Non Fiction Round Up Episode 4: Memoirs All The Way

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

I can’t believe it’s been what… almost more than 6 freakin’ months? since I last wrote one of these. But here we are: welcome to Episode 4 of my Non Fiction Round Up – where I talk about all the non fiction books I’ve read lately.

With the exception of Bad Blood (which is more of a corporate scandal documentation), all the other 4 books in this list are all memoirs – and it really surprised me but also made me happy at the same time. From initially hating reading memoirs to having them as a staple in my reading list, my reading habits really did an overtake when 2020 hit. They used to make me feel sleepy and bored. But as with other non-fiction books as well, the key is still to find books with topics you care about or that interest you.

There were a lot of benefits to reading memoirs regularly but, personally speaking, the following are things that I realized and enjoyed ever since I started reading them regularly:

  • You get to expose yourself to realistic depictions of human experiences you always get to read in fiction.
  • You get to read different perspectives and first-hand experiences on topics you always see in media.
  • You get to educate yourself on topics that you aren’t normally exposed to or read about.
  • You get to realize that real human experiences are also as interesting as made-up ones.

If you read the right book (at the right time), it will stick with you. Sometimes, it left me more fulfilled than reading a lot of fantasy series where the hero triumphs against all odds. It also made me more emphatic and give more allowances towards other people because, at the end of the day, these stories are testament to the lived-in experiences that make up a person. And, more often than not, these are things that are not necessarily exhibited outright or talked about enough.

It’s always hard rating memoirs… because how can you even evaluate human experiences that are so different from your own? However, as usual, I am rating books based on how they made me feel when I was reading them and how I can’t stop thinking about them long after I finished them.

Here are the additional 5 non fiction books I’ve read so far:

  1. MINDHUNTER: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker 4.5
  2. BAD BLOOD: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou 4
  3. KNOW MY NAME by Chanel Miller 5
  4. OVER THE TOP: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness 4
  5. BORN A CRIME: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah4.5

MINDHUNTER: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas, Mark Olshaker – 4.5☕

I discovered Mindhunter when I was scrolling through Olivia of Stories for Coffee’s Instagram stories and decided to pick it up since it sounded interesting.

I’m not even sure why I’m trying to learn and read more about this stuff but this is pretty fascinating information. It’s like listening to True Crime documentaries – with first-hand accounts of the circumstances and evidence found at the crime scene. And though he acknowledges that their work is not exactly exact science, it was fascinating to actually read about how they made use of behavioral psychology.

Besides all the fascinating recounts, this is, at its very core, a memoir. Although I have to agree that there were a couple of moments in the book where the tone is a bit off – a lot of ego-stroking and whining, especially when he’s talking about some things in the FBI as an organization and personal/home life – I can really sense the unmistakable pride that he has working for FBI and also his passion for what he does and what he helped/tried to build from the ground up. Towards the very end, it was heartbreaking how he recounted that being so immersed in his work as he does affect so much of his home life that it eventually played a major role in the disintegration of his marriage. Such as being desensitized to emergencies in the house because he was too exposed to gruesome horrors in his daily life. Case in point: he even recounted one incident when his wife accidentally cut herself with the kitchen knife and everyone was panicking but he was just thinking how the blood splatters match the pattern of the blood splatters they’ve been looking at work.

Perfect for fans of the True Crime genre, this riveting memoir by John E. Douglas is a joy to listen to from start to finish.  This was particularly interesting since I tried to actively avoid this genre in the past because I was not really sure I could handle this.  I might’ve found a new genre of non-fiction to binge – if that’s not a testament to how interesting AND entertaining this book is, I don’t know what will. This actually gave me the push to finally finish Mindhunter, which I’ve started a couple of months back. As you know (or not?), this very memoir inspired Netflix’s crime thriller series, Mindhunter. John E. Douglas has been the inspiration of several criminal profilers in film – including Jack Crawford from Silence of the Lambs. Douglas also mentioned (somewhere in the book) that behavioral science actively being applied to investigation has its roots from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series – which I think was pretty dope, as we see here a classic instance of when literature influences real life.

Content Warnings: *highlight to view* {graphic discussion of murder and violence, child abuse}

BAD BLOOD: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou – 4☕

This book really hit the spot. I didn’t even know Corporate Drama would be a kind of genre that I will swear by and enjoy. This is a bit surprising considering my fascination with reading about corporate scandals and whatnots. I really did enjoy reading Bad Blood a lot. Spotting all these indicators and reading how Theranos slowly imploded. It’s just a shame that the perspective of the woman behind everything, Elizabeth Holmes, was not included (she was asked to be interviewed but refused to issue a statement). This was told through the perspective of all the other parties within the company as well as outside and I could say that this is really a good piece of investigative writing. You would be exposed to the ins and outs of Silicon Valley startups, the funding process, and whatnots. This was one of the largest frauds perpetrated in Silicon Valley and it’s ridiculous to realize that if only people cared enough and made the effort to perform necessary due diligence – even on just the basic level – all of this can be exposed. This goes to show what a charismatic and convincing leader, as well as well-placed connections, can do in order to lift a company up, even if there are a lot of shady deals at the heart of it. It’s kind of scary, actually. This is a corporate scandal that reads like a thriller (thanks to how John Carreyrou wrote and framed it) – and it made me crave for more corporate thriller fiction to read after this. This book won the 2018 Financial Times and McKinsey Book of the Year Award, which was pretty amazing.

Content Warnings: *highlight to view* {manipulation, whistleblower mistreatment, corporate corruption}

KNOW MY NAME by Chanel Miller – 5☕

There’s a lot to be said about this book but know that Know May Name deserves all the stars and praise everyone is giving it. This is probably one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. I discovered it from Cindy of Read with Cindy as this was her top book of 2020 – and as usual, in Cindy’s non fiction recommendations, it did not disappoint.

Know My Name is a memoir of Chanel Miller, the infamous Emily Doe of the Stanford Sexual Assault Case. Even saying that makes me uncomfortable because she was so much more than that incident and it is downright disrespectful to define her like this. But considering that, one of the things that I loved about this book was the acknowledgment and acceptance of what happened and the vivid depiction of the struggle to move forward and to cope.

Chanel also managed to touch on the effects of court procedures on the lives of victims and accusers – that is, almost to a level of no regard. There were moments in the middle of the book where her life seemingly was put into suspension when time after time the hearings got canceled and the waiting time begins again. I can see why it was hard to deal with when all the victim wants to do is to move on and quickly put it behind them. It was just heartbreaking to see that the price of reporting such incidents was the gradual breaking down of the accuser’s psyche (this reminds me so much of Netflix’s Unbelievable) – it’s very easy to see why most of these cases go unreported and, thus, not prosecuted. I saw a review saying that this memoir should be required reading to anyone working or involved in the court of law as this provides a painfully accurate first-hand picture of what an accuser has to go through from reporting to prosecution and everything in between. It was a grueling and draining process and it was, at most times, heartbreaking to read. I was honestly always crying for almost the later half of the book, but especially so in her breakthroughs. When her victim impact statement got viral c/o Buzzfeed, the outpouring of support and messages she received from people who sympathized and those that have been in the same situation as her made me super emotional. And hearing her read her victim statement at the end of the book, her voice thick with emotion even now, was one of the highlights of reading this book.

For me, aside from the story, one of the best things about this book was the prose. Chanel Miller is such a gifted writer. With every single state and event in this memoir, I was up there with her. I was emotional all throughout this book and it was mainly due to how her writing constantly touched me – how wonderfully (and most times heart-wrenching) she was able to describe an emotion and discuss events in such a very personal and affecting way. This is maybe the most beautiful memoir I’ve ever had the chance of reading and it was up there among the best books I’ve ever read, including fiction – and that says a lot.

Know My Name was such a sweet revelation. I know it would be good but I didn’t expect it to be this good. I know I can’t really claim to experience even half the things that Chanel had but there’s a lesson to be learned, among others, at how she handled this whole experience. It was a reminder that you don’t need to harden yourself to weather the storm. I survived because I remained soft, because I listened, because I wrote. Because I huddled close to my truth, protected it like a tiny flame in a terrible storm.” It’s such a beautiful sentiment: that there were so many beautiful things that await you if you just hold it out. I was in such a hopeful state after listening to it that it prompted me to write a personal post on progress.

I cannot read this book or look at Chanel’s social media and not cry. I followed her Instagram and with every update I see in my timeline, I see myself inspired. It takes a lot to move forward and use your story as a weapon and be heard – but Chanel managed to do it, with poise. She will probably remain as one of the most inspiring persons I’ve ever come to know (even just through a book) and I am guessing that her existence and her story will always be a source of strength for me.

Content Warnings: *highlight to view* {sexual assault, extensive description of PTSD, public shaming}

OVER THE TOP: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness – 4☕

Over The Top has honestly been an emotional roller coaster ride from the beginning. JVN’s positivity is so infectious and his energy is so big that you don’t really expect him to have experienced this kind of trauma and hardship in life. That he did made him more admirable and amazing in my eyes. “Would you love me if you saw me in a bad moment? Would you love me if you saw all my parts?” The book was so achingly raw but JVN’s words and narration lightened it a bit. This narrated his journey towards self-love and listening to this has been such an inspiring and delightful (albeit emotional) affair.

Listening to this felt like listening to a friend recount his life to you. One of the best parts where I connected to him was when he is recounting his love for figure skating and how it inspired him. Because I do feel the same – I can’t count how many times these figure skating athletes inspired me in life and I’m glad I share that with him. In life, we need to be able to find our own sunshine and I love how despite everything that JVN has gone through, he managed to come out of it as an inspiring figure – consistently evolving and openly inviting us to his story in the process.

Content Warnings: *highlight to view*  {sexual assault, sex addiction, sexual orientation discrimination, bullying}

BORN A CRIME: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah – 4.5☕

Trevor Noah, along with Stephen Colbert and Hasan Minhaj, has been one of my most admired talk show hosts – and one whose segments I’ve been following in YouTube a lot so this memoir was put on my radar. Trevor has this unique ability to inject humor in all these places that might otherwise be too dark to recount if it were other writers. He wrote and recounted the experiences in a child’s eyes, which made it more authentic. There were a couple of laugh-out-loud moments I’ve had reading this, mainly because of how he wrote it, but he also has this unique ability to bridge the lighter moments with the deeper and heavier subjects that need to be discussed and shed light to.

Additionally, he was able to highlight the central figure in his life: his mother. How she defied expectations of black women, raised Trevor with the future in mind, and how she was able to survive and be absolutely independent in that kind of rule despite being a black woman in those times. Reading about all of it in Trevor’s words, I admired the woman that is his mother and was absolutely amazed at how strong his mother was. Trevor also managed to explore the dilemma on belonging – as is prominent with mixed-race community It was heartbreaking, even at just a very young age, how society forces him to choose between his white and black community and I would imagine that it is the same even in his adult life.

If anything, reading this memoir has been a very educational experience for me. I honestly feel guilty because I did not research much in the past about what was happening around the world, outside the Philippines. I know that Apartheid is not good, but it took reading this book to actually realize and understand the magnitude of it. In this Born a Crime, Trevor recounted his experience growing up in South Africa while apartheid is in force. It was systemic racism, with national policies designed to impose white supremacy in a country where the majority of its inhabitants are persons of color. Under Apartheid, racial classifications determine opportunities – what you can and can’t do, what you can and can’t have. Being a “coloured” kid, with a Black mother and white father, Trevor was literally born a crime because it was illegal for Europeans and natives to consort during that time (what they call the “Immorality Act“). For mixed families, they wait, generation to generation, for the color of their skin to lighten enough so they could advance their social status. In the schools of persons of color, their ability to imagine a comfortable future is basically systematically crushed as it is taught that the only opportunities available to them are blue-collar work (“We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.“). Black kids in South Africa during that time grew up in a culture and system that are designed to choke them and it was just sad. Apartheid was subbed as “perfect racism” – the government literally formed a committee to “go out and study institutionalized racism all over the world“, impart it in the system they are creating and built “the most advances system of racial oppression known to man“. A lot (if not all) of the policies are designed to drum down the spirits of black people while the white ruling class only gets a slap on the wrist for the same things they committed. The neglect of black lives, as I’ve read it here, still upsets me. “The triumph of democracy over apartheid is sometimes called the Bloodless Revolution” – because of how little white blood was spilled, even if “black blood was spilled in the streets“. I still was not able to swallow how the white ruling class thought it appropriate to impose these rules when they weren’t even the majority, it was atrocious to think about even now.

If you’re a fan of Trevor or just looking into educating yourself about apartheid or how living in South Africa during that time was really like in the lens of those oppressed, this is perfect for you. This has been a great read for me and I’m glad I picked this up.

Content Warnings: *highlight to view* {systemic racism, domestic violence, violence, attempted murder}


This post was honestly a long time coming – but I tried to give myself allowances in times when I can’t really face the screen and type. I still have a couple of non fiction reads I wanna share so I hope you wait for the next installment of my Non Fiction Round Up series. Till next time! 💛

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Auditor by profession and a 'round-the-clock geek 🤓 from the 🇵🇭. I'm a coffee-holic INTJ with an unhealthy obsession with books and stationery. I word-vomit over at Twitter and posts book pics at Instagram: @pagesandcc . I also blog at https://pagesandcoffeecups.com/ .

2 thoughts on “Non Fiction Round Up Episode 4: Memoirs All The Way

    1. Ooh, thanks for reminding me about the trial. I read up on it a bit and they’re accusing her of disclosing her pregnancy too late to gain sympathy and hopefully lessen the sentence. It’s honestly all so messy. x.x

      Know Your Name is a good choice, too. 🙂

      Like

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