Author Archive

The Small Tragedies of Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children

9/11 is the catalyst to launch the characters of Claire Messud’s 2006 novel from their delayed adolescence into the sobriety and cynicism of adulthood among New York’s intellectual elite.

The Narrative Messiness of Chronic Illness

Memoirs from Paul Kalanithi, Lucy Grealy, Jean-Dominique Bauby, and Porochista Khakpour teach us about turning the story of an ailing body into a work of art.

Self-Education in Tara Westover’s Educated

The first time Westover heard about the Holocaust, she was seventeen years old and in her first semester of college. Sitting in a lecture, she sees the unfamiliar word under an image in her textbook. “I don’t know this word,” she tells her professor. “What does it mean?”

Meaghan O’Connell’s Lessons in Parenthood

I’ve always thought of stories of new parenthood as a cross between how-to manuals and cautionary tales. It wasn’t until I read Meaghan O’Connell’s memoir that I realized mothers don’t write their stories for the benefit of those without children—whether their stories scare me or encourage me is irrelevant.

Jesmyn Ward’s and William Faulkner’s Apocryphal Counties

Like Faulkner, Jesmyn Ward sets all her novels in a town loosely based on her own hometown in Mississippi, mapping a terrain that holds the various human experiences within its topographical confines.

Reading New York

In the New Yorks of Anne Roiphe’s and Vivian Gornick’s memoirs, isolation in an urban setting is a tired trope that neither Roiphe nor Gornick finds to fit her experiences.

Leïla Slimani’s The Perfect Nanny and the Perils of Female Desire

“The baby is dead. It only took a few seconds.” So begins Leïla Slimani’s French bestseller, translated into English by Sam Taylor. The thriller won France’s Prix Goncourt—Moroccan-born Slimani is only the twelfth woman to win the award—and uses an American news story as its source.

Maggie O’Farrell Pulls the Curtain Back on Death

Maggie O’Farrell’s recent memoir takes its title from this allusion. I am, I am, I am tells the story of the author’s life through seventeen near death experiences.

On Being Keepers: Heidi Julavits and Sarah Manguso’s Diaries

Diaries offer writers, particularly women who historically have not had a public voice, space to reflect on and process their lives as they happen, as well as space to record the daily routines that compose a life.

The Evolution of True Crime

Recent true crime memoirs written by women who have experienced unimaginable violence increasingly describe the sorts of events we cannot read from a comfortable remove.