E. J. Koh is a poet and translator and in her debut memoir we see proof of a master of language at work. At 15 years old, E. J.'s parents "temporarily" move back to Korea, leaving her and her brother by themselves in California. This coming-of-age memoir skillfully tells the story of a family's complicated history and love for each other.
It's difficult to review a memoir like this when the raw act of sharing certain childhood experiences is impactful on its own. However, I will say that this is a book full of lyrical, sensory-based memories; one that will make your heart ache for kids like Meredith and Matthew (and even the kid their mom used to be), but also soar when they succeed; a story that will fill you with gratitude for the family you choose, and for the bees that sustain and educate us along the way.
For every young creative who is just trying to find their place in the world. Reading this feels like you’re reading the diary of your best friend.
Carmen Maria Machado's (Her Body and Other Parties) memoir is one of those books whose impact will shake everything around it. No one writes books about intimate partner violence that occurs between queer women - but she has. It's a needed book that unfolds like a dark spell. Explosively imaginative, the essays inside each use a different literary trope (Mystical Pregnancy; Star-Crossed Lovers; Meet the Parents) to explore the course of an abusive relationship, seesawing between lively irony and inevitability. Machado's relentless sieving of memory and narrative for truth manages to be deeply beautiful, playful, and sharp all at once. I can't recommend it highly enough.
In picking the carcass of her own experience, Carmen Maria Machado has written a new kind of memoir. Short vignettes, told through kaleidoscopic lenses, are pieced together by the reader—not that it feels anything like work. It feels more like therapy.
Saeed Jones's memoir is my favorite fall book so far. Expanded from an essay (entitled How Men Fight For Their Lives) he originally published on The Rumpus in 2012, How We Fight For Our Lives exposes intersections of racism and homophobia in moments of intensity as well as moments of quiet. Jones lets the reader know him--his vulnerability is at the forefront as he details his coming of age, his relationship with his mother, and his understanding of the world and how to survive in it. I read it in one sitting.
For anyone who follows current events, Samantha Power tells a riveting, personal and poignant story. She details her Irish upbringing, emigration at age 9 to the U.S., and her journey as a student, activist, journalist, and academic prior to becoming Special Assistant to the President and then US Ambassador to the UN under the Obama administration. With humor, self-deprecation, and sobering descriptions of how policies, decisions, and relationships are forged at the highest levels of government and diplomacy, she recounts difficult personal, public health, and political issues she and often times many others tried to address. At the foundation is her idealism and the growing realization that while we may not be able to fix everything, we must do our best.
Part memoir, part backyard natural history Late Migrations packs a wallop in a tiny package. Renkl treats the lives and deaths she sees in her backyard with the same deference and respect as that of her family. A beautiful study on grief and loss and the importance of living a full life.
This book is a local wanderlust machine! Caroline (a passionate Alaskan biologist) expertly catalogs her post-grad coming of age as she undertakes a human-powered trip to the Arctic Circle with her husband Pat (a self-taught builder from Bellingham). In the midst of decisions about family, work, and one's place in the natural world, there are raging rapids and cold winds, whales and chickadees, snow and sunlight. Hopefully it will teach you something new about the PNW, and comfort you with the knowledge that it's okay to change course.
I finished Pam Houston's Deep Creek in late November, the holiday season was in full swing, and my reading time was at a premium. Thank you Pam for this book. I read it swiftly and by the end I desired to flee to the mountains with Irish wolfhounds of mine own.