Novelists, Vladimir Nabokov once said, are “more fully at home on the surface of the present than in the ooze of the past.” Great memoirists, on the other hand, are not fully at home in the present until they navigate their way through this ooze.
What is the role of the literary arts when the self is at its most porous? At moments of corporeal and emotional transition, how does writing entwine with acts of recovery and transformation?
For a silent era, the most repressive years of the Soviet Union produced an explosion of memoir. Of them all, Nadezhda Mandelstam’s, from the 1960s, is one of the most morally striking. Several decades later, Mandelstam’s former friend Emma Gerstein published her own set of memoirs, challenging Nadezhda’s work.
We don’t just grow up with Daley-Ward in this memoir—we grow up with the terrible as well. It is a haunting presence in her life, perhaps an imaginary friend. It is cruel, toxic, impossible to get rid off.
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.
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.
Beginning with her childhood in Wisconsin and threading through her years in Chicago, Iowa, Kentucky, and numerous cities abroad, Kristen Radtke’s 2017 graphic memoir Imagine Wanting Only This chronicles her enduring obsession with ruins and the significance people find in them. Instigated by the premature death of her uncle,
When I was growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I loved to picnic with family on the bank of Cove Creek and listen, while we smacked our lips from cherry cobbler, to the creek gulp itself. Hollows between rocks sloshed pell-mell down the current’s throat. Whirlpools gargled a
Roxane Gay is America’s favorite "bad feminist." She is often read as a black feminist, but her Haitian roots rarely get more than a passing mention. And yet, Haiti is the unseen backdrop to Gay’s memoir Hunger: a fierce, black, female, fat narrative.
A constant theme of the book is Mock’s profound isolation, reinforced by her “stealth” status, “wearing that cloak of normalcy” where she is seen as a cisgender woman.