Maybe you were in college. Maybe you were in elementary school. Maybe you were already grown. Maybe it’s a time you’ve only ever heard about. Regardless, the 1990s were a unique decade where, despite the varied hardships life doled out, there were joys to be found, and we can’t help but feel nostalgic. These books take us back as their authors recount formative experiences, tragedies, resilience, and growth during this time period. Twist off the top of your Snapple, straighten your Abercrombie hat, put in that Nirvana cassette or Backstreet Boys CD, dial up the internet, and travel back in time with these inspiring memoirs.
Stay True by Hua Hsu
“A near-perfect time capsule of Berkeley from 1995 to 1999, this vivid, shattering memoir knocked me out. . . I was hooked from its first page, which riffs on friendship and mixtapes in the Bay Area, inextricable for many of us from back then. . . More than 20 years later, he gets it all down, with uncanny power, onto the page here.” —Alta
In the eyes of eighteen-year-old Hua Hsu, the problem with Ken—with his passion for Dave Matthews, Abercrombie & Fitch, and his fraternity—is that he is exactly like everyone else. Ken, whose Japanese American family has been in the United States for generations, is mainstream; for Hua, the son of Taiwanese immigrants, who makes ’zines and haunts Bay Area record shops, Ken represents all that he defines himself in opposition to. The only thing Hua and Ken have in common is that, however they engage with it, American culture doesn’t seem to have a place for either of them. But despite his first impressions, Hua and Ken become friends. And then violently, senselessly, Ken is gone. Determined to hold on to all that was left of one of his closest friends—his memories—Hua turned to writing. Stay True is the book he’s been working on ever since.
“A heartbreaking and intimate memoir… the storytelling from a young Qian’s perspective is riveting.”—Politico
In Chinese, the word for America, Mei Guo, translates directly to “beautiful country.” Yet when seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York City in 1994 full of curiosity, she is overwhelmed by crushing fear and scarcity. In China, Qian’s parents were professors; in America, her family is “illegal” and it will require all the determination and small joys they can muster to survive.
At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone.
Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
“The real poignancy of these pieces is their ordinariness, [and their] moments of extraordinary sadness and beauty.” —Publishers Weekly
In 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor-in-chief of French Elle, the father of two young children, a 44-year-old man known and loved for his wit, his style, and his impassioned approach to life. By the end of the year he was also the victim of a rare kind of stroke to the brainstem. After 20 days in a coma, Bauby awoke into a body which had all but stopped working: only his left eye functioned, allowing him to see and, by blinking it, to make clear that his mind was unimpaired. Almost miraculously, he was soon able to express himself in the richest detail: dictating a word at a time, blinking to select each letter as the alphabet was recited to him slowly, over and over again. In the same way, he was able eventually to compose this extraordinary book.