To follow on from my list a couple of weeks ago, here’s another batch of memoirs I can highly recommend for reading:
Who Knows Tomorrow: A Memoir of Finding Family Among the Lost Children of Africa by Lisa Lovatt-Smith. From editor at British Vogue at the age of nineteen, Lisa continued her glamorous life across Europe in the company of supermodels and celebrities, until her daughter, Sabrina, is expelled from school. Lisa gives up her career and takes Sabrina to volunteer in a Ghanian orphanage in an attempt to turn her daughter’s life around. She doesn’t know that it will also change her life. Lisa stays in Ghana to found OAfrica to reunite children with their families and shut down corrupt orphanages. This is her story of perseverance and courage against setbacks and dangers.
Her Father’s Daughter by Alice Pung. This is Pung’s sequel to Unpolished Gem, her story of straddling Australian life as the child of immigrant Cambodian parents. In this book, Alice leaves her family home in Melbourne, but her wish for independence is marred by her father’s worries, which stem from his traditional Cambodian values. Alice thinks her father’s concerns are misplaced in contemporary Australian society, but when she delves into his past she understands the painful memories of war that shape his outlook. It is a moving story of a father-daughter relationship complicated by cultural differences and scars of the past.
The Blue Door: A Little Girl’s Incredible Story of Survival in the Japanese POW Camps of Java by Lise Kristensen (also published under the title, The Little Captive). Lisa enjoyed a carefree childhood on the island of Java with her Norwegian parents, until she and her family were imprisoned in a POW camp during WWII. Lise recounts through ten-year-old eyes the brutal treatment from her Japanese captors over the two years she lived in the camp. Surrounded by disease and squalor, her family avoid the rat-infested floors by spending time on a blue door sitting horizontally above the ground.
Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace – One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson. After an unsuccessful attempt to climb K2, the world’s second tallest mountain, a sick Greg stumbled across an isolated and impoverished Pakistani village, where the villagers sheltered him. In return, he promised to build them a school, but he did better than that; over the next decade he built 55 schools for girls across rural Pakistan and Afghanistan, using education to combat Islamic extremism.
Stay Alive, My Son by Pin Yathay. Pin survived two years in a Cambodian forced labour camp under Pol Pot’s forces, but his family unit did not survive the months of overwork, starvation and disease in the killing fields. With his family reduced to just himself, his wife and their one remaining son, Pin made the harrowing decision to desert his son at a hospital, telling him to “Stay alive, my son,” before making a desperate escape to Thailand. This book is a heart-wrenching insight into civilian life during the Khmer Rouge regime that devastated the land and its people. Pin wrote his story in the hope that the son he left behind would see it and they could reunite.
*Disclaimer: You may wonder why I read so many Cambodian memoirs; well, as an adoptive mother of two Cambodian girls, I have a biased interest. Whether you’ve been to Cambodia or not, these stories are a great read and a good education in the country’s disturbing history.