Category: Memoir

A review of A Brilliant Life by Rachelle Unreich

Unreich tells her mother’s story with an immediacy that feels close. Though Mira sees some of the worst of what human beings are capable of, she talks about her luck, and the goodness of people. Even in the midst of her worst hunger and bleakest moments, Mira never stops being a beacon of hope for those around her.

A review of The Best Minds by Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan Rosen became best friends with Michael Lauder at age ten. His outstanding new book, The Best Minds, offers an assiduously researched and compelling portrait of the man. It also raises questions about the responsibilities of friendship, and the human capacity for denial. Twenty-five years have elapsed since Lauder’s criminal unravelling, a span that has given Rosen space and time not only to research the people and ideas of this story, but to sift through his own complex feelings about Lauder and the path his life took. 

A review of Places We Left Behind by Jennifer Lang

The basic plot of Places We Left Behind can be read and understood quickly, which Lang acknowledges with her handy timeline at the beginning. However, more thoughtful readings and re-readings allow for an appreciation of the full depth and grace of her journey and what it conveys about the meaning of Jewish practice and human relationships in general.

To Want and To Want: Desire in Shilo Niziolek’s Memoir Fever

My reading experience of Fever was equivalent to gulping down water after a long run. I read it with haste and curiosity. I became fascinated by desire and the way Niziolek intellectualizes her vulnerability, placing her own story among the work of contemporary writers, like Sarah Manguso, Jay Ponteri, and Mary Oliver, among others.

A review of Lady Director by Joyce Chopra

Only, how to break into the male-dominated world of film? Not that that was her explicit goal when she graduated, but one thing she did not want to do?  “There weren’t many jobs available for a young woman of twenty-one with a degree in comparative literature,” she writes, but she didn’t want to become a secretary. If she did that, “I would irrevocably land on the slippery slope to nowhere.”

A review of American Seoul by Helena Rho

A language constitutes a world; that idea is significant in Rho’s memoir.  She goes into a Korean shop for lunch with her daughter, and a woman working there encourages her to speak Korean, as does a woman, a minister’s wife, with whom Rho talks on the phone about lessons in Korean for her daughter and son. Growing up, she didn’t speak Korean with her parents. 

A review of Our Laundry, Our Town by Alvin Eng

For Alvin Eng, a Chinese American punk rocker who is now an educator and a playwright, this has meant ‘a spiritual state of homelessness,” moving between the Foo J. Chin Chinese Hand Laundry and an American frame of reference. This reflective and personal narrative is his first memoir, and a change from his dramatic writing.

A review of How to Be Between by Bastian Fox Phelan

Bastian Fox Phelan’s memoir How to Be Between leans right into these societal norms, exposing them for the controlling mechanisms that they are, designed to make use feel chronically inadequate so we’re easier to sell to or control. These norms force an unnatural binary between male and female, attractive and unattractive, straight and queer. How to Be Between rejects these binaries and instead offers up the possibility of living a life without such constraints.

Empathy and Memoir: A Review of Cheryl Klein’s Crybaby

As a thirty-nine year old woman who is navigating fertility clinics and the adoption process, I inhaled this book, which is about a woman, Klein, trying to have a baby. In my online yoga class, we are asked to stretch up to the point where it hurts. This is how far Klein takes her writing: to the point it hurts, presumably for her and definitely for the reader.