Raised on the wrong side of Dallas’s Trinity River, Casey Gerald achieved success with the odds stacked against him. His father abused drugs, his mother was often gone and then gone forever, yet Gerald still went on to play varsity football at Yale, earn an MBA from Harvard, and see for himself what the American dream truly is. However, what makes There Will Be No Miracles Here (Riverhead, $27) distinct is that Gerald rejects his own rags-to-riches story. He does not linger in his own achievements, and his humble and forthright storytelling breathes life into the flawed and saintly people of his past. Written with clarity, wit, and a tangible purpose, yes, this book does tell the story of the American dream. But what makes it both unique and worthwhile is that it tells that classic tale with an honesty that will make you rethink what it means to get to the top in America.
Tara Westover grew up in Bucks Peak, the daughter of a Mormon Survivalist father who frequently ranted about the imposition of “west coast socialism on the good people of Idaho.” She never went to school or to the doctor and didn’t have a birth certificate until she was eleven. Instead she read the Bible and the Book of Mormon, worked in her father’s scrap metal yard, and prepared for the End of the World or Y2K—whichever one came first. Westover thought she knew how her life would play out. She would marry at eighteen, learn about herbs and midwifery from her mother, and live in a house built by her husband on her father’s land. In the meantime, her brother would abuse her and call her a whore and even dance class would be considered one of Satan’s deceptions because it “claimed to teach dance but actually taught promiscuity. Against all odds, Westover turned her back on this world. With no knowledge of the Holocaust, thinking that Europe was a country, and only having vaguely heard the word “Shakespeare,” she attended Brigham Young University. Her thirst to learn “how the gatekeepers of history had come to terms with their own ignorance and partiality” led her to study at Cambridge University and earn a PhD from Harvard—drawn to such “unwomanly” subjects as law, politics and Jewish History. Educated is a raw and fiercely brave memoir that goes further than Hillbilly Elegy in giving voice to hidden aspects of the American experience.
Thomas Page McBee was the first trans man to fight in a charity boxing match at the Madison Square Garden in 2016. In his second memoir, Amateur (Scribner, $24), he uses the story of his training to examine masculinity, gender, and navigating the world of boxing as a trans person. McBee is a raw writer: his prose is precise and tender, exposing all his vulnerabilities and worries. He looks at violence and gender stereotypes and what they do to men, and yet his empathy is coupled with the need to be better and be accountable for his thoughts and actions. McBee is one of the most articulate and self-aware authors working today, and Amateur is a beautiful and eye-opening read.