memoirs and autobiographies of some incredible lives
Benjamin E. Mays Institute
by Sadiq Ali
For many young black American males, the future seems bleak at worst, uncertain at best. The challenges seem frightfully beyond the reach of society’s current institutions. Realizing the state of emergency firsthand, educator Sadiq Ali successfully established an African-American all-male school in Hartford, Connecticut. In Benjamin E. Mays Institute: Educating Young Black Males, Ali describes the creation and life of the school, its successes and struggles. Perhaps most importantly, Ali uses his knowledge and experience to address ways that others around the nation can use education to improve the future for today’s young black men.
Echoes in Ferryland
Echoes in Ferryland offers the rich perspective of a woman looking back at her life and describing history as she saw it unfold before her very eyes. Nancy Clark fondly reminisces about her childhood and memorable life spent in Virginia’s Northern Neck, a region of rivers that witnessed the rise and ultimate decline of the steamboat. Her story tells of a simpler life—and the “unabashed naïvete that came with it,” she writes—where there is a deep respect and honor for the past as well as the acceptance of inevitable change that comes with modernity. Join author Nancy Clark on her life journey through Virginia’s “Land of Pleasant Living.”
Eleven Dollars and a Half Tank of Gas
written by Greg Drost
In this candid memoir of a classic American boyhood, Greg Drost—teacher, family man, and self-taught surfer—takes a moment to look back on the events that led him to where he is today. From summer hijinks and schoolboy woes, through hardship and heartbreak, and down the long and winding road to self-discovery, this delightful collection of anecdotes is more than the story of one man’s coming of age. It is an examination of all those moments, great and small, that shape us into the people we grow up to be.
Fighting Hitler from the North Jersey Suburbs
For children residing an ocean apart from the imminent dangers of World War II, the war’s effects were nonetheless felt in a way that shaped a generation. In Fighting Hitler from the North Jersey Suburbs, author James C. Berrall focuses a nostalgic lens on the American home front during the second great war, offering a child’s-eye view of the commotion and peculiarities of wartime. Drawing on his boyhood experiences, Berrall recalls everything from popular contemporary songs and radio programs to the looming anticipation of air raids and military invasions. A true portrait of an era, Fighting Hitler from the North Jersey Suburbs chronicles the formative years of both a young man and an emerging superpower.
From Basketball to Bow Ties: A Journey in Leadership, Self-Discovery, and Success through Service
by Harold E. Harris, Jr.
What do basketball and bow ties have in common? More than you’d expect. Namely: leadership. Part memoir, part self-help book, From Basketball to Bow Ties follows Harold E. Harris Jr. from his tumultuous youth spent playing and eventually coaching basketball to his adulthood as a successful businessman who is never without his signature bow tie. Harris’s journey through the hoops helps to shape his ultimate career path, where he leads a team with the foundations of teamwork and diligence. He skillfully translates lessons learned on the court to actionable tips for professional leadership. Leaders, professionals, sports fans, and students will find this book an invaluable resource for developing their leadership skills.
From Morning 'til Evening: The Autobiography of Grady W. Powell, Sr.
From Morning ’til Evening traces the life of Rev. Grady Powell, Sr., a devoted man of God, who has served as pastor of churches in Virginia for more than fifty years. This vivid and personal story chronicles Rev. Powell’s journey from his upbringing in Brunswick County, Virginia, through his marriage to Bertie Jeffress of Pittsburgh, the raising of five children, and the challenges and rewards of a rich professional life. Ultimately, we join him as he stands in the pulpit of Gillfield Baptist Church in Petersburg, Virginia, where he ministered to hundreds of parishioners.
This is the story of a man whose faith and family are truly his touchstones. We follow him on his journey from youth to his professional and personal destiny and, finally, to his dance with retirement, where in the evening of his life, he reflects on the deeper meaning of God, the importance of family, and the people he serves.
Harper: 48 Days to Change the Lives of Millions
Harper Ann Stanfield came into the world on August 20, 2012, a beautiful newborn with brown eyes, a strong will, and a life-threatening condition known as a Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH)—a hole in her diaphragm that permitted her abdominal organs to migrate into her chest cavity, obstructing her left lung. For weeks after—and through multiple surgeries—machines would be her constant companions, breathing for her, circulating her blood, and removing toxins from her body. Her parents, William Stanfield and Erin Byers, watched on and waited, helpless to change their daughter’s circumstances and often unable to even hold her.
To keep their community of family and friends informed and to help raise awareness about CDH, they started a Facebook page and posted daily updates on Harper’s struggle. These posts are compiled here, in Harper, a tribute to a tiny fighter and to all the children like her, both among us and in our hearts and memories.
written by Abigail Olson
After graduating high school, Abigail achieves her childhood dream of getting her CDL and learning to drive 18-wheelers. That’s where she meets a big roadblock: due to federal age restrictions, she’s too young to drive trucks across state lines. Unsure what to do next, she works as a part-time dump truck driver and part-time receptionist. That is, until she quits her job and relationship on the same day and takes the next flight to Mexico, where she lives for the next four months. Come with Abigail on a journey to self-respect and self-discovery.
Impressions Behind the Pink Ribbon
by Norma Woody
Following her diagnosis with an aggressive form of metastatic breast cancer, Norma Woody found herself the bearer of two seemingly unendurable burdens: the knowledge that she was dying, and the realization that too much of the life she had left would be spent in solitude and pain. Yet as the door to her physical life was closing, a window to her inner life was flung open. In her time spent alone wrestling with thoughts and disappointments, Norma found solace in writing, and was able to explore her creative mind and unlock feelings long denied her. In the process, she plumbed new depths of forgiveness, releasing expectations and uncovering within herself a greater childlike wonder for the world and a deeper respect for the God she had always believed in. Impressions Behind the Pink Ribbon is her record of that journey through hardship to peace, and it stands as a gift bestowed in unending faith and love.
Impressions Beyond the Terminal Cancer Diagnosis
written by Norma Woody
In this collection, as in her first book, Impressions Behind the Pink Ribbon, Norma explores a range of emotions and trials only a woman facing her own death can experience. A true and rich testament that only the examined life is worth living, she probes the depths and meaning of honesty, hope, friendship, and faith, as well as her own fear, isolation, heartache, and failures. For Norma, life was a kaleidoscope of miracles and experiences she felt compelled to capture in her writing, and had she lived, she would have penned many more books. We regret that this is her final manifesto of life, love, and hope.
PRAISE FOR IMPRESSIONS BEYOND THE TERMINAL CANCER DIAGNOSIS and IMPRESSIONS BEHIND THE PINK RIBBON
“As a Community Manager for the American Cancer Society, I work with people who have and have not been diagnosed with cancer. Because I work in the field of cancer and experience loss so often, I find myself wondering how many people live their lives with life itself going unnoticed until the moment of diagnosis. I am deeply moved by and profoundly grateful for Norma Woody’s honest and enlightening account of what it is to face a Stage 4 cancer diagnosis and try to live in the dying, make sense of the senseless, and yet acknowledge all the good things there are in the midst of the daily struggle. These very sentiments are what inspire the human spirit to find the hope and faith that are necessary to sustain life. Impressions Behind the Pink Ribbon is a gift for everyone who is searching to express the inexpressible about what cancer steals from us. Truly, we are all terminal from the day we are born, but cancer brings fear and starts the life clock ticking, which steals peace from those who are diagnosed and from those
around them. This book faces the tough emotional issues head on and will make you cry, make you laugh, but most of all it will allow you to see the beauty of the human spirit in the midst of the storm.”
—Amy Swartz, community manager, American Cancer Society
“Wow. Norma Woody has written a grace-filled, unflinching, and even, at times, whimsical book about her battle with Stage IV, Grade 3 cancer. Norma writes, “If we trust in God’s love, no matter where we are in life and no matter how difficult it can be at times, He will still bring beautiful people and beautiful things into our lives when we need them the most.” Norma and her book will be the beautiful person and beautiful thing many will find when they need them the most in the midst of their own life struggles.”
—Lynne B. Einhaus, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist and collaborative coach
“Anyone who writes a book while living with a diagnosis of terminal cancer deserves to be read. Few get the chance to have the last word about their life. In this book, Norma Woody does just that. She has insured that her experience will survive as her legacy to all who are on the same journey.”
—Betty Booker, Boomer magazine columnist and former Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist
“Norma Woody takes an unflinching look at her life after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her book is filled with poetry, pain, reminiscences good and bad, apologies for being sick, an assessment that her life by her own standards has been ‘mediocre,’ and a hard look at cancer and ‘all the stigma and negativity and needing that comes with it.’ I recommend it highly to anyone interested in how one should confront his or her own life and death or the life and death of a family member or friend.”
—Randy Fitzgerald, Boomer magazine columnist, former college educator and newspaper columnist
In Service to Their Country
by Captain Alexander G. Monroe, USN (Ret.)
On a Virginia hillside overlooking the Rappahannock River, at Christchurch School, sits a simple granite monument. It was placed there to honor the school’s faculty, staff, and alumni who have served in the American uniformed services. From its early years, and continuing still today, Christchurch has been home to men and women of diligence, accountability, and humble valor, often taking in struggling youths and cultivating in them the virtues and life skills they’ll need to make their way in the world. The path many graduates have chosen is one of service to country.
Together with the hillside monument, this book exists in tribute to those members of the Christchurch family who have dedicated years of their lives—often their best years, and sometimes their last—to the protection of the United States of America.
A Long View from Sandy Hooks Pine Grove
Virginia’s River Country is a region where life moves a little slower and the simple pleasures are king. It’s a land of daffodils and farming families, fishermen and local legend, artisans and community pride—a place where the trees tell stories and a flat tire draws good Samaritans like flies to honey. And nobody captures the unique flavor of the region like Ruby Lee Norris, a lifelong resident who memorialized the towns, people and traditions of the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula in the pages of Pleasant Living magazine for twenty years. Peppered with down-home humor and folk wisdom, this collection of forty-five essays represents a range of her contributions, including historical accounts, community profiles, gardening tips, recipes and poems. From her birthplace in Hartfield, Virginia, to her home at Sandy Hook’s Pine Grove in the town of Topping, Ruby Lee enjoyed a full life, a rich heritage and a long, priceless view of the Land of Pleasant Living.
Matzo Balls and Christmas Trees
The holidays bring a special ache to those who have lost a loved one in December. The winter of 1974 rendered Randi Wolf Lauterbach a twenty-two-year-old orphan and changed her world forever. Thirty-seven years later, with the anniversaries of her parents’ deaths approaching, Randi’s mind was immersed in thoughts of her mother—thoughts clamoring to be recorded. A first-generation Jewish-American, Margaret Wolf possessed a sharp wit, a penchant for music and gambling, and a strong foothold in her cross-cultural community of family, friends, and neighbors. When she passed suddenly, the woman who had seemed larger than life became but a memory cradled in the hearts of those who knew her. But, oh, what memories she left! Framed with humor, nostalgia, and warmth, Matzo Balls and Christmas Trees paints a timeless portrait of familial love—a love that transcends life and death and is renewed with each passing season.
Morning on Solomons
“In this book are gathered short stories relating my recollections of true events from my early years.”
So begins Sonny Robinson’s touching and personal collection of tales from his childhood and young adulthood on Solomons Island, a pipe-shaped piece of land located near the mouth of the Patuxent River where it empties into the Chesapeake Bay. Filled with tales of survival and innovation, tragedy and triumph, holiday celebrations and simple vignettes of everyday island life, this collection offers a unique glimpse into a bygone era, while giving hope and encouragement to the next generation to inherit the Bay.
My Life in the Woods
by Sidney Neil Greene
Have you ever felt the thrill of trying to fool a Tom turkey in the spring, figured out how to ambush a big buck in the fall, or hunted copperheads? Do you really know what it means to be an avid fisherman or what the sign “Watch for Falling Rocks” actually means? From hunting rabbits in the snow and escaping from a renegade bear, to the challenges of hunting the ruffed grouse, veteran outdoorsman Neal Greene shares stories handed down from his father, grandparents, aunts and uncles and takes you on a journey through his natural world that you won’t soon forget. Join Neal on a memorable and fun expedition through his family’s great hunting and fishing traditions.
My Turn on the Couch: Our Cancer Journey
My Turn on the Couch covers the span of nine years in the Alimenti family, during which three family members each face a shattering cancer diagnosis. This is a true story of how that family confronted these challenges, drew closer as a family, and remained resilient despite the hardships. The primary author, Carol Alimenti, tells the story of her mother’s struggle with cancer, coping, caring, and fighting for her son, Chris, who was diagnosed with leukemia, then having to face her own terminal diagnosis. While caring for her son, she must come to accept the finality of her own life. The book began as a journal and as therapy, but transformed into a collaborative project among the family members as they united to help Carol finish this book and cross the final goal off her bucket list. All the family members who ultimately contributed to this story learned what it meant to be “on the couch.”
This compelling story is a testimony to the power of love, family, hope, and an unbridled faith in God. These key ingredients have allowed the Alimentis to defy the odds in the hope that one day they will reunite again in a land without suffering, tears, and pain—and most of all—without cancer.
Kindle ebook available here ($4.99)
One Leaf in Time
One Leaf in Time chronicles the life of Sylvia Churchill Prince, born in Tientsin, China, where her father was a successful businessman. For the first eight years of Sylvia’s life, the Churchills enjoyed a life of luxury among a community of foreign businessmen and dignitaries. The outbreak of the Second World War brought that life to a sudden stop, as the Churchills were rounded up by Japanese occupiers and transported to an internment camp in Weihsien. Prince offers a warts-and-all description of camp life, describing the harsh treatment imposed by Japanese officials, but also the resilience of internees from countries across Europe and North America. As her account reveals, it was possible to find entertainment, respite, and even joy in an environment where danger was but one misstep away.
Panic: One Man's Struggle with Anxiety
by Harry Floyd
Anxiety and panic are a part of life for almost everyone. They can come without warning, and for many people, facing and overcoming these conditions can be a lifelong battle. In Panic, author Harry Floyd shares his own struggle with anxiety in an effort to guide others who suffer with this often debilitating condition. To combat anxiety in his own life, for years he explored myriad approaches and treatments, including counseling, medication, behavioral techniques, meditation, and spiritual practices, all of which he shares in these pages. Join Harry on his personal journey from anxiety and the paralysis of panic, to self-understanding and acceptance.
Among other topics, Panic discusses:
- Anticipation and its role in anxiety
- How to react when anxiety strikes
- Understanding the life cycle of a panic attack
- Trying new habits to combat the condition
- Trusting oneself
- How openness can make a difference
Smashwords ebook available here ($3.99)
The Perfect Dozen
In 1997, Gail Canada encountered an abandoned black Lab puppy running along the country road near her house. She took him in and named him Jake, having no idea of the journey she’d begun. Eight years later, she and her husband Randy would bring home a yellow Lab puppy named Hannah, and Hannah and Jake would become the parents to a litter of twelve tiny Labradors: six yellow, six black; six male, six female. A perfect dozen.
This is the story of a bustling canine family and the humans and animals whose lives they touched. It’s a book for anyone who has ever loved a pet like a family member. And it’s an exploration of the touching behaviors and antics that make our pets so much like us, and what we can learn from animals to help us be more like them.
Portrait of a Town: Cape Charles, 1940-1960
written by Patricia Joyce Parsons
Situated on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Cape Charles was once a vibrant railroad town, serving as a vital hub for troop movements between the northern and southern states during World War II. Its placement on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, along with its fleet of ferries and fishing boats and its position among the farming communities of the Eastern Shore, made it a town of plenty in the lean times of rationing that occurred during the war—and a perfect place for a child to grow up.
PRAISE FOR PORTRAIT OF A TOWN:
“In Portrait of a Town, Pat Parsons reflects with warm nostalgia on her experiences growing up in a lovely and proud Victorian bayside village on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Her delightful portrayal of daily life during WWII, and of Cape Charles’s struggle to survive the changing times, provide valuable insight into the history of the area.”
~ John M. Barber, Fellow, American Society of Marine Artists
“Pat Parsons’s new book, Portrait of a Town, speaks of her youth growing up in the Chesapeake Bay waterfront/railroad town on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Parsons’s straightforward approach to storytelling and marvelous memory capture the very essence of small-town American life during the decades of the 1940s and 50s. Her tales make the reader long for those wonderful, simple days of youth. Although specific to the town of Cape Charles, her well-written stories will interest those near and far as her life memories are a reminder for many of their own lives growing up in small town America. The book is a read well worth reading!”
~ Larry Chowning, author of Harvesting the Chesapeake: Tools and Traditions; Chesapeake Legacy: Tools and Traditions; Chesapeake Bay Buyboats; Deadrise and Cross-planked; Barcat Skipper: Tales of a Tangier Island Waterman; and other books on the Chesapeake Bay
The Princess Rancher
Kelly Williams wasn’t born into ranching. Before she ever learned to ride a horse, her life was one of globe-trotting and high comfort as a national food distributor. But when her marriage fell apart, it set her off on a new path that would lead to open spaces, tangles of barbed wire, and the sweat, dust, and tears of cattle ranching. Through it all, the thing that remained constant was Kelly’s love for food, and her memoir serves as an ode to the ages-old tradition of the men and women who toil from sunup to sundown to put beef on our dinner tables. It’s a story of risk, reward, and reinvention that captures a disappearing, American way of life.
Redeemed by the Light: With the Faith of a Mustard Seed
In Redeemed by the Light, author K.W. Rustin tells the story of his harrowing journey through a blur of alcohol and drug addiction, broken marriage, serial housing situations, unemployment and the inevitable depression and loss of self-esteem that accompanies a life gone wrong. Along the way, he is blessed by the mercy and grace of God, so this is also a story of his redemption. As he writes, “the dark veil of alcohol covers a lot of people, and the testimonies of Christ are for all who will hear. If I can help one person shake off the weight of depression and save one child from hopelessness, I will have done my part, because we are not alone. There is hope in the words of Jesus Christ.” Join Keith as he travels from the darkness into the light.
Roads Taken is a collection of some of Tucker Carwile’s favorite poems. They were selected because they show the roads he has taken, whether right or wrong, and express the emotional range of a life well lived. Written over a period of years, this collection of work is the expression of his true vocation. These are poems of sorrow and pain, battles and spirituality, the loss of friends, the beauty of nature, humor reminiscent of the past, changes over time, and love and joy found. Tucker’s decision to pursue a career instead of following his passion for writing led him down many roads away from poetry, and away from his true soul mate. The fifth and powerful final section of poems, “Roads to Happiness,” captures the long-awaited reunion with his beloved. After traveling miles of roads, they both ultimately discover the true contentment that only real devotion can give.
Seven Songs for Seven Dogs
written by L. Meredith Averitt, DVM
illustrated by Maegan Penley
As a veterinarian and lifelong animal lover, Meredith always knew she’d have dogs. But seven? It turns out that when it comes to a family of wriggling, happy dachshunds (and their poodle big brother), more really is merrier. In Seven Songs for Seven Dogs, you’ll get to know Lexi, Topher, Caddie, Carly, Sera, Chester, and Grady; gain a glimpse into the world of dog showing; and delight in seven silly songs inspired by this canine crew.
Wacky on the Junk
written by Kathy Varner
In this hilarious debut memoir, Kathy Varner reflects on a life lived on the fringes of ordinary. From an awkward childhood as the youngest of five, living off sweets and processed foods, to a wild adolescence of drinking, drugs, and Deadhead hijinks, to a harrowing career with social services, Kathy takes it all in stride, embracing the beauty and pain of life with a sardonic wit and a sense of adventure that remains undampened—no matter how wacky things get!
PRAISE FOR WACKY ON THE JUNK:
“Kathy Varner’s freewheeling memoir Wacky on the Junk takes readers on an engaging and spirited journey fueled by sugar (and a few other substances) and told with heart. If you came of age in the era of Wonder Bread and the Grateful Dead, this book speaks your language—and if you, like Varner, feel you were airdropped on the Island of Life, Wacky On The Junk might just have some of the survival tools you need.”
— Anne Sofee, author of Snake Hips: Belly Dancing and How I Found True Love
“. . . an honest and candid account of a young woman’s coming of age. . . . Kathy shows just how positively one can turn a seemingly hopeless life around and become a more complete person, by pure depth of character or simply growing up and seeing the error of one’s ways. Thought-provoking and reflective. . . .”
—Matt McAvoy, author of Granjy’s Eyes, Kill the Witch!, Clouds, and The Black Line
When Love Sticks Around
Hand-me-down pants that don’t quite fit, twilight bike rides down sleepy neighborhood streets, sweaty family camping trips, the things that almost break you, and the things you barely notice—it’s hard to see the shape of your life until you’re looking back on it.
In this collection of short essays, Danielle Dayney recounts her experiences as an awkward child in the piecemeal family that raised her. From her biological father’s absence to her mother’s battle with cancer to the birth of her daughter, Dayney’s stories venture beyond anecdote to nest safely among the tangled experiences that shape the people we become. With a keen eye for the pebbles of humor and glimmers of beauty along the rough roads of her life, Dayney has crafted a book that feels as familiar as a home-cooked meal and as exciting as the first night in a new city.
When Love Sticks Around is a memoir of love, loss, humor, identity, and above all, family—the one you’re born into and the one you gather along the way.
Those are the things worth sticking around for.
Why Men Don't Ask for Directions
by Roger Loring
Roger Loring shares wisdom gained from years of keen observation about many of the difficult questions we all must answer: why spitting has helped make baseball the slowest game on the planet, how a bill becomes a law, assuming Congress ever actually votes on a bill, why children should give up their textbooks for sports equipment, the importance of pocketknives at Christmas, and much more. He unravels complex issues that have remained unsolved for far too long, such as the role of psychic predictions in society, the value of DNA testing on reality TV, the significance of astrology, and the value of making lists. Proving that nothing is beyond his discerning eye, he explains why auto mechanics are more frightening than clowns and reveals the hidden dangers of political campaigns. But perhaps his most important accomplishment is that he settles, once and for all, the age-old question of why men don't ask for directions.
A Young Life of Light
written by Harry Hathaway Warner
iIllustrated by Patrick Gorman
What constitutes a life well lived? It’s a question often pondered in the wake of loss, and it’s one that catalyzed Harry Warner to write this book following the death of his seventeen-year-old grandson, Patrick. Patrick’s life was brief and far from easy. Born with Marfan’s syndrome and severe respiratory complications, he was given a fifty-fifty chance of survival; at eleven months, he contracted a virus that would leave him deaf in both ears. His early years consisted of a string of hospital visits and struggling to communicate in a hearing world. Yet, through it all, a remarkable young man was formed—a talented artist and sportsman with a love for the outdoors and an ability to inspire his peers in ways that would only be fully revealed upon his passing. In A Young Life of Light, Warner memorializes Patrick’s life, person, and achievements, and proclaims a simple, valuable truth: the good life is measured by the impression it leaves in the hearts of others.