Historical memoirs carry lessons that are still significant to this very day.

Memoirs are not only records of a certain person’s experience, history, and lessons. At times, memoirs also reflect the times and society the person was born into. They offer us a glimpse of their collective experience, adversities, as well as the lessons they acquired which we can use today. Memoirs teach us how to deal with the past as well as how to live in the moment. Historical memoirs remind us that the past was real. Here are five memorable memoirs that also deal with past crises and tragedies. May we appreciate the lessons they offer.

Surviving Hurricane Maria, Daily Memoirs by Abel Gómez-Colón 2018

Published in 2018, Surviving Hurricane Maria, Daily Memoirs is Abel Gómez-Colón’s account of the actual events that happened during the Hurricane Maria, a category 5 hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico. In this book, Abel Gómez-Colón chronicles all the things he could remember in the hopes of providing a comprehensive report of what really transpired before and after the Hurricane hit the US territory. The memoir provides vivid accounts of the all the rescue efforts conducted by various civil and government organizations including the Red Cross, FEMA, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the US Armed Forces to the islands most affected by the calamity including Vieques, Culebra, and the US Virgin Islands. It is a riveting account of a tragedy that forever changes the lives of thousands. Surviving Hurricane Maria is a compelling read.

Three Fearful Days: San Francisco Memoirs of the 1906 Earthquake & Fire by Malcolm E. Barker 2005

1906 only lasted over a minute and yet it created devastating fires that raged on for three days. The death toll reached over three thousand, leaving 500 city blocks in a state of destruction. In 2005, Malcolm E. Baker published a memoir that would finally revisit the tragedy that not only ripped open the streets of San Francisco, but also bore emotional traumas in the hearts of many Americans. The book Three Fearful Days is a stunning account of those who survived the tragedy. Consists of over 40 stories mostly based on letters, diaries, and personal accounts written at that time, the book is a compilation of all the grief, anger, confusion, despair, as well as the bravery, faith, and resilience of those who came face to face with the 1906 Earthquake.

The Face of Hunger by Byron Conner

The Face of Hunger: Reflections on a Famine in Ethiopia is a memoir by Dr. Byron Conner. M.D. It is a firsthand account of the great famine that hit Ethiopia from 1983 to 1985 and the aftermath of that crisis. Dr. Conner was a physician in the US Public Health Service when he saw a fund-raising advertisement playing on TV about the famine. Touched by the direness of the situation, Dr. Byron Conner along with his wife and children flew to the African continent to volunteer as missionaries. There, he and his family saw a great need for volunteers and medical personnel. The Face of Hunger details not only the food crisis but also the moral, political, and health crisis that crippled the nation. Byron Conner writes the book both from the perspective of a medical person and a missionary. The Face of Hunger is a book that is both haunting and healing at the same time. It is a must-read book for those who want to see and feel what the real face of hunger and despair. 

The Diary of Young Girl by Anne Frank

Since its publication in 1947, The Diary of Anne Frank (also known as The Diary of a Young Girl) has sold over 30 million copies with over 70 translations. The book is a chronicle Anne Frank’s life in hiding from 1942 up to their discovery in 1944. Anne Frank along with her family and few others hid inside a secret annex in Frank Otto’s office following the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The family’s hiding place was discovered in 1944. Of all the individuals in the secret annex, only Anne’s father Frank Otto survived the Holocaust. Each entry in Anne Frank’s diary is addressed to “Kitty” (presumably the Diary’s name). In her book, Anne gave genuine accounts of their daily activities while in hiding as well as personal accounts, her feelings, and observations about life, the occupation, and the war. Anne Frank was one of the casualties of a typhus epidemic that hit the concentration camp in 1945. She was only fifteen years old.

Twelve Years A Slave by Solomon Northup

By now, everyone has already seen the motion picture starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup. Twelve Years A Slave is a memoir by Solomon Northup published in 1853. It chronicles the kidnapping of Northup, a black man who was born free. From New York, Solomon was tricked into visiting Washinton, D.C. where he was grabbed and sold into slavery in Deep South. For twelve years, he was forced to work in a cotton plantation in Louisiana. He was threatened not to speak of his free life in New York. Solomon was forced to hide his true identity until he confided his background to Samuel Bass, a white carpenter who eventually sent letters to Northup’s family about his condition. This correspondence between Bass and Northup’s family led to his rescue in 1953. Twelve Years A Slave is an important story as it reflects the lives of African-Americans sold into slavery as well as the issue of racism that is currently haunting the American society.