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Coming of Age Non-Fiction

Updated: February 8, 2016

These are biographies or autobiographies about children or young adults who have overcome difficult emotional and/or physical situations.

Rodriguez, Luis J., 1954-
Call Number: 301.450972 R695 2005

Luis J. Rodriguez, Poet Laureate of Los Angeles 2014 - 2016,  bravely, boldly recounts his life as a young Chicano gang member in East Los Angeles, with all of the violence, sadness and hopelessness that were part of that life.  He found a way out, through education and has made it his mission to help others.

Grealy, Lucy.
Call Number: 616.994716 G786
Lucy Grealy's haunting autobiography of her struggles with a form of cancer that disfigured her face at the age of nine. It recurred causing more devastation to her face and her sense of self.

Finnegan, William,
Call Number: 797.6092 F514

A coming-of-age memoir by the surfing-obsessed William Finnegan, who fell in love with the sport as a young boy, and continued surfing well into his adult life as an international journalist. Surfers and non-surfers alike will enjoy this well-written recounting of a life spent surfing.

Nichols, Beverley, 1898-1983.
Call Number: 823 N616N-2

Huxley, Elspeth Joscelin Grant, 1907-1997.
Call Number: 967.62 H986-1 1987
Elspeth Huxley grew up on a coffee plantation in pre-World War I Kenya. For a young girl it was a time of adventure and freedom while her parents banked their future on the uncertainty of successful coffee harvests.

De Blasis, Celeste.
Call Number: 818 D286
A loving memoir of 1950's California and what it was like to grow up on an 1,800 acre ranch in the Mojave desert, with a strong-willed grandmother, sometimes harsh father, and loads of wild and domesticated animals.

Gantos, Jack.
Call Number: 813 G211G

In 1971 Jack Gantos was caught in New York harbor on a boat filled with 2,000 pounds of hashish. He was sentenced to 6 years in prison. This is the story of how he "escaped" from prison by becoming a writer. Heartbreaking, challenging but ultimately triumphant. Told with a combination of acerbic wit and deadpan humor, he provides an attention to detail that elevate his experiences to engrossing entertainment, even (and especially) when he's poking fun at himself.


Rodriguez, Richard.
Call Number: 410 R696 1983

What price for assimilation and a university education?  In this candid autobiography, Richard Rodriguez recounts his childhood, knowing hardly any Englsh, and eventually earning a Ph.D, and becoming a Fullbright scholar at the Warburg Institute in London.  However, along the way he lost connections to his past, his family and his culture. 

Goodyear, Sara Suleri.
Call Number: 954.91 S9485 1991
An idyllic world in post-colonial Pakistan is the setting for a young girl who grew up in a culturally divided house, with her Welsh mother and Pakistani father.

Beauvoir, Simone de, 1908-1986.
Call Number: 843 B386B
In this first volume of her memoirs, Simone de Beauvoir portrays her early quest for knowledge, adventure and independence despite the constaints of her bourgeois French family; primary and secondary school days and the rigors of a university education; her teaching experiences outside of Paris; and meeting Jean-Paul Sartre, her soul-mate and lifelong partner.

Rachlin, Nahid.
Call Number: 813 R119R
An autobiography from novelist Nahid Rachlin who escaped a traditional female life in pre-revolutionary Iran, and the tragedy of her sister who was forced into an arranged marriage.

Baca, Jimmy Santiago, 1952-
Call Number: 811 B116B-1

Conway, Jill K., 1934-
Call Number: 92 C7665
This is an autobiography of a young woman whose determination takes her from the deserted Austalian outback of her family's large sheep ranch, to Sydney University, to the United States as the first woman president of Smith College,

Santiago, Esmeralda.
Call Number: 301.45097295 S235 1994

Esmeralda Santiago was one of eleven children who grew up in a tin-can of a house in Puerto Rico, surrounded by quarreling parents and poverty. While living in Brooklyn with her grandmother, Santiago's ambition and hard work resulted in a Harvard education, and a successful career as a writer and film producer.