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10 Memoirs Authored by Women Over 50

By Sandra Roussy March 10, 2023 Lifestyle

Do you enjoy reading memoirs? Do you like reading memoirs written by women over 50 or books about women over 50? I love reading memoirs that plunge into women’s lives and their personal unique human experiences. I love that feeling when I am reading a memoir and can feel the vulnerability it took to put those words on paper.

I feel the pages become heavy as I can sometimes relate to the author’s experiences or when she opens up doors to aspects of life that I was unaware of. I particularly relish in the works that are about women’s issues, culture, life, love, and relationships. The following list consists of some of my favorites:

  1. Becoming by Michelle Obama – A powerfully intimate look into the former First Lady’s life as a lawyer, mother, wife, and First Lady of the United States of America.
  2. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – A poignant memoir that delves into the experience of grief and how it can affect every aspect of one’s life.
  3. The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou – A powerful and inspiring portrait of a woman finding her voice and her place in the world.
  4. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem – A compelling and inspiring memoir that offers a unique perspective on the feminist movement and the experiences of women across the globe.
  5. Just Kids by Patti Smith – A memoir tributing the enduring power of friendship and artistic collaboration and the transformative power of creativity and human connection.

What’s the Difference Between a Memoir and a Biography

A memoir is a first-person narrative that focuses on a specific aspect of the author’s life or a particular time period. Memoirs can be written by well-known people or people who are not famous at all. One thing in common is that they all have lived interesting lives or have a unique perspective on a particular experience.

On the other hand, a biography is a written account of someone else’s life. Biographies can be written about famous people, historical figures, or even ordinary people who have lived noteworthy lives. Unlike memoirs, biographies are usually written by someone other than the subject of the book, and they tend to cover the person’s entire life rather than a specific period or event.

Memoirs from Women Over 50

Here are some of my favorite memoirs from inspiring women who open up candidly about their lives, hardships, loves, and losses. Some memoirs cover social unrest, injustice, and the fight women battled for equality and freedom through the years.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming is a memoir written by former First Lady Michelle Obama. The book was published in November 2018 and quickly became a bestseller, selling millions of copies worldwide. In Becoming, Obama shares her personal journey, from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as a working mother, lawyer, and ultimately as the First Lady of the United States.

The memoir is divided into three sections: “Becoming Me,” “Becoming Us,” and “Becoming More.” In “Becoming Me,” Obama talks about her childhood, education, and early career, including her experiences with racial and gender inequality.

In “Becoming Us,” she details her relationship with Barack Obama, from their early dating years to his political rise and eventual presidency. Finally, in “Becoming More,” she discusses her work as First Lady and her ongoing efforts to promote education and empower young people.

Throughout the book, Obama is candid about the challenges she faced as a woman, mother, and public figure. She discusses the difficulty of balancing career and family, as well as the pressures of being in the public eye. She also shares her insights on the importance of mentorship, community involvement, and personal growth.

Becoming is widely praised for its inspiring and relatable portrayal of Michelle Obama’s journey, and has become a beloved memoir among readers of all ages and backgrounds.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

The Year of Magical Thinking is a memoir by Joan Didion, published in 2005. The book recounts the year following the sudden death of Didion’s husband, writer John Gregory Dunne. In the memoir, Didion grapples with grief and the aftermath of her husband’s passing while also reflecting on the life they shared together.

The book is structured around Didion’s attempt to make sense of her husband’s death and come to terms with her grief. She examines her memories of their life together, as well as her own mortality, in a series of fragmented and nonlinear reflections.

Throughout the memoir, Didion offers insight into the experience of grief and the ways in which it can affect every aspect of one’s life. She also explores the psychological and emotional impact of sudden loss and the difficulty of finding meaning in the face of tragedy.

The Year of Magical Thinking is widely regarded as a masterful work of memoir and a poignant exploration of the human experience. It won numerous awards, including the National Book Award for Nonfiction, and was adapted into a play starring Vanessa Redgrave.

The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou

The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou

The Heart of a Woman is a memoir by Maya Angelou, published in 1981. It covers the period between 1957 and 1962, during which Angelou lived in New York and became involved in the civil rights movement.

The memoir explores Angelou’s personal and professional life during this period, including her experiences as a single mother, her relationship with her son’s father, and her involvement in the Harlem Writers Guild. She also recounts her friendships with other writers and artists of the era, including James Baldwin and Langston Hughes.

Angelou’s involvement in the civil rights movement is a central theme of the memoir, and she describes attending political rallies and demonstrations, as well as her work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and other civil rights organizations.

Throughout the book, Angelou reflects on her own identity as a black woman and the challenges of navigating a society that was often hostile to her and her community. She also explores themes of love, loss, and resilience, offering an emphatic and inspiring portrait of a woman finding her voice and her place in the world.

The Heart of a Woman is widely regarded as a groundbreaking work of memoir and a powerful testament to the strength and resilience of black women.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

My Life on the Road is a memoir by feminist activist Gloria Steinem, published in 2015. In the book, Steinem reflects on her experiences as a feminist organizer and activist over several decades, drawing on her travels across the United States and around the world.

Steinem’s memoir is structured around her many journeys and speaking engagements around the world. Along the way, she shares insights into the feminist movement in the USA and internationally and the struggles of women everywhere. She also delves into her own personal journey and the relationships that have shaped her life.

Throughout the book, Steinem emphasizes the importance of listening to the stories of others, and she weaves together a rich tapestry of voices and experiences, including those of women from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds. She also shares her struggles with personal and professional challenges, including the difficult relationship she had with her mother and the challenges of balancing activism and personal relationships.

My Life on the Road is a compelling and inspiring memoir that offers a unique perspective on the feminist movement and the experiences of women across the globe. Steinem’s writing is insightful and engaging, and her memoir is a testament to the power of personal stories and the importance of community and connection in driving social change.

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Just Kids is a memoir by American singer-songwriter Patti Smith, published in 2010. The book is a vivid and poetic account of Smith’s relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and their experiences together in New York City during the late 1960s and 1970s.

The book follows Smith and Mapplethorpe’s journey as they navigate their way through the art and music scene in New York City, living together in a series of apartments and working on their individual artistic projects. Smith vividly captures the atmosphere of the time, with its heady mix of creativity, experimentation, and personal exploration.

As the two grow and evolve as artists, they face a range of challenges and struggles, including poverty, drug addiction, and the constraints of societal norms. Through it all, Smith and Mapplethorpe remain close, supporting and inspiring each other through their artistic and personal journeys.

Just Kids is a tribute to the enduring power of friendship and artistic collaboration. It is a poetic and moving memoir that captures the spirit of an era and celebrates the transformative power of creativity and human connection.

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love is a memoir by Dani Shapiro that was published in 2019. The book chronicles Shapiro’s discovery, through a DNA test, that her biological father was not the man she had always believed him to be. This revelation leads Shapiro on a journey to unravel family secrets and understand her true identity.

The memoir begins with Shapiro’s childhood, where she was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family in New Jersey. She goes on to describe her early adult years, her marriage, and her decision to pursue a career as a writer. It is not until she is in her 50s that she decides to take a DNA test and discovers the truth about her paternity.

The book delves into the complicated emotions and ethical dilemmas that Shapiro faces as she navigates the aftermath of this discovery. She reflects on the meaning of family, the power of secrets, and the ways in which our identities are shaped by the stories we tell ourselves.

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love is a deeply personal and moving memoir that explores the nature of identity, family, and love. It has been praised for its honesty, insight, and beautifully crafted prose.

The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty by Carolyn G. Heilbrun

The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty by Carolyn G. Heilbrun

The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty is a memoir by Carolyn G. Heilbrun, published in 1997. Heilbrun, who was a prominent feminist scholar, wrote this book when she was in her 70s and was reflecting on the aging process and what it means to live a fulfilling life beyond the age of 60.

In the book, Heilbrun explores the challenges and joys of aging, drawing on her own experiences as well as those of other women. She discusses the importance of finding new passions and interests, embracing change, and cultivating meaningful relationships with others as one grows older. Heilbrun also reflects on the concept of mortality and the ways in which society views and treats the elderly.

The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty is a thought-provoking and insightful memoir that offers a unique perspective on aging and the value of a life well-lived.

The Woman I Wanted to Be by Diane von Fürstenberg

The Woman I Wanted to Be by Diane von Fürstenberg

The Woman I Wanted to Be is a memoir by fashion designer and entrepreneur Diane von Fürstenberg. In the book, she shares her life story, from her childhood in Belgium to her success as a fashion designer and businesswoman in New York City.

She also discusses her personal struggles, including failed marriages and battles with addiction, and shares her insights and lessons learned along the way.

The book offers a candid and inspiring look into the life and career of a trailblazing woman who has made a significant impact in the fashion industry and beyond.

My Love Story by Tina Turner

My Love Story by Tina Turner

My Love Story is an autobiography by the legendary singer and performer Tina Turner. The book was released in 2018 and covers her life from her childhood in Tennessee to her rise to fame as one of the most successful and influential musicians of all time.

Turner shares her experiences with abuse, overcoming obstacles, and finding strength and happiness through music and spirituality. The book also includes personal photographs and details about her relationships with family, friends, and music industry colleagues. My Love Story is a candid and inspiring account of a truly remarkable life.

My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg

My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Although not technically a memoir, My Own Words is an edited collection of writings and speeches by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that is well worth a read.

The book is divided into different sections that cover various aspects of Justice Ginsburg’s life and work, including her early legal career, her time on the Supreme Court, her advocacy for gender equality, and her personal life.

My Own Words provides insight into Justice Ginsburg’s legal philosophy, her approach to her work, and her personal experiences as a woman in the legal profession. It includes speeches and writings on a range of issues, such as voting rights, reproductive rights, affirmative action, and the importance of a diverse judiciary.

The book offers readers a deeper understanding of Justice Ginsburg’s contributions to American law and society and serves as a testament to her legacy as a pioneering advocate for equality and justice.

Looking for a few more lists? Read A ROUNDUP OF GREAT BOOKS TO READ.

Also read TWELVE FAVORITE BOOKS IN 2022.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you read any of these fabulous memoirs? Do you have any other memoirs from women over 50 to recommend? I would love to add your suggestions to the list. Tell us about it in the comments below.

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m rcihman

Ms. Heilbrun committed suicide.
Much remains unsaid by women as they get older.

I loved Becoming by Michelle Obama. I didn’t finish In My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Would love to read Gloria Steinem and Maya Angelou’s memoirs! Thanks for these great recs!

I loved Becoming by Michele Obama, did not finish In My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I would love to read the memoirs by Gloria Steinem and Maya Angelou. Thanks for these great recs!

Wilma Rubens

Ok I’m not a celebrity but have an amazing memoir. A must read for thoughtful people claiming our unique wisdom from 74 years living on this beautiful planet. http://www.wilmagrubens.com

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The Author

Sandra is the middle-aged woman you hear about who sheds everything she owns and sets out into the world to rediscover and redefine herself. After more than twenty years spent in the fashion industry designing collections for brands such as La Senza, Victoria’s Secret, and JACOB Lingerie, she shifted her path and pursued her longtime passion for writing, traveling, and photography. Sandra was published in the NY Times best selling book Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It. A deeply personal essay hand-picked by Elizabeth Gilbert about loss, facing fears, and going after dreams. Visit her website: www.sandraroussy.com

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