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WRITING HARD STORIES

CELEBRATED MEMOIRISTS WHO SHAPED ART FROM TRAUMA

An inspiring guide to ennobling personal stories that travel to the dark sides of life.

Investigations into the struggles of rendering painful memories on the page.

Acclaimed memoirist Mary Karr once said, “writing a memoir, if it’s done right, is like knocking yourself out with your own fist.” It’s difficult and especially painful to write about dark, difficult memories. Brooks’ (Professional Writing/Northeastern Univ.) own experience of trying to write a memoir about her father’s death from a secret AIDS infection had been “agonizing” and “terrifying,” so she decided to travel the country to interview and learn from memoirists whose books confronted these subjects head-on. Over and over, the authors told her that these were stories they had to write. Andre Dubus III felt he “had to pull out of the dark and hold up to the light” the story about his difficult relationship with his famous author father. After he finished Townie (2011),“it felt really good….I felt cleansed.” Sue William Silverman’s “raw and profoundly vulnerable” Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You (1996) exposed 14 years of sexual abuse she suffered while her mother remained silent and “complicit.” After poet Mark Doty’s partner of 12 years died from AIDS, he wrote Heaven’s Coast (1996): “I have not been immobilized by grief, but I have certainly carried it with me.” Edwidge Danticat’s “exquisite and heartbreaking” Brother, I’m Dying (2007), about her Haitian father and uncle, is a “powerful witness to the large-scale injustices so many immigrants face upon entering this country.” She told Brooks that it’s the “most beautiful memorial I could have created for [them].” “Gender outlaw” Kate Bornstein’s A Queer and Pleasant Danger recounts “desperately [trying] to be someone she was not” and escaping the Church of Scientology to finally find fulfillment after gender reassignment surgery. Other authors interviewed include Kim Stafford, Richard Blanco, Richard Hoffman, Kyoko Mori, and Jerald Walker.

An inspiring guide to ennobling personal stories that travel to the dark sides of life.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8070-7881-5

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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NIGHT

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

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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