genre autobiography

When There Were Tigers in Singapore

“Japan invades and captures the British colony of Singapore in 1942. All Europeans on the island are being interned. Edward Schirmer, the author’s grandfather, faces a dilemma—he is German, but born as a British subject. In a strange stroke of fortune, he finds himself friends with General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the famed ‘Tiger of Malaya’. Seeing the fate of the other Europeans, Edward reluctantly lets the Japanese assume he is a friendly German national. The secret of his true identity remains between the two men only…but when politics removes the protective Yamashita from the picture, betrayal ensues and Edward finds himself in prison, his family scattered.

Using the personal history from his family’s saga & extensive research to confirm his father’s account, the author then details the true-life account of Edward’s son (the author’s father)—a hellish tale of a six year-old boy’s quest for survival, alone on the streets of a war-torn vanquished nation.

Part autobiography, part microhistory of WWII with some lesser-known details of famous figures from the WWII era, but wholly the story of the fight for survival in and after the harshest of wars.

Where everyone is hungry and racial tension is rife.

Where martial law allows the occupiers to summarily execute at will.”

(Submitted by Beth McCrea, book club co-founder.)

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Quicksand

“A stunning and poignant autobiographical look at the myriad experiences that shape a meaningful life, by the bestselling author of the Kurt Wallander mysteries.  
 
In January 2014, Henning Mankell received a diagnosis of lung cancer. Quicksand is a response to this shattering news—but it is not a memoir of destruction. Instead, it is a testament to a life fully lived, a tribute to the extraordinary but fleeting human journey that delivers both boundless opportunity and crucial responsibility. In a series of intimate vignettes, Mankell ranges over rich and varied reflections: of growing up in a small Swedish town, where he experiences a startling revelation on a winter morning as a young boy; of living hand-to-mouth during a summer in Paris as an ambitious young writer; of his work at a theater in Mozambique, where Lysistrata is staged in the midst of civil war; of chance encounters with men and women who changed his understanding of the world. Along the way, Mankell ponders the meaning of a good life, and the critically important ways we can shape the future of humanity if we are fortunate enough to have the choice. Vivid, clear-eyed, and breathtakingly beautiful, Quicksand is an invaluable parting gift from a great man.”

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Climbing the Mango Trees

"The enchanting autobiography of the seven-time James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and acclaimed actress who taught America how to cook Indian food.

Whether climbing the mango trees in her grandparents' orchard in Delhi or picnicking in the Himalayan foothills on meatballs stuffed with raisins and mint tucked into freshly baked spiced pooris, Madhur Jaffrey’s life has been marked by food, and today these childhood pleasures evoke for her the tastes and textures of growing up. Following Jaffrey from India to Britain, this memoir is both an enormously appealing account of an unusual childhood and a testament to the power of food to prompt memory, vividly bringing to life a lost time and place. Also included here are recipes for more than thirty delicious dishes from Jaffrey’s childhood."

A special thank you to book club member, Jo Jackson for the suggestion.

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The Eternal Son

"In this multi-award-winning autobiographical novel [which has won every major Brazilian literary prize], Cristovão Tezza draws his readers into the mind of a young father whose son, Felipe, is born with Down syndrome. From the initial shock of diagnosis, and through his growing understanding of the world of hospitals and therapies, Tezza threads the story of his son’s life with his own.

Felipe, who lives in an eternal present, becomes a remarkable young man; for Tezza, however, the story is a settling of accounts with himself and his own limitations and, ultimately, a coming to terms with the sublime ironies and arbitrariness of life. He struggles with the phantom of shame, as if his son’s condition were an indication of his own worth, and yearns for a ‘normal’ world that is always out of reach.

Reading this compelling book is like stumbling through a trap door into the writer’s mind, where nothing is censored, and everything is constantly examined and reinterpreted. What emerges is a hard-won philosophy of everyday life.

It is extraordinary to encounter a common human drama — the birth of a disabled child — investigated profoundly by a father who happens to be a gifted writer. The Eternal Son is an honest and insightful story by one of Brazil’s foremost contemporary novelists, here beautifully translated by Alison Entrekin. It is world literature at its finest."

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