A fiercely honest, imaginatively written, and necessary memoir from one of our great young writers.

In this daringly structured and ruthlessly inquisitive memoir, Machado (Her Body and Other Parties, 2017) examines an abusive relationship with an eye to both personal truth and cultural assumption.

The author begins with a declaration. “I speak into the silence,” she says. “I toss the stone of my story into a vast crevice; measure the emptiness by its small sound.” She is writing to record her experience of queer sexuality and intimate psychological violence; by telling her story, she's committing its existence to history. History has largely ignored the queer experience, particularly the existence of domestic abuse between queer women. As Machado points out, when you are invisible from the collective narrative, it is harder to imagine what your own feelings mean. The relationship at the heart of this memoir is resurrected with visceral potency. Instead of tracing her past with linear continuity, the author fractures it, diving into beautifully or painfully remembered moments with a harrowing emotional logic. As Machado recounts, she fell in love with a woman who seemed wonderful—they had sex, went on road trips, met parents—but who eventually became oppressively terrifying. In other sections, the author recounts an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and illuminates the imagery of abuse in two films by George Cukor. Machado uses slippery changes in point of view and a knack for translating emotion into concrete sensation to slide readers into her space, where they experience the fear and confusion of abuse from the inside. She applies the astonishing force of her imagination and narrative skill to her own life, framing chapters with storytelling motifs (unreliable narrator, star-crossed lovers, choose-your-own-adventure) and playful footnotes. Occasionally, the various parts muddle each other’s trajectories, but the heart of this history is clear, deeply felt, and powerful.

A fiercely honest, imaginatively written, and necessary memoir from one of our great young writers.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64445-003-1

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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