Memoir

  • Ongoingness

    Sarah Manguso

    Sometimes I think there is an order you need to read books by certain authors; maybe the chronological sequence gives you a context of their development that helps you progress with them, but other times a truly excellent later work will make you more interested to read less mature works than if you had started with those. And after reading ...more

  • H Is for Hawk

    Helen Macdonald

    This is one of those books that defies quick categorization. You could call it a grief memoir or non-fiction nature writing, but it’s some of both and more than those too. At the root level, H Is for Hawk does center around the sudden death of Helen Macdonald’s father, and she expresses the devastation that...more

  • Borderlands / La Frontera

    Gloria Anzaldúa

    Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition. The prohibited and

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  • Things I Don’t Want to Know

    Deborah Levy

    A response to George Orwell’s essay “Why I Write,” much of this book is less obviously about writing than I was expecting. But looking through Orwell’s four motives for writing just now [Sheer egoism; Aesthetic enthusiasm; Historical impulse; Political purpose],...more

  • Life in Code

    Ellen Ullman

    After reading Ellen Ullman’s novel By Blood, I’ve been meaning to get to her memoir Close to the Machine, but before I could get around to that, she published another book centered around her experiences as a programmer, from before and during the early years of the internet. These...more

  • The Chronology of Water

    Lidia Yuknavitch

    I thought I would love this, based on recommendations. But I did have one friend say she wasn’t as entranced as she expected, and I found my reaction much the same. A memoir told in vignettes that roughly progresses chronologically, Lidia Yuknavitch grew up in an abusive, neglectful household, and her one escape was swimming. At the end...more

  • Devotion

    Patti Smith

    Compared to Just Kids or M Train, this little book feels so slight and incomplete. But as a small continuation of the themes of creation and artistic drive, it’s a pleasure. Devotion is an expansion of a talk she gave at the 2016 Windham-...more

  • I’ll Never Write My Memoirs

    Grace Jones

    As celebrity memoirs go, this one is fully par for the course. Rock writer Paul Morley has shaped Grace Jones’s life stories into somewhat of a narrative, but it still has a tendency to ramble back and forth over time, likely from hours and hours of conversation that did just that. Her stories are fascinating, no doubt, even more so if...more

  • Brown Girl Dreaming

    Jacqueline Woodson

    Memoir in verse, telling the stories of Jacqueline Woodson’s childhood. The poems impart an impressionistic narrative, focused more on the small moments amidst the larger transitions — like the end of her parents’ relationship, moving with her mother and siblings to her grandparents’ home in Greenville, SC, then...more

  • Are You My Mother?

    Alison Bechdel

    Reviews were so mixed on this graphic novel that I had decided not to read it, until recently when I started reading a borrowed copy and couldn’t put it down. A follow-up to Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, which focused on her relationship with her father, this one turns to her relationship with her...more

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