Celebrating Women’s History Month with Autobiographies

By Amanda Moses

March is Women’s History Month, an annual commemoration that highlights the contributions female figures have made throughout history. In honor of this month-long celebration, the Spring Creek Sun has compiled a list of autobiographies written by women who blazed a trail in their respective fields.

Sonia Sotomayor’s My Beloved World is an intimate discovery into the first Hispanic (and third woman) to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court. Sotomayor grew up in a Bronx public housing project with an alcoholic father (who passed away when she was nine) and a single mother struggling to make ends meet. Diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, Sotomayor persevered through many hardships, which she credits to making her become an independent individual.  Her story showcases that through hard work and a steadfast passion for law, dreams can be achieved.

Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming follows the former First Lady’s (the first African American woman to serve in that role) upbringing from the South Side of Chicago to the White House. She goes into detail about her experiences growing up in a tight niche household and pursuing a career in law. She also shares details about her close relationship with her husband and family, and then their induction into the political scene. She explains her ups, downs, regrets, and expectations, while also describing the difficulty of balancing motherhood and being an activist for females around the world as well as instilling healthier eating habits for families in the United States.

Malala Yousafzai’s book, Malala’s Magic Pencil, shares her personal experience in the fight for young women to receive the right to an education. She encourages young readers to dream big through a story focused on her wish to have a magic pencil while living in a war-torn Pakistan. Since age 11, Yousafzai has been in an ongoing battle against the tyranny of the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group that has forcefully imposed its laws, under the guise of religious beliefs, on Muslims in Pakistan. She has defiantly spoken out against them and particularly for the right of girls to be educated. Her fight drew anger from the Taliban, and in 2012, while on her way home from school, a Taliban soldier boarded the bus that she was riding in and shot her in the left side of her head. She was 14 at the time and survived the critical injury to pursue a life of social justice and advocate for education.  She was first nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, but it wasn’t until 2014 that she earned the coveted award, becoming the youngest recipient.

Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood is a graphic novel detailing Satrapi’s life in Tehran as a child. She described the Islamic Revolution and the harrowing experience of the war with Iraq. Through black and white drawings and witty dialogue, Satrapi unveils what life was like for an intelligent young girl growing up in a family of Marxists. She witnessed whippings, family members who were tortured, and friends who went missing for being outspoken. Behind blackened curtains, her family could freely share their revolutionary ideas but once outside their voices became stifled behind the fear of persecution.

Assata Shakur’s book Assata: An Autobiography details her life as a member of the Black Panthers.  She shares the story of being handcuffed to a bed as federal officers questioned her about a shooting on the New Jersey Turnpike on May 2, 1973.  She spent four years in prison for being an accomplice to the murder of a white state trooper in New Jersey. She describes the case, which had very little evidence, and still somehow ended in a conviction. She talks about her path into activism and later, her escape from prison. She currently lives in Cuba, where she was given political asylum.

Sylvia Plath’s the Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical story and the only novel to be written by the infamous writer. Using pseudonyms, she describes her experience falling into insanity and trying to find the line between reality and her dark world created by her own irrational fears. At the time no other book uncovered the female experience of dealing with mental issues, and Plath who originally published the story under the name Victoria Lucas in 1963, shows the deep recesses into the psyche of an unstable woman.

Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a poetic story on her personal experience growing up in a rural southern town, where she and her brother endure prejudice, abandonment, and cruelty. Angelou showcases the impact of words through powerful prose, and how her love for literature gave her the strength to overcome deep rooted trauma and racism.  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was one of many biographical coming of age stories written by Angelou.