The book is a series of personal essays and collages bound in an exquisite coffee-table book; it bursts with colour and nuance yet simplicity and dedication to the characters and stories that lie within. Interwoven with touchingly personal stories of childhood and young adulthood and philosophies on life, it is a challenge to put The Pink Book down.
Listen Mama is less a traditional memoir and more a compilation of the author’s journal entries, many of which were written at the tender but precocious age of 14. These entries stretch over more than 19 years, covering in real time the heartaches, health problems, and general misfortunes that were thrown at this unfortunate person. What Williams brings to the memoir is a clarity that could cut through bone and a sober reconciliation with the past that can only come with age and knowing.
Between the images, the recollections, the references, the correspondences and the longing, a new kind of story emerges – one that allows the the gaps in the narrative to remain unknown. Aitken doesn’t find the “key to a past the will grant…a thousand and one narratives” (“Stolen Valour”). Instead he finds questions that become Koans, a pathway to a greater truth.
While this memoir chronicles what the author refers to as her “brokenness” as a result of what she endured, it really is a story of healing. Writing this book was a very big part of that process for Ouellette. “Maybe healing, when it happens, is the result of a quantum entanglement, the swirling of a thousand winds. Maybe it comes when you give your daughter your own heart like another stuffed toy she will drag with her everywhere…”
From the day of early childhood to the teenage years, Clarke consistently takes moments of her life, interrogates them, and gives them a certain form of literary justice. I wouldn’t say a poetic justice, because Clarke isn’t trying to write poetically. She is giving a record of what it means to be born as a foreigner in your own country, and the existential challenges which come throughout.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spend time Googling these people, or that I wasn’t fascinated by the whole notion of what constitutes beauty – and the way in which it’s judged. Kofman doesn’t pretend to have an answer—Imperfect is not a didactic book, and nor does it present a thesis that beauty is more than ‘skin deep’ and that judgement in any form is bad–we cannot help gazing at the beautiful or indeed the shocking. What the book does show however, is that these are complex and important questions to raise and that familiarity and reflectiveness are a means to better understanding who we are.
Nina Wingard Freese was a retired special education teacher of autistic students who died as a result of ALS – Lou Gehrig’s disease. Contemplative and enhanced with photographs, the book presents Nina as a little girl and again several more times as she is growing up and as a young mother and then as a handsome, mature woman.
Having lived in Wyoming for the past four years, reading it was verification for what I see, experience, and find problems with, constantly. I have often thought that Wyoming’s undeserving motto is a farce in comparison with its laws, policies, priorities, and politicians. And here was a Wyoming woman who lived, captured, and published the cruel reality of being a minority in this state with so much detail, accuracy, and innocence.
Whether serious or silly, Reese’s prose reads like poetry. He says more in a paragraph than most authors achieve over several pages. The final chapters are the shortest and most personal vignettes featuring his wife, daughters and co-workers. Reese finds the profound in everyday, parochial life in Bone Chalk.
There is a great warmth and sincerity embedded within this memoir, mixed in with gentle humour, discussions of complex research on genetics, birth, death, siblings, parents, family, Greek culture, love. The genesis of the story arises from a secret, one of the biggest secrets a person can have revealed to them, that of their true origins.