A culinary coming-of-age memoir, Notes From a Young Black Chef is the story of how one American-Nigerian chef launched his own catering company, how he made it in a world where his cooking wasn’t considered “Southern enough” and how how he had opened and closed one of the most talked about restaurants, the Shaw Bijou, in America by the time he was twenty-seven.
Following the book’s publication on April 9th, 2019, Onwuachi was named Rising Star Chef of the Year at the 2019 James Beard Awards. Soon after Knopf acquired the publishing rights to the memoir, the film rights were snapped up.
Randy McKinnon will adapt the script from the memoir. Previously, he’s helped set up feature films has set up feature projects with Annapurna, Disney and Paramount. The script is being penned by Onwuachi and Joshua David Stein. This will be their first screenplay. Previously, Stein was a food critic and has written the cookbook Food & Beer and the children’s book Can I Eat That?
Now Variety is reporting that LaKeith Stanfield, whose been in such hits as Get Out and Atlanta, will star in the film. He will also serve as an executive producer on the film. Also executive producing is Colin Stark, a man whose had a long friendship with LaKeith, so much so during there interview together LaKeith asked the interviewer, “…can you officiate the wedding?”
No director is yet attached, but who would you pick?
Memoirs are all about the personal. They allow writers an outlet to put their perspective — feelings and opinions and all — on the page. And readers are given the chance to personally connect with someone they relate to — or don’t relate to. Here are some of the best memoirs of recent years.
1. Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon, 2018
Laymon’s Heavy is about many things. If it had to be placed in a nutshell, it would be: a black man confronts his childhood and coming of age by directly writing to his mother. Written in the second person, Laymon’s relationship with his mother — who raised him on her own — is at the core. But it is also about Laymon’s struggle with race, weight, early sexual abuse and gambling. It covers an expanse of weighty topics that are hard to read, but Laymon’s writing is not. It is poignant, striking and confident — it is impossible to look away from.
2. Sex Object by Jessica Valenti, 2016
Valenti has written five books on feminist theory, the first of which was published in 2008. But, in Sex Object, she turns the spotlight onto herself and writes about her own personal experiences as woman in society. The chapters chronicle street harassment, treatment from sexual partners and even Valenti’s very personal abortion story. Many of her experiences are easily recognizable by other women, a fact that Valenti is keenly aware of in her writing. She writes sharply and critically, but thoughtfully and carefully. She pushes away the absurdity of this treatment, but pulls the reader in.
3. Boy Erased: A Memoir by Garrand Conley, 2016
When Conley’s parents found out he was gay, they sent him to conversion therapy, a program called Love in Action. Grown up in Arkansas in a fundamentalist family meant Conley was already struggling to reconcile his faith with his sexuality. He wrote Boy Erased about his experiences at Love in Action and confronting his family about his faith and identity. Conley’s strong grasp on the trauma he experienced translates to a captivating account written in beautiful prose. It also gives an insider’s look into all angles of conversion therapy: the individuals sent there, the families who force it and the overarching damage it ultimately results in. Boy Erased was adapted into a film in 2018, with Joel Edgerton directing and Lucas Hedges playing Conley.
4. The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae, 2016
For a much more lighthearted memoir, look no further than Rae’s 2016 collection of personal essays. The Insecure creator and star writes a charming and compelling tell-all of her awkward coming of age. Rae narrates her experience as an introvert and a black girl and how the two made for a not so great combination. Rae’s voice is witty and wry, while her experiences are relatable and laugh out loud funny. All in all, Rae’s self-awareness and combined charisma make for an un-put-down-able reading experience.
5. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
Whether you know Brownstein from Portlandia or as the front woman of rock band Sleater Kinney, she wrote an entire memoir if you want to know her better. Her memoir, named after one of her lyrics, tracks her life centered around music. It chronicles her childhood and tumultuous family life to her eventual life as a woman in the rock music industry. Brownstein writes sharply and with purpose. Brownstein has a clear idea of her own identity and writes poignantly to show readers how she sees herself. Whether you had a perception of Brownstein prior to reading or not, you will have no choice by to see Brownstein — and her world — the way she herself does.
Birthdays never stop being special; even when we grow tired of them, the people in our lives do not. Someone almost always shows up with a gift—socks, shirts, Doritos (thanks mom). It’s the thought that counts right? Pleasant reminders that we are not in the world alone. But, let’s be honest, sometimes the best gifts are the ones we personally pick out ahead of time. This was most definitely the case for young Anne Frank.
On June 11th, 1942, a day before her thirteenth birthday, Frank chose a gift. While browsing through a bookstore with her father, Anne Frank laid claim to a blank, red and checkered autograph book—Anne called this book “maybe one of my nicest presents [ever].” And it was. This book, which Anne famously used as a diary, would become (arguably) the most important book—no, the most important object—of the entire twentieth century.
The day after that fateful browse, many of Anne’s friends attended a birthday party at her family’s modest apartment. It was a gleeful day courtesy of a seemingly endless supply of cookies (not so much) and black and white movies. A day that accomplished the gargantuan feat of distracting Amsterdam youth from the grim reality of World War II. Unfortunately, Anne would never experience a birthday like that again. Three weeks later her family was forced into hiding…and three years after that, in a Nazi concentration camp, Anne died.
Anne’s father Otto, was the only family member to survive the war and went on to publish Anne’s diary. The Diary of a Young Girl is among the best-known books in the world. One of the most monstrous and discriminatory periods of human history documented through the eyes of a young girl—Anne Frank. Today, Anne is not only remembered by the billions of people who cherish the MANY translations of her diary, but also by the surviving attendants of her thirteenth birthday party. In her diary’s introduction, Anne expressed a desire to acquire a “truest friend” with whom she could confide her innermost thoughts and feelings; she names Jacque Van Maarsen as a potential candidate.
Jacqueline van Maarsen is now ninety-years-old. On Wednesday, Van Maarsen, along with Albert Gomes de Mesquita (who went to school with Frank), threw Anne a ninetieth birthday party. In the same tiny apartment (now restored), with a familiar looking autograph book and the same seemingly endless supply of cookies.
Also in attendance were students from the International School of Amsterdam. Elbow to elbow, Van Maarsen and Gomes de Mesquita did their best to answer as many questions as they could. The pair were asked about everything from survival to general advise. How does one proceed in an unforgiving world?
“I think you have to learn things from what happens. I’ve been helped by so many different people and they were Roman Catholic, Protestant, atheist, communist, rich, poor,” said Gomes de Mesquita. I’ve slept in twelve different places during hiding and my lesson is: Good people can be found everywhere.”
One student was particularly moved when Van Maarsen talked about how other people who endured the same hardships as Anne aren’t given the same amount of attention or appreciation.
“It was really incredible to meet them, not only as Anne’s friends but as survivors of the war,” said thirteen-year-old Sietse Munting. “I really tried to think about that and tried to think; ‘it’s not only Anne,’ he said. “Sure, we remember Anne because she’s very important — and we should remember her — but there were also many, many others who also faced this time.”
Although Anne Frank’s life may not have been long, what she was able to accomplish in her fifteen years of life, changed the world. Memoirs like hers make it impossible for us to ignore bigotry and violence. In a bittersweet way, the “truest friend” Anne desired came in the form of a gift she had chosen for herself. A gift that she shared her inner most thoughts and feelings with, and in doing so, confided in all of us.
Forever reminding us that we are not alone as long as we have a book.
On June 4th, 2010, 7-year-old Kyron Horman went missing from Skyline School in Oregon. The investigation into his disappearance has been one of the most scrutinized in the history of the state. Even though he still hasn’t been found, Kyron’s mother, Desiree Young, refuses to give up. To honor her son, Young announced that she will release a book about the investigation.
Titled Love You Forever – The Search for Kyron Horman, the book will be written by true crime author Rebecca Morris. It will feature journal entries from Young about the investigation as well as news clippings and notes about the progress (or lack thereof) of the search. Once published, the proceeds will go toward missing children finds.
The search for Kyron Horman has been devastating for Young and her extended family, with inner-strife causing division amongst the group. So much so that Young became suspicious of Kyron’s stepmother, Terri. Terri has denied any involvement in the disappearance. As traumatizing as it is to lose our child, Young said that sharing her story felt necessary:
“I want people to understand there are real people behind the story. It’s not a TV show, it’s our lives. I have been through hell and made it through the other end.”
The book is set to be released later this year. To this day, Young will continue to search for her son.