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9 Great Personal Essays for Fall

Posted on September 08, 2020

Iranian author Salar Abdoh, age 18, in Sequoia National Park.

Looking for literature to get students talking and reflecting about their lives today? Below, we've listed 9 great personal essays to inspire that reflection, written by authors from around the globe.

Recommended for High School and College Students
  1. My Story of Chess, from Georgia, a captivating account of a competition with stakes higher than the author had imagined.
  2. Hunger, from Iranian author Salar Abdoh, a memoir of being young and alone in the U.S. (And watch out for his forthcoming essay "The Cleric and I"!)
  3. I Am Not Your Cholo, a gently humorous, yet biting, story of U.S. immigration and cultural stereotypes.
  4. Thunder grandmas, from Kazakh author Zira Naurzbayeva, a memoir of the grandmothers of her youth.
Recommended for College and University Students
Pride, Russia, 2014, taken by Maria Komarova
Women marchers at a Pride parade, St. Petersburg, Russia, 2014. Photo by Maria Komarova.
  1. How to be a Woman in Tehran, journalist Habibe Jafarian's essay about her decision to "fight it out" in Iran.
  2. Memories of Chernobyl, from an Egyptian writer and physician who was studying in Ukraine at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
  3. A Year Among the Boat People, My People, a personal story of working with refugees from Iran in a time of anti-immigrant sentiment.
  4. On the Moscow Metro and Being Gay, a Russian essay about challenging state-sponsored homophobia.
  5. Prison Memoirs, an account of protest and imprisonment from one of the "student leaders" of China's Tiananmen Square Uprising.