Five Favorite: Memoirs by Women

“Five Favorite” is a feature on thewasofshall where I lay out my five favorite “x”. Sometimes they’re relevant to a season or holiday, mostly they’re not. It’s an all-around fun excuse to give my 100% amazingly awesome opinion. To see previous (and future) topics, click here. To participate, scroll all the way down.

For Women’s History Month, I’ve been spotlighting books by or about women. For this last week, I want to focus on memoirs written by females because, well, why the hell not? Whether they’re laugh-out-loud funny, honest, heartbreaking, so something totally different, here are my five favorite.

BitterIsTheNewBlackBitter Is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office by Jen Lancaster

NotThatKindOfGirlNot That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham

Persepolis
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
by Marjane Satrapi

WhatIWasDoingWhileYouWereBreedingWhat I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman

YesPleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler

Have your own five favorite memoirs by women? Share them! Post them to your blog, link back to this post, and then comment letting me know!

Review: What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman

WhatIWasDoingWhileYouWereBreedingTitle: What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding
Author: Kristin Newman
Rating: ★★★★
Summary: Kristin Newman spent much of her twenties and thirties buying dresses to wear to her friends’ weddings and baby showers. Not ready to settle down and in need of an escape from her fast-paced job as a sitcom writer, Kristin instead traveled the world, often alone, for several weeks each year. In addition to falling madly in love with the planet, Kristin fell for many attractive locals, men who could provide the emotional connection she wanted without costing her the freedom she desperately needed.
Kristin introduces readers to the Israeli bartenders, Finnish poker players, sexy Bedouins, and Argentinean priests who helped her transform into “Kristin-Adjacent” on the road – a slower, softer, and, yes, sluttier version of herself at home. Equal parts laugh-out-loud storytelling, candid reflection, and wanderlust-inspiring travel tales, What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding is a compelling debut that will have readers rushing to renew their passports.


I find it annoying (and unfortunate) that I had no idea who Kristin Newman was before reading her memoir – ’cause she is one funny broad. What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding is pretty much exactly what you think it is – a travelogue detailing exactly what (and whom) Newman was doing while all her twenty-something (and then thirty-something) friends and colleagues were settling down and having children. It’s honest and graphic and refreshing and fun – and I really, really liked it.

The set up is simple: in between the end of one television season and the beginning of another (or during the winter hiatus – essentially the summer and winter breaks of writers working in Hollywood), Newman embarks on extended vacations around the globe. Her memoir is broken down by trip, with a rotating cast of characters and hilarious recollections of how a single twenty-something parties it up in a foreign country “doing the thing you’re supposed to do in the place you’re supposed to do it” (which, side note, is a freaking great philosophy to have about life). I think what makes me really enjoy this book is that Newman says yes to new experiences. For her, travelling alone to a foreign country is not terrifying but exhilarating: she gets on a plane with barely a sketch of an itinerary and says, “Hell yeah let’s do this.” And, in the process, you root for her, cringe with her, and get those warm fuzzies when things go the way you both want them to.

It’s not that Newman doesn’t want kids, either, it’s that she doesn’t want them when society says she should want them. And that might seem radical, but to Newman, it’s life. And since I can’t really think of anything more intelligent to say other than, “UGH. JUST GO READ IT ALREADY,” here’s a quote:

My friends who met their spouses young have often told me they live vicariously through my adventures. That they sometimes think about the oats they never got a chance to sow. There is a trade-off for both their choice and mine. I used to beat my head over Vito, when he was struggling for years over how he wanted to be with me, but also wanted a life that wasn’t compatible with my life. He couldn’t believe that he couldn’t have everything, and so just wouldn’t choose. And I would tell him, so full of twentysomething wisdom, that life is almost never about choosing between one thing you really want and another thing you don’t want at all. If you’re lucky… life is an endless series of choosing between two things you want almost equally. And you have to evaluate and determine which awesome thing you want infinitesimally more, and then give up that other awesome thing you want almost exactly as much. You have to trade awesome for awesome.

Now go be awesome and do the thing you’re suppose to do in the place you’re suppose to do it.