stardom. It is a meaningful testament to the power of sharing truth and kindness and of finding fulfillment within yourself.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Counting the cost / Duggar, Jill
“Jill Duggar and her husband Derick are finally ready to share their story, revealing the secrets, manipulation, and intimidation behind the show that remained hidden from their fans. Jill and Derick knew a normal life wasn’t possible for them. As a star on the popular TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting, Jill grew up in front of viewers who were fascinated by her family’s way of life. Theirs is a remarkable story of the power of the truth and is a moving example of how to find healing through honesty.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

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Hidden Stories, Family Secrets: Memoirs About Long Held Secrets

There is something infinitely compelling about reading memoirs regarding long held secrets.  Whether they be deep in the family history, a secret child, a life of espionage, or a deep shame for past exploits, they make for fascinating reads.  We’ve selected some here that you may like to explore.

For a girl / MacColl, Mary-Rose
“Emerging from an unconventional, boisterously happy childhood, Mary-Rose MacColl was a rebellious teenager. And when, at the age of fifteen, her high-school teacher and her husband started inviting Mary-Rose to spend time with them, her parents were pleased that she now had the guidance she needed to take her safely into young adulthood. It wasn’t too long, though, before the teacher and her husband changed the nature of that relationship with overwhelming consequences for Mary-Rose. Consequences that kept her silent and ashamed through much of her adult life. In this poignant and brave true story, Mary-Rose brings these secrets to the surface and, in doing so, is finally able to watch them float away.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

On Chapel Sands : my mother and other missing persons / Cumming, Laura
“In the autumn of 1929, a small child was kidnapped from a Lincolnshire beach. Five agonising days went by before she was found in a nearby village. The child remembered nothing of these events and nobody ever spoke of them at home. On Chapel Sands is a book of mystery and memoir. Two narratives run through it: the mother’s childhood tale; and Cumming’s own pursuit of the truth. …Cumming discovers how to look more closely at the family album – with its curious gaps and missing persons – finding crucial answers, captured in plain sight at the click of a shutter.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Two trees make a forest : on memory, migration and Taiwan / Lee, Jessica J.
“After unearthing a hidden memoir of her grandfather’s life, written on the cusp of his total memory loss, Jessica J Lee hunts his story, in parallel with exploring Taiwan, hoping to understand the quakes that brought her family from China, to Taiwan and Canada, and the ways in which our human stories are interlaced with geographical forces. Part-nature writing, part-biography, Two Trees Make a Forest traces the natural and human stories that shaped an island and a family.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

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One of Them – New Biographies and Memoirs in the Collection

It’s a new month and that means a bunch of new biographies and memoirs hitting the shelves.  We’ve got a real mixed bag of goodies for you to dive in to, here are just some of them for you to check out:

One of them / Lal, Shaneel
“What would you do if you were told by the people you loved the most that the way you were born was evil and wrong? For Shaneel Lal, this was their reality from the time they were five. Growing up in a tiny, traditional village in Fiji, Shaneel always knew they were different. After escaping Fiji and moving to New Zealand as a teenager, Shaneel tried to keep their sexuality – and gender – to themself, but gradually found the courage to come out. One day, while Shaneel was volunteering at Auckland’s Middlemore hospital, a church leader came up to them and offered to ‘pray the gay away’. It was a lightbulb moment for Shaneel, who could not believe that the same practices that had scarred their childhood in Fiji were operating – and legal – in New Zealand. Determined to ensure others wouldn’t have to go through what happened to them, Shaneel founded the Conversion Therapy Action Group, which lead the movement to ban conversion therapy in Aotearoa.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Because our fathers lied : a memoir of truth and family, from Vietnam to today / McNamara, Craig
“Craig McNamara came of age during the political tumult and upheaval of the late ’60s. While he would grow up to take part in antiwar demonstrations, his father, Robert McNamara, served as John F. Kennedy’s secretary of defense and was the architect of the Vietnam War. This searching and revealing memoir offers an intimate portrait of one father and son at pivotal periods in American history. Because Our Fathers Lied is more than a family story–it is a story about America.  Because our fathers lied tells the story of the war from the perspective of a single, unforgettable American family.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

bell hooks : the last interview and other conversations / hooks, bell
“bell hooks was a prolific, trailblazing author, feminist, social activist, cultural critic, and professor. Born Gloria Jean Watkins, bell used her pen name to center attention on her ideas and to honor her courageous great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks. hooks’s unflinching dedication to her work carved deep grooves for the feminist and anti-racist movements. In this collection of 7 interviews, stretching from early in her career until her last interview, she discusses feminism, the complexity of rap music and masculinity, her relationship to Buddhism, the “politic of domination,” sexuality, and love and the importance of communication across cultural borders.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

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Caught Up in Cults – Histories and Experiences of Cult Groups

The history of cults in Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world is a fascinating one.  How do people get caught up in cults?  What triggers a cult to form?  When is an organisation or religion categorised as a cult?  If the topic interests you, we have several excellent books for you to read.

Uncultured : a memoir / Mestyanek Young, Daniella
“Behind the tall, foreboding gates of a commune in Brazil, Daniella Mestyanek Young was raised in the religious cult The Children of God, also known as The Family, as the daughter of high-ranking members. Beholden to The Family’s strict rules, Daniella suffers physical, emotional, and sexual abuse-masked as godly discipline and divine love-and is forbidden from getting a traditional education. At fifteen years old, fed up with The Family and determined to build a better and freer life for herself, Daniella escapes to Texas.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Cultish : the language of fanaticism / Montell, Amanda
“What causes people to join– and more importantly, stay in– extreme groups? The answer, Montell believes, has nothing to do with freaky mind-control wizardry or Kool-Aid. She argues that the key to manufacturing intense ideology, community, and us/them attitudes all comes down to language. In both positive ways and shadowy ones, cultish language is something we hear– and are influenced by– every single day. Montell exposes the verbal elements that make a wide spectrum of communities “cultish.” In doing so, she reveals how they even pervade our modern start-ups, Peloton leaderboards, and Instagram feeds.” (Catalogue)

Cults uncovered : true stories of mind control and murder / Thompson, Emily G.
“Discover the shocking truth about some of the most disturbing cults that have ever existed–cults led by psychopaths such as Charles Manson, David Koresh, and Jim Jones that have exploded into acts of appalling savagery and evil. Explores these and many more bizarre and frightening cases to reveal terrifying stories of manipulation, coercion, abuse, and murder.” (Catalogue)

Doomsday cults : death, destruction and despair : inside the world’s most dangerous cults / Moore, Jonathan J
“Doomsday Cults: death, destruction and despair shows how different people throughout the ages used the Biblical texts as the fount of their philosophy. Rather than leading to peace and redemption, their interpretations led to death, destruction and despair.” (Catalogue)

Zealot : a book about cults / Thornely, Jo
“People are drawn to cults for a number of reasons, but commonly they attract people whose current religion or lifestyle is lacking — it’s too restrictive, it’s not restrictive and holy enough; it doesn’t seem to offer solutions for a chaotic and dangerous world… Whatever the drawcard, once people are in, it’s usually very difficult for them to leave. From the Jonestown cult Kool-Aid drinkers to the Australian cult The Family to The Branch Davidians, this is book is a wide-sweeping look at cults around the world based on the popular podcast Zealot.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Daughter of Gloriavale : my life in a religious cult / Tarawa, Lilia
“When Lilia’s parents fled the cult and its dreadful secrets, Lilia and her many siblings were wrenched away from the only life they knew. Lilia struggled to adapt to life on the outside. Would she be damned to Hell for leaving? How could she learn to navigate this strange place called ‘the world’? And would she ever find out the truth about her grandfather and the cult that had shaped her life?” (Catalogue)

Sins of the father : the long shadow of a religious cult : a New Zealand story / Beale, Fleur
“The disturbing story of the ruthless exercise of power in a New Zealand religious cult. Charismatic, driven and self-righteous, Neville Cooper set up his own brand of Christian utopia on earth- a reclusive community on the West Coast of New Zealand. For the 400 inhabitants of Gloriavale, his word is law – despite his 1995 conviction for sexual abuse. His son Phil Cooper, as headstrong as his father, had to escape. This is a true story of power and control, of abductions and night raids, of hearts broken and those trying to mend.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Going clear : Scientology, Hollywood, and the prison of belief / Wright, Lawrence
“Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with both current and former Scientologists–both famous and less well known–and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative skills to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.” ( Adapted from Catalogue)

Girl at the end of the world : my escape from fundamentalism in search of faith with a future / Esther, Elizabeth
“I was raised in a homegrown, fundamentalist Christian group–which is just a shorthand way of saying I’m classically trained in apocalyptic stockpiling, street preaching, and the King James Version of the Bible. In her memoir, readers will recognize questions every believer faces: When is spiritual zeal a gift, and when is it a trap? What happens when a pastor holds unchecked sway over his followers? And how can we leave behind the harm inflicted in the name of God without losing God in the process?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The cult files : true stories from the extreme edges of religious belief / Mikul, Chris
“Explores the history, features and beliefs of thirty cults through the ages. Riveting, sometimes amusing, often horrifying stories show the inside workings of these groups, and trace their history and often their demise. The book includes the Aum Shinrikyo followers, who killed twelve people in a poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway; Scientology (now known for its celebrity followers), which was established in the 1950’s by a science fiction writer; and the Peoples Temple, in which Jim Jones convinced hundreds of followers to commit suicide en masse.” (Adapted from Catalogue)