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Director of The Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press (WIFP) Reads “50” Books per Year!

Dr. Martha Leslie Allen logs in about 50 books per year. She keeps friends up to the minute on her current selections and her reviews on Goodreads where she has logged in 744 books to date and lists 56 as “Favorites.”

We’re posting a list of “10” of her favorite memoirs to share with “Your Circle of Trust Book Club.” Martha says, “these books are all remarkable in various ways.” And, if you are ready to write your own memoir, she suggests visiting Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett’s site www.womensmemoirs.com for inspiration and the essentials of women’s memoir writing.
Then, you can get started!

The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices
By Xinran

Are You Somebody?
By Nuala O’Faolain

When I Was Puerto Rican
By Esmeralda Santiago

A Russian Diary: A Journalist’s Final Account of Life, Corruption, and Death in Putin’s Russia
By Anna Politskaya

This Child Will Be Great
By Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Born in the Big Rains: A Memoir of Somalia and Survival
By Fadumo Korn

By Alice Appleman-Jurman

The Girl I Left Behind: A Narrative History of the Sixties
By Judith Nies

Wild Swan: Three Daughters of China
By Jung Chan

Desert Flower: The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad
By Waris Dirie

To find out more about the memoirs listed, visit www.amazon.com or the writer’s website.

The Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press (WIFP) is a non-profit, tax-exempt research, education, and publishing organization. The organization was founded in 1972, by Dr. Donna Allen, to increase communication among women and reach the public with our experience, perspectives, and opinions.

For information on WIFP visit:

Contact: Martha Allen
Email: allen@wifp.org

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  • Karin Lippert said:

    Hi – Jill Ker Conway followed up her wonderful memoir, The Road from Coorain, with a collection of Women’s Memoirs from Australia, New Zealand, Canada & United States, titled: IN HER OWN WORDS. A truly wonderful collection. In her introduction she says, “…we often use memoirs as windows on the worlds the writers inhabit. They are social documents as well as literary texts…” and this collection proves that point.

    Martha has inspired me to sign up for http://www.womensmemoirs.com. And, I have also recently joined, http://www.shewrites.com.

    Both great communities for women who like to write.

  • Joanne Edgar said:

    One of my all-time recent favorite books is a mix of memoir, journalism, fiction, and poetry: “Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa,” by Antjie Krog. This sounds like an academic tome, but it’s not. As a poet and journalist for South African Broadcasting Corporation, Krog covered the Truth and Reconciliation Commission from 1996 – 1998. The book includes her reporting on the crimes of apartheid and the stories of those who came to ask for amnesty, but it is also deeply personal. Krog, an Afrikaaner, bares her own soul in this book. Her story is intertwined with the stories of the political leaders in South Africa, her colleagues in journalism, and those who testified at the TRC.

  • Mary Thom said:

    Nuala O’Faolain (“Are You Somebody?”)is a great model for any potential memoir writer. She was funny and sardonic and told the truth. Shortly before she died two years ago, she gave an utterly honest radio interview on Irish radio (RTE) about finding out that she was soon to die of cancer, and she absolutely refused to offer any hopeful advice to other sufferers. But she described her experience with such a lack of self pity that the result was somehow liberating rather than depressing.

  • Elayne Clift said:

    I love many of the books cited in Martha´s list. How about adding Twenty Years at Hull House by Jane Addams and Out of Africa by Karen Blixen? And may I take this opportunity to mention my own memoir — To New Jersey with Love and Apologies (OGN Publications, 1999)– a collection of essays and poetry that speaks to growing up as a Jewish minority in small town America in the 1950s. Available directly from me (www.elayneclift.com) or Amazon.com.

  • Martha Allen said:

    There is a list of “Recommended Memoirs by Women” that is growing. I keep adding to this list so please do send me your books and recommendations. I sometimes miss adding ones that I like very much so please bring the books to my attention! A number of these books have been recommended by other writers. The link is: http://wifp.org/Memoirs.html (You are welcome to send your suggestions to me via email: allen [at] wifp [dot] org.)

  • Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz said:

    Great suggestions! Here are a few of my favorites I haven’t seen listed, left political memoirs like the ones I write. Two of my books of memoir, in addition to Outlaw Woman, which March lists, are: Red Dirt: Growing Up Okie, and Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War.

    Gioconda Belli, The Country Under My Skin (Nicaraguan poet, a memoir of her life as a Sandinista militant)

    Diana Block, Arm the Spirit (memoir of her life underground in the 1980s, supporting Puerto Rican nationalists)

    Catherine Wilkerson, Flying Close to the Sun (her life in the Weather Underground in the 1970s)

    Agnes Smedley, Daughter of Earth (autobiographical novel about growing up poor and rural, then a family of migrant miners, and her amazing politicization through anti-imperialist work with the nationalist independence movement of India in the early 1900s–she went on to on site recording of the Chinese revolution and wrote on the lives of the women revolutionaries)

    Assata Shakur, Assata

    Elaine Brown, A Taste of Power

    Angela Davis autobiography

    Emma Goldman, Living My Life (2 volumes)

  • Lucinda Marshall said:

    Excellent list, just in time to add to the summer reading pile. I would add Joan Anderson’s “A Year by the Sea” and Wangari Maathai’s “Unbowed”.

  • Mira Nair said:

    This is a wonderful list! “Wild Swans” is an all-time favorite of mine. I recently read a wonderful memoirs book by Chinese journalist Xinran,titled “The Good Women of China:Hidden Voices”. Xinran discusses her life and the stories she encounters as a female journalist in China.

  • vivian ubell said:

    what a great site and i will appreciate having these recommendations. i just finished a wonderful memoir called “a wolf in the attic” by sophia richman. it’s about her childhood as a “hidden child” in poland during the holocaust.
    vivian ubell

  • Pam Creedon said:

    I love this site and will share it with my Gender and Mass Media class students! I would recommend “The Edge of Change: Women in the 21at Century Press.” It has chapters by more than 25 women in the U.S. press. June Nicholson, Wanda Lloyd, Pam Johnson are three editors who have significant newspaper experience.

  • Silvia Soriano said:

    The last wonderful memoir that I read was “Do They Hear You When You Cry” by Fauziya Kassindja. It is already in the Recommended Memoirs link from WIFP but I highly recommend it!

  • Martha Allen said:

    Four books I’ve read recently that I’d recommend are “Escape” by Caroln Jessop; “Approaching Neverland” by Peggy Kennedy; “Here If You Need Me: A True Story” by Kate Braestrup; and “Safekeeping” by Abigail Thomas.

  • Zenia Zeitlin said:

    I liked the Laura Ingells Wilder series and The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Wall

  • Margaret Gallagher said:

    To this list I would definitely add ‘Under My Skin’ by Doris Lessing. It is the first volume of her two-volume autobiography, and without any doubt the best piece of autobiographical writing I have come across.

  • Karin Lippert said:

    I have started re-reading favorite novels this summer starting with Virigina Woolf’s TO THE LIGHTHOUSE. I did not realize or remember that Mrs. Ramsey was “50″ in that book. Now, her life and internal meotional state makes so much more sense to me at 65. She was clearly in the ‘fertile void.’ Also, recently read COMFORT FOOD by Kate Jacobs – author of THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB (which I loved! – in which main character was facing/dreading/wanting to ignore her “50″ birthday!

    Reading MRS.DALLOWAY next!

    I am in the Baby Boomer group on SheWrites.com – an interesting group working on memoirs.

  • Martha Allen said:

    I took some of the suggestions posted here for recent reading. I read “Under My Skin” by Doris Lessing (as Margaret Gallagher suggested). I also read the second volume of the autobiography “Walking in the Shade.” And I read the two books that Lucinda Marshall mentioned, “A Year By the Sea” by Joan Anderson and “Unbowed” by Wangari Maathai. I enjoyed both of them. Another book (suggested through the SheWrites site) is an autobiography by a Senegalese woman named Ken Bugul called “The Abandoned Baobab.” Now I’ve just launched into Gerda Lerner’s “Fireweed, A Political Autobiography.” There are more books mentioned on this page that I still want to read (such as Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s “Red Dirt: Growing Up Okie” since I think her “Outlaw Woman” is good) but also hope that more people will post their favorites so we all have lots to choose from!

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