Memorable Memoirs: Monica Wood’s “When We Were the Kennedys”

  A while back I devoted almost two years to reading nothing but memoirs. For this period I had become disenchanted with fiction, and felt like the only truly compelling story was a lived one. These were not “celebrity” memoirs, they were captured moments in time by ordinary people who had, typically, faced some kind of adversity, and, in most cases, had come out the other side enlightened, empowered and able to articulate that challenging journey. I discovered some of my now favorite … [Read more...]

Memorable Memoirs: Koren Zailckas’s “Fury”

In the case of Fury, Koren Zailckas’ exceptional follow up to her best selling book Smashed: Story of a Drunken Childhood, the term “memoir” may be a bit of a misnomer. Although it does indeed chronicle many of her personal experiences, it is also a scholarly book that quotes and references numerous sources – very effectively. The topic is anger. We are introduced to the author as she is flying back to the states after a failed relationship with a British musician – a devastating ending that … [Read more...]

Memorable Memoirs: Rick Bragg’s “The Prince of Frogtown” and “All Over but the Shoutin'”

I read Rick Bragg’s wonderful All Over but the Shoutin’ years ago, before I even knew I preferred - well even liked - reading memoirs. The story of growing up in poverty in Alabama with a devoted, loving, hard-working mom, and a mostly absent alcoholic father, it managed to be, by turns, excruciatingly sad, laugh-out-loud funny, hopeless and life-affirming at the same time. If you love beautiful prose for prose’s sake, you will most likely enjoy this Pulitzer Prize winning author’s writing, with … [Read more...]

Memorable Memoirs: Barbara Robinette Moss’s “Change Me into Zeus’s Daughter”

Change Me into Zeus's Daughter is an examination of the author’s youth; growing up verbally and physically abused by her alcoholic father, willing to risk eating poisoned corn to satiate her endless hunger, and sharing a ramshackle home with her mom and eight siblings in rural Alabama. Moss, with pitch perfect prose, describes a father who is gone more than around, which is mostly preferable given his propensity for inflicting pain: I had just turned seven years and didn’t think Dad’s … [Read more...]

Ned’s Reading: Bill Clegg’s “Ninety Days”

This book is why I love reading memoirs – well, great memoirs. If done well, I feel like I’ve just sat down with the author and had a conversation about his or her life. And not a whole life, but a portion of particular significance. Bill Clegg had a successful literary agency in New York City, which he owned with a friend. In too short a time, thanks to a near lethal addiction to drugs and alcohol (chronicled in his first memoir, Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man), Clegg wrecks the … [Read more...]