Nine Autobiographies Written By Women That Will Empower You

Woman reading

by Rebecca Cope |
Published on

Here at Grazia, we're voracious readers. We love fiction, non-fiction, short stories, poetry... but there's one genre that always speaks to us in particular, and that's the female autobiography. Whether it's the musings of a leading pop cultural figure, a memoir of struggle or simply a collection of zeitgeisty essays, we can't help but love sharing the female experience. Here are our favourite first-person tomes for getting that empowered feeling.

1. Bossy Pants by Tina Fey

Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants was the first of the recent slew of memoirs written by American female comedians, paving the way for books by the likes of Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler and Amy Schumer. Written in her signature self-deprecating comedic style, it relates everything from her awkward teenage years to her first time on Saturday Night Live, all the time stressing how believing in herself and not giving a f*** about what others thought pushed her to succeed in what still is a largely male-dominated industry.

amy schumer

2. The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

The title alone of Amy Schumer’s autobiographical tome warrants it a place on this list. Arguably the most influential female comedian in the world right now, Schumer’s book lays bare what it means to be a woman in 2016, with impassioned (and for the most part hilarious) diatribes on everything from online dating profiles to campus rape. Although we love her quotable soundbites on silly, sometimes gross, things, we like her best when she’s getting real about the bigger issues.

3. The Year Of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Perhaps the rawest novel about bereavement out there, Joan Didion’s account of the year during which her husband died and her daughter became seriously ill is a cathartic, poignant examination of what it means to lose someone you love. Intensely personal yet universal in its message, it somehow conjures up just what it means to love and to lose – those two most human experiences.

Maya Angelou

4. Maya Angelou’s Autobiography Series

Maya Angelou’s seven volumes of autobiographical writing from I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings to Mom & Me & Mom, have cemented her status as one of the world’s leading voices on the black female experience. Her books follow her incredibly fascinating life, in which she has worked as everything from a fry cook to a sex worker, before becoming active in the civil rights movement, befriending historical figures from Malcolm X to Martin Luther King Jr.

5. How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

Here at Grazia, we are firmly of the belief that Caitlin Moran’s hysterically funny first person account of growing up in Wolverhampton and grappling with periods, losing your virginity, getting a boyfriend and landing your first job will be lauded as a seminal text on girlhood in years to come. With witty observations and some kick-ass mantras, it’s the perfect manual for all ages.


6. Wild: A Journey From Lost To Found by Cheryl Strayed

The book that inspired Reese Witherspoon’s award-nominated movie is a must-read for anyone who is lost. Written when the author’s mother passed away and her marriage broke down, it follows her as she embarks on a physically and emotionally draining 1100-mile trek along the west coast of America, discovering herself and exorcising her demons along the way.

7. Just Kids by Patti Smith

With Just Kids, iconic musician, poet and artist Patti Smith has written the ultimate love letter to her late friend, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The book charts her arrival in New York in the 1960s, to her fateful meeting with Mapplethorpe, their short-lived romance, fledgling careers as artists and subsequent life on the breadline, culminating with them exchanging artworks for free rent at the Soho Hotel.

testament of youth

8. A Testament Of Youth by Vera Brittain

Vera Brittain’s first-person account of her life during the First World War is considered to be one of the most important memoirs of the 21st century, and rightly so. Free-spirited, intelligent and politically-minded, Vera had a wealth of opportunities at her fingertips as one of the first female students at Oxford, but her world was torn apart by the arrival of war and the deaths of the young men closest to her. One of the best evocations of the tragedy of the so-called ‘lost generation’.

9. The Diary Of A Young Girl – Anne Frank

A popular choice on school reading lists, The Diary of a Young Girl is not just a fascinating insight into one of the most traumatic periods of recent history, but also a touching memoir of what it means to be a teenage girl. Anne’s ability to find normalcy in the most irregular of circumstances is breath-taking and inspiring.

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