Books·Holiday Gift Guide

16 powerful memoirs to give this holiday season

These 16 memoirs would make great gifts for the readers on your holiday shopping list. 

These 16 memoirs would make great gifts for the readers on your holiday shopping list. 

Angry Queer Somali Boy by Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali

Angry Queer Somali Boy is a memoir by Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali. (Philip Sutherland, University of Regina Press)

Angry Queer Somali Boy is a memoir by Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali, a young man who left Somalia, spent time in the Netherlands, and ended up homeless in Canada. Canada was the promised land, but when he didn't fit in and life was more difficult than he expected, Ali turned to drugs and partying before finding his way. Angry Queer Somali Boy combines Ali's personal story with the history of and commentary on the places he's called home: Somalia, Europe and Canada.

Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur

Wild Game is a memoir by Adrienne Brodeur. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Julia Cumes)

When she was 14 years old, Adrienne Brodeur was woken up in the middle of the night by her mother, Malabar. She had come to tell Brodeur that Ben, her father's best friend, had kissed her. Brodeur became her mother's confidante over the course of their ensuing affair, which would have calamitous effects on the whole family. Brodeur explores her complicated relatonship with her mother in the memoir Wild Game.

All the Wrong Moves by Sasha Chapin

All the Wrong Moves is a memoir by Sasha Chapin. (McClelland & Stewart, Arden Wray)

Writer and blogger Sasha Chapin's memoir shares how a teenage love of chess became an unshakable adult obsession. Despite not being very skilled, Chapin spends two years travelling the world, seeking out a mentor and playing in tournaments — to less than ideal results. All the Wrong Moves looks at the personal, physical, mental and financial struggles Chapin faced in the unsuccessful pursuit of his chess-champion dreams.   

A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott

Alicia Elliott is the author of A Mind Spread Out on the Ground. (Doubleday Canada, Ayelet Tsabari)

Alicia Elliott explores the systemic oppression faced by Indigenous peoples across Canada through the lens of her own experiences as a Tuscarora writer from Six Nations of the Grand River. She examines how colonial violence, including the loss of language, seeps into the present day lives of Indigenous people, often in the form of mental illness. Elliott, who lives in Brantford, Ont., won gold at the National Magazine Awards in 2017 for the essay this book is based on. 

How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones

How We Fight for Our Lives is a memoir by Saeed Jones. (Simon & Schuster, John Premosch)

Saeed Jones, an award-winning poet, describes the boyhood and adolescence of a young, gay black man from the American South in How We Fight for Our Lives. Over a series of vignettes, Jones tells stories of the man's family and romantic encounters, building a portrait of how identity, race and sexuality interact and manifest in America.

In My Own Moccasins by Helen Knott

In My Own Moccasins is a memoir by Helen Knott. (Tenille K. Campbell/, University of Regina Press)

Helen Knott is a poet and writer of Dane Zaa, Nehiyaw and European descent. Her memoir, In My Own Moccasins, is a story of addiction, sexual violence and intergenerational trauma. It explores how colonization has impacted her family over generations. But it is also a story of hope and redemption, celebrating the resilience and history of her family.

Maid by Stephanie Land

Maid is a memoir by Stephanie Land. (, Hachette Books)

When Stephanie Land left an abusive relationship, she found herself a single mother with little in the way of financial options. Over the next few years, she struggled through poverty and relied on the kindness of close friends and strangers to make ends meet. In her memoir Maid, Land chronicles this challenging period of her life and shares her insights on the stigma attached to social assistance.

The Cure for Hate by Tony McAleer

The Cure for Hate is a memoir by Tony McAleer. (Carlos Taylhardat, Arsenal Pulp Press)

Tony McAleer chronicles how he went from being an angry kid in an affluent family to becoming the leader of a neo-Nazi group in his memoir The Cure for Hate. The birth of his child, and the overwhelming sense of love he felt, was a turning point for McAleer. He ended up leaving the neo-Nazi group and, through his book, makes a case for how understanding and compassion can bring people together.

Daughter of Family G by Ami McKay

Ami McKay is the author of the memoir Daughter of Family G. (Ian McKay, Knopf Canada)

Ami McKay's family has a history of dying early, thanks to a a genetic disorder called Lynch syndrome. This discovery began with McKay's great-aunt Pauline Gross, who, in 1895, went to a doctor with the expectation she would die at a young age. What followed was a decades and generations-long study of one family and their relationship to cancer. It would become the longest and most detailed cancer genealogy study ever. McKay shares her own story while chronicling this remarkable history in the memoir Daughter of Family G.

Truth Be Told by Beverley McLachlin

Truth Be Told is a memoir by Beverley McLachlin. (Jean-Marc Carisse, Simon & Schuster)

Beverley McLachlin became the first woman to hold the office of Canada's chief justice in January 2000. Throughout her 17 years as chief justice and 28 years on the Supreme Court, McLachlin helped shape Canadian law and governance, including legislation on sex work and mandatory minimum prison sentences. She shares her story in the memoir Truth Be Told.

Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me by Anna Mehler Paperny

Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me is a memoir by Anna Mehler Paperny. (Random House Canada)

Anna Mehler Paperny is a journalist who has struggled with depression her entire life. After a suicide attempt in her 20s, she decided to look into her disease: how it's caused, treated and talked about. Part memoir, part investigation, Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me is a examination of an illness that is far too common and far too little understood.   

This One Looks Like a Boy by Lorimer Shenher

Lorimer Shenher is the author of This One Looks Like a Boy. (Greystone Books)

From childhood, Lorimer Shenher knew he was a boy, though he was being raised as a girl. In This One Looks Like a Boy, Shenher tells his story of struggling with gender dysphoria before finally coming to accept he is trans and undergoing surgery in his 50s.

Mistakes to Run With by Yasuko Thanh

Mistakes to Run With is a memoir by Yasuko Thanh. (Don Denton, Hamish Hamilton)

Yasuko Thanh opens up about her tumultuous life in Mistakes to Run With, from rebelling against her evangelical parents, living on the streets of Vancouver and becoming a sex worker to falling in love and writing an award-winning novel. Thanh writes that, despite her success, she still struggles with events of the past. 

From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle

From the Ashes is a memoir by Jesse Thistle. (Lucie Thistle, Simon & Schuster)

Jesse Thistle is a Métis-Cree author, a Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Vanier Scholar and PhD candidate specializing in Indigenous homelessness, addiction and inter-generational trauma. For Thistle, these issues are more than just subjects on the page. After a difficult childhood, Thistle spent much of his early adulthood struggling with addiction while living on the streets of Toronto. His memoir From the Ashes details how his issues with abandonment and addiction led to homelessness, incarceration and his eventual redemption through higher education.

Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related. by Jenny Heijun Wills

Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related is a memoir by Jenny Heijun Wills. (McClelland & Stewart)

Jenny Heijun Wills was born in Korea, but was adopted by a Canadian family and raised in a small town. When she was in her early 20s, she decided to travel back to Korea to meet her extended birth family and other young people who were adopted from Korea and raised abroad. She shares her story in the memoir Older Sister. Not Necessarily Relatedwritten as a series of vignettes and letters.

Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related won the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

A Good Wife by Samra Zafar

A Good Wife is a nonfiction book by Samra Zafar. (, HarperCollins)

When Samra Zafar was 15 years old, she was told by her mother that a great match had been found, and she was to be married — to a man who lived in Canada and was 11 years older than her. Despite having her own dreams and goals, Zafar got married, moved to a new country and started a family. But when her relationship became abusive, Zafar knew she must leave and build a new life for her children. Zafar has written about her experience in the book A Good Wife.



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