Each of these autobiographies gives fascinating, invaluable insight into the lives of the people who wrote them, and of the time in which they lived. They recount the stories of three people who bravely, unrelentingly withstood their personal battles and surpassed themselves in the fight.
Yes I Can by Sammy Davis, Jr.
His beginning was obscure: the son of a poor traveling entertainer, in an act called the Will Mastin Trio. At an early age he was on the road, performing and catching the attention of the crowd with his energy and charisma. This memoir documents his life and his struggles against race inequality, against bigotry and narrow-mindedness that he received not only from the white population but also from his own kind. He was not merely a great entertainer, but someone who changed the way the world reacted to the color of his skin, someone who strove diligently to overcome the pressure society placed upon him and rise from a life of poverty and obscurity to become one of the best-known and celebrated entertainers of his time.
West With the Night by Beryl Markham
She was born in England but grew up in the wilds of Africa, in Kenya. She was a bush pilot, a pioneer in aviation, a breeder of horses, an adventurer. Her story is gripping, vividly calling to mind the lazy heat, the freedom, the danger and excitement of the open expanse of a yet-to-be-tamed Africa in which she lived and worked.
Hemingway said of her writing: “she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer.”
Her prose style and the recounting of her tale is sharp and clean, entrancing and impossible to put down.
An American in the Gulag by Alexander Dolgun
Alexander Dolgun was an embassy worker in Moscow, when he was kidnapped and falsely accused of spying against the Russian government. He spent eight long years in captivity, suffering horrors of every kind, from isolation and starvation to physical and mental abuse and brutal physical labor. He learned to sleep sitting up, learned surgery from a fellow prisoner, learned to keep himself sane by pacing his small cell and imagining he was escaping Russian, walking all the way across Europe to home.
This book gives shocking insight into the Soviet system of the time, as well as demonstrating the strength and endurance of a human being who has lost everything yet continues to refuse to lose himself.