Memoirs – Fucked Up Lives

Note: if you try to find this genre on Amazon or in the iTunes store, you should probably just search under “memoir” and leave my (colorful) descriptor out of it.


The beauty of these memoirs is that reading them will make you realize how mild your own drama is in comparison. Remember this. Someone else always has it worse than you. You think your drinking is problematic, just read. You think your parents were horrible people, just read. You think your marriage was the worst, just read. Someone else always has it worse than you.

That’s why I’m drawn to these books. “See, Muse,” I tell myself. “Your childhood wasn’t so terrible. Even if your druggie-alcoholic-turned-born-again-Christian-dad did his psychological damage on you, he never physically beat you or dropped you off to live indefinitely with his therapist.” Of course, had my dad seen a therapist before or during my formative years, maybe some of the shit he did wouldn’t have been so devastating for me and my brother.

Or I say to myself, “See, Muse, your life isn’t so bad. Two stays in the loony bin is not the end of the world. At least your stays didn’t happen in the 1950s when you probably would have received electric shock therapy and/or a lobotomy.” Small mercies.

Abandonment, abuse, addiction, crazy parents, crazy siblings, it’s all here. These my top picks for memoirs about some seriously fucked up lives. But, don’t worry, gentle reader. I think (almost) all of these people got their stuff together, so there’s still hope for me (and you).


A Piece of Cake – Cupcake Brown

Running with Scissors – Augusten Burroughs

Burn Down the Ground – Kambri Crews

The End of Eve – Ariel Gore

The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness – Brianna Karp

Orange is the New Black – Piper Kerman

Everything I Never Wanted to Be – Deena Kucera

Breaking Night – Liz Murray

With or Without You – Domenica Ruta

The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls


Care to share a memoir about fucked up lives? Comment here.

11 thoughts on “Memoirs – Fucked Up Lives

  1. Virginio

    I will begin reading the books you listed. I needed a new reading list. It is sad and maddening to know that we carry the predicament of our childhood with us in some form. I feel for you and send all my love.

    1. The Muse Post author

      I don’t know if it’s sad or maddening, but it’s reality for many of us. I listened to a podcast today by this former addict turned Lutheran pastrix Nadia Bolz-Weber. She referred to speaking from her scars but not her wounds. That’s how I see our past drama/trauma (if it’s something we’ve dealt with). A scar is a reminder of what happened, but it doesn’t hurt anymore. A wound is still open, still susceptible to pain.

  2. V

    Scar versus wound – That is a worthwhile distinction and suggests your wounds are not healed. Do you have a sense they healing? Keep talking.

    Love, V

  3. Frijole

    The Woman Upstairs…
    these are two books I recently enjoyed reading, despite the FU lives in the stories.
    we aren’t FU; we’re just fragile and “interesting”!

  4. Frijole

    I forgot to mention one of my favorite books ever: Bone People. I have read it three times, partly for the story, and partly to re-read the beautiful, poetic language. Talk about FU.

  5. Dana

    Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. May have mentioned that one before but it’s one of my favorites.

  6. Elizabeth Pittman

    Here’s a memoir about a truly awful situation — e e cummings’ THE ENORMOUS ROOM. I recently heard a review of it on NPR, and now I have to read it again. He was a prisoner of war (he was a conscientious objector and had been driving an ambulance). He was imprisoned in an enormous room with all these other people. The food was bad, sanitation fearsome, etc., yet how he chooses to deal with it is most inspiring. My strongest memory of reading it decades ago was his observation about a family of gypsies (Euro-untouchables) and how they dealt with the imprisonment.


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