On The Shelf: Learning about others and ourselves through new biographies

Published 8:00 am Sunday, November 12, 2023

This column was submitted by Evangeline Cessna, Local History Librarian at the Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library.

This week, we are featuring biographies and memoirs from our new adult nonfiction and new large print collections.

Omer Aziz’s large print memoir, “Brown Boy,” attempts to describe the complex process of creating his identity that fuses where he is from with what people see in him and who he knows himself to be. Aziz grew up in a tough neighborhood on the outskirts of Toronto, where he struggled to find his place as a first-generation Pakistani Muslim boy. The world around him was full of violence and despair and he was headed down a dangerous path laden with aimlessness, apathy and wrath. In his senior year of high school, however, Aziz realized a good education could open a larger world. As he made his way to Queen’s University in Ontario, Sciences Po in Paris, Cambridge University in England and finally Yale Law School, he is still pestered by feelings of doubt and inadequacy at being an outsider: a brown-skinned boy in an elite white world. He wrestles with the contradiction of feelings like an Other and his desire to belong to a Western world that never quite accepts him. Can one transcend the perils of race and class? Is assimilation really an option?

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Joseph Monninger records his uplifting journey of truly seeing and appreciating what makes life worth living following a terminal diagnosis in his memoir, “Goodbye to Clocks Ticking: How We Live While Dying.” He tells the story of a singular year of challenges, insights and peculiar gifts. Written in the style of a sort of postcard from a place many will one day visit, it offers wisdom, insight and a suspenseful story of how to relish and celebrate our lives. Monninger was an avid outdoorsman with good health who was looking forward to retiring after 32 years of teaching. He and the love of his life planned on relishing life in a cabin beside a New England estuary. Three days after teaching his last class, he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer even though he quit smoking 30 years prior. The doctor diagnosed him in May and told him he might be dead by early fall. Soon, however, Joe learned that he was a genetic match for treatment with a drug
that wouldn’t cure his cancer but would extend his life. With this, Joe sets out to live life to its fullest and to write about the year of grace that he’s been given.

Walter Isaacson’s latest is a biography of one of the most dynamic billionaires on the planet, “Elon Musk.” Musk is one of the most fascinating and controversial innovators of our era. He has helped the world usher in the era of electric vehicles, private space exploration and artificial intelligence. And don’t forget he took over Twitter. As a child in South Africa, he was regularly beaten up by bullies. One day a group pushed him down some concrete stairs and kicked him, which left his face swollen like a ball and he had to spend a week in the hospital. He developed into a tough yet vulnerable man-child, prone to mood swings, with an extremely high tolerance for risk, a craving for drama and an epic sense of mission. For two years, Isaacson shadowed Musk, attending his meetings, walking his factories with him and spending many hours interviewing him, his family, friends, coworkers and competitors. The result is this revealing inside story, filled with amazing tales of triumph and tribulation that attempts to answer the question: Are the demons that drive Musk also what it takes to drive innovation and progress?

The long-awaited memoir from iconic and beloved actor and living legend Sir Patrick Stewart is titled, “Making It So: A Memoir.” This memoir includes his acclaimed stage triumphs as well as his legendary onscreen work in the Star Trek and X-Men franchises. Sir Patrick Stewart has captivated audiences around the world and across multiple generations with his presence on stage and screen. This revealing portrait of the artist who has lived an astonishing life; from his humble beginning in Yorkshire, England to the heights of Hollywood and worldwide acclaim. His is a story of exuberance, mastering his craft and enduring it all to live a fulfilled life as a living icon.

“Taste: My Life Through Food,” is by beloved actor Stanley Tucci. Having previously shared the magic of his family’s meals around the dinner table in “The Tucci Cookbook” and “The Tucci Table,” Stanley now shares the stories of his life in and out of the kitchen that inspired his obsession with food and family gatherings. This is an intersection of food and life for the man who grew up in Westchester, New York. He tells how he prepared for shooting the foodie films, “Big Night” and “Julie and Julia” and how he fell in love over dinner and how he and his wife teamed up to create meals for their multitude of children. Stanley uses his signature wry humor for the stories that take you through this gastronomic journey of good times and bad as well as five-star meals and burned dishes. This memoir is definitely heartfelt and delicious from the first page to the last.