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A Memoir in Love Poems, Letters, Recipes, and Remembrances

by Kwame Alexander

Pub Date: May 23rd, 2023
ISBN: 9780316417228
Publisher: Little, Brown

A poetic and epistolary collage focused on familial, romantic, and nourishing love.

“This is not a traditional memoir,” writes Newbery Medalist Alexander in the first of three introductions. “These are just snapshots of a man learning to love. Again.” In the second introduction, “A Letter to My Daughters,” the author writes, “All the things I wished I could have learned from my mother and was too afraid to ask my father are between these covers.” In the third, “How to Read This Book,” he advises, “Let these humble meditations and musings / carry you close, permanent, abreast—a wave.” The remaining sections of the book include “Looking for Me,” “A Letter to My Mother,” and an eponymous section. Using poetry, prose, and recipes, Alexander reminiscences about healing his long-distant relationship with his father; moving forward following the death of his beloved mother; being inspired to become a writer by—and being a college student of—Nikki Giovanni (“My first grade in Nikki’s class was a C‑minus. I was disappointed, but not discouraged”); the beginning and end of marriage (“and I remember feeling defeated / at not having a key / to my own wife’s apartment”); and myriad lessons about how to live a curious and wholehearted life. “Part of moving yourself forward in a life-giving way,” he writes to one of his children, “is to take the things from the past that have helped shape and mold you and use them as anchors to the future.” Writing about certain recipes, the author describes when and why he makes them—e.g., “this 7UP pound cake represents family tradition, connection, and love. Now, for the best results, don’t go substituting Sprite”; and Granny’s hot buttered rolls (“What I’m listening to while I bake: ‘Brighter Day’ by Kirk Franklin”). Alexander connects disparate forms through his disarmingly forthright, humble voice, familiar vernacular, and optimism.

This magnanimous hybrid-form memoir is rich with solace and wisdom.