Learn more about human experience through memoirs

What is a memoir? It is a special kind of autobiography, usually involving a portion of the author's life that includes details about a person, historic event or thing. Memoirs let us go deeper into another's life and learn what it was like to grow up, to take care of someone in need, to suffer a loss, or fight a war. We have many riveting memoirs available at our libraries.

In Down Came the Rain, Brooke Shields shares her deeply personal experience with postpartum depression, and we are given an inspiring example for recovery and understanding. In the book Lucky, by Alice Sebold, the author describes her experiences of being raped and how it shaped the rest of her life. She allows readers to follow her from trauma to recovery. Sebold has stated that she hoped to bring more awareness to this crime.

In the book Expecting Adam, Martha Beck bravely and genuinely shares her account of her pregnancy and experiences before and after her son, Adam, who has Down Syndrome, was born. Goodbye Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War, by William Manchester, is an honest and unabashed emotional account of his part in the war in the Pacific. His nightmares, which were left over from his experiences in the infantry in World War II, are dispelled through each visit to the islands the Marines fought on in the Pacific.

Another great memoir is Until I Say Good-Bye: My Year of Living With Joy, by Susan Spencer-Wendel. She was only 44 when she learned that she had ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). She decided to live that year with joy, spend time with her family, build an outdoor meeting space for her friends in her backyard, travel and write this book. She wrote the book when she was no longer able to walk or lift her arms. She tapped out each letter on her iPad using only her right thumb. This book is not angry or bitter but filled with amazing experiences, optimism and a sense of humor. It is sad in parts but has a message to all of us: "Every day is better when it is lived with joy."

Gregg Allman sets the record straight about his (and his band's) struggles in the face of death in the book My Cross to Bear. This memoir shows that he is a stoic man on the exterior and an intriguing and vulnerable soul who hates to be alone. He tells about his experiences growing up and his love and devotion for his brother. This is a honest glimpse inside one of the greatest Southern rock groups ever.

If you are looking for a truly inspirational memoir, Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength, and Spirit, by J.R. Martinez, is the one for you. His words have inspired millions. The book spans his life, from childhood in Louisiana, through his hopes and dreams of going to college and being a football star, his tour in Iraq and his recovery from the terrible burns he suffered there. His resilience, optimism and charm were noted by Hollywood and resulted in roles on "All My Children" and "Dancing With the Stars," where he was champion of season 13.

We can learn so much about each other through memoirs. It's an exciting expansion of our ability to know a world. Why not read a memoir? Take this opportunity to enter other people's world.

Mary Jo Berkes is the branch manager at the Hilton Head Island library.

Original story at the Island Packet