Author Veronica Chambers’ Favorite Memoirs



Since publishing her breakthrough memoir, Mama’s Girl, which chronicled the turbulent upbringing of a gifted young Afro-Latina woman, Veronica Chambers has been busy.

The writer, 49, has written memoirs, novels for adults and young readers, and cookbooks. She has also edited several essay anthologies, and served as co-writer for the memoirs of prominent figures such as chef Eric Ripert, newscaster Robin Roberts, and rapper and producer Timbaland. Her collaboration with Marcus Samuelsson on his memoir, Yes, Chef, was a New York Times bestseller.

In 2017, Chambers’ anthology, The Meaning of Michelle, brought together 16 writers for an exploration of the profound impact of Michelle Obama.

This year will see the release of Queen Bey, an anthology that explores Beyoncé’s cultural significance.

Here, she shares four of the memoirs that have most inspired her:

Veronica Chambers’ new book explores Beyoncé’s cultural influence on the world.
Veronica Chambers’ new book explores Beyoncé’s cultural influence on the world

1. Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

“Angelou wrote multiple memoirs, and the idea for this one is, ‘This is what I’ve learned so far.’ It’s a simple concept, but a powerful one. She presents the idea that you want your life to be perfect, and to be able to take a chalkboard eraser and erase all the bad parts. But she says you have to take it all—you have to carry the whole thing, good, bad, and regrettable. This is a warm, elder voice and I love it.”

2. Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

“I taught journalism in the Master of Science program at Stanford last year, and we read this book. It’s about her process as she is growing in the sciences. At Stanford, I taught on the grounds of their farm, and the book gets into plant life and tree life, and what you learn when your hands are in the dirt. I’m such a city girl, so I knew nothing about that world.”

3. Nigel Slater, Toast

“I love to see memoirs that show how people became who they are. Slater’s mother dies, and the memoir is this heartbreaking story of how he finds life and meaning through food. In that way, it has a lot of parallels with Eric Ripert’s book. It’s interesting: As a parent myself, I’m aware that when I was growing up, when my parents made terrible choices, they made them purposefully. But in books like this, you see the tender messiness of the people that raised you and all the things they did.”

4. Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

“What Murakami is talking about is in some ways similarto writing. I’m not a good runner, but I write like a true runner runs. I do it every day, whether I feel like it or not; some days I feel good, some days I don’t, but I’m always doing it. Murakami writes, ‘Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.’ Writing is ultimately very solitary, and there’s something about that, too, with running. Another great line from the memoir is, ‘All I do is keep on running in my own cozy, homemade void.’ I feel that way in my writing career. I keep writing in my own cozy void.”

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