These eight new memoirs highlight the importance of friendship, music, food, and art in our lives—elements that allow these enormously skillful writers to overcome (or at least endure) displacement, parental abuse, addiction, obsession, and the wreckage of war. How lucky we are that they have shared their stories with us, instilling faith in the transformative power, and the comfort, of literature.
Buyer, Center for Fiction Bookstore
Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth
By Benjamin Taylor
Published by Penguin Books
Real friendship, that rare precious thing, flourishes in this lovely chronicle of the relationship between Roth, one of the last literary lions of the 20th century (he died two years ago yesterday), and his good friend Benjamin Taylor. A writer and Proust scholar, Taylor met Roth in the late 90s and what conversations they had! This candid memoir provides insight into the larger-than-life man of letters, certainly not without his flaws, humanizes him for sure, and also sends you back to reread the legacy Roth left behind.
Love in the Blitz
By Eileen Alexander
Published by HarperCollins
A collection of long-lost love letters during the London Blitz that seems especially poignant for our times: a friendship between school chums (an English girl and a German boy) that blossomed into a great love. There is contemporary resonance in this long-distance romance of two young people isolated from one another in uncertain, dangerous times. The writing, from an English major who became a teacher, writer and translator of Simenon, elevates the historical significance of this collection to real literature.2 .
The Dragons, the Giant, the Women
By Wayétu Moore
Published by Graywolf Press
Moore’s wonderful debut novel She Would Be King instantly established her literary reputation—telling the story of Liberia’s formation through historical fiction mixed with magical realism. Now she reveals her own story, a journey from war-torn Liberia, a fractured family, her life in Texas being a black female, and what it feels like to return home. Her story is a beautiful addition to the stories we crave to help us understand living between two worlds.
By Phuc Tran
Published by Flatiron Books
A powerful memoir that proves the transformative power of music and literature in the face of a horrific childhood. Tran moved from Saigon in the 70s to America overcoming racism and displacement to become a teacher, a classics scholar and—a successful Maine tattoo artist! Tender and even comic, it is, in his own words, ‘a misfit’s memoir,’ exchanging estrangement and adversity for hard-won accomplishment.4 .
By Mikel Jollett
Published by Celadon Books
Mikel’s journey from a childhood in the notoriously malevolent California cult, Synanon, to his adulthood as a writer and musician, and the horror show of his upbringing is brought to vibrant life here. He doesn’t need to judge his family—the facts speak for themselves. Each time he moves forward you fear he will slip back: the drugs, rebellion, the unconscionable but damaged mother, the reckless brother all conspire to prevent him from making it as an adult. That he survived at all is a feat of strength, love and determination. Jollett’s book is a triumph.
By Honor Moore
Published by WW Norton
Honor Moore, one of nine children and descendent of a line of early feminists, inherited her mother’s passion and love for writing. In her new book she pays homage to her mother, who dedicated her life to social causes with her husband Bishop Paul Moore, and gives us a glimpse of an extraordinary 20th century woman and a beautiful mother-daughter story as well.6 .
By Harry Dodge
Published by Penguin Books
Dodge recently called his book “…a meditation on matter, and a book about bonding…” Connection and coincidence abound, serendipity and science, life and death. Sculptor, performance and video artist, filmmaker, actor, director, writer—this singular multi-gifted artist has made a name for himself in the art scenes of New York and California, and remains a fascinating figure that defies gender designations. And for anyone who read The Argonauts, in which he stars prominently (Dodge and Maggie Nelson are partners), it is a must read.
By Bill Buford
Published by Knopf
If you love the writings of Anthony Bourdain, and recall Buford’s fantastic book about Italian cooking, Heat, you will salivate over his new gastronomic memoir. Written with his trademark self-aware humor Buford regales us with stories of his quixotic journey, family in tow, to France, to (bravely) learn the secrets of French cuisine in the culinary capital of the country, Lyon. As we are all doing a lot more cooking these days, it is a timely delight.8 .