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Review of Eileen Cronin’s Mermaid

When I first picked up Mermaid: A Memoir of Resilience (W. W. Norton & Company, 2014) and flipped through the prologue, I began thinking about my own adolescence. I was the last of my friends to land a boyfriend. My German mother was known to serve weird salad. In third grade I pissed my pants in...

Review of M.K. Asante’s Buck: A Memoir

From a very young age, race defined my experience of the world. At the end of my second grade year, my elementary school hosted a party—a catch-all birthday celebration for the summer babies who would otherwise miss that opportunity during the school year. Another student and I were tied in a game, but there was...

Review of Jessica Handler’s Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief and Loss

I sat down to read Jessica Handler’s book with a bit of a tourist mentality and a touch of relief, glad that grief and loss weren’t currently on my writing agenda. This would be interesting, like reading a book about sports writing. After all, I wasn’t mourning anyone’s death. I’ve been a fan of Handler’s...
Book Reviews

Book Reviews

Our Book section three new reviews: M.K. Asante’s Buck: A Memoir; Eileen Cronin’s Mermaid: A Memoir of Resilience; and Jessica Handler’s Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief and Loss.

Bringing Characters to Life: An Interview with Susan Kushner Resnick

Book Reviews Editor Debbie Hagan interviews Susan Kushner Resnick author of You Saved Me, Too: What a Holocaust Survivor Taught Me About Living, Dying, Loving, Fighting and Swearing in Yiddish (Globe Pequot/skirt!, 2012). Resnick has been a writer and journalist for twenty-eight years. Her first book, Sleepless Days: One Woman’s Journey Through Postpartum Depression (St....

Review of Beverly Donofrio’s Astonished: A Story of Evil, Blessings, Grace, and Solace

This past spring I attended a writing workshop with the memoirist Beverly Donofrio. The prompt she used to get our group of pens moving was this: Complete these three statements: I come from…, Once I…, and Now I….. Immediately, the sound of ink rollerballed against moleskins as the twelve or thirteen of us dug deep...

Review of David Quammen’s Spillover

When the package containing David Quammen’s Spillover arrived on my doorstep one morning, I cracked the book from its cardboard shell and set it on my bed for evening reading. But I returned later to a crime scene: the book splayed on the floor, its hard cover dismembered, and the first chapter merely shreds hanging...

Using the Pauses and Whispers: An Interview with Harrison Candelaria Fletcher

Back in 2003, Harrison Candelaria Fletcher was one of my first advisees in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA Program in Writing—his first semester as a graduate student, my first semester teaching in that program; together, we helped each other settle into our respective roles.  Harrison came to Vermont as an already accomplished journalist,...

Review of Tracy Kidder and Dick Todd’s Good Prose

I had the privilege of being edited by Richard Todd. It was my MFA manuscript for Goucher College, and to give you a sense of how massive that stack of paper was, it cost Todd $6.35 to mail the manuscript priority mail to my house. It weighed more than a Chihuahua. Stuck to this Leviathan...

Review of Lia Purpura’s Rough Likeness

So what animal would you be if you could come back again? I cringed every time the teacher asked us this question. I never wanted to be an animal, except maybe a sacred cow in India, free to wander the streets, showered with treats, and totally loved. Short of that, I’ve always felt that animals...

Review of Peter Trachtenberg’s Another Insane Devotion

After several years of marriage, I woke one day, looked at the man lying next to me and asked, “What was I thinking?” I’ve done this twice. The first time happened when I couldn’t get husband number one to have sex with me. This was particularly troublesome when he came home one day and admitted...

Review of Kristen Iversen’s Full Body Burden

If you lived in Boulder, Colorado, in the eighties, as I did, you had to have known about Rocky Flats—a factory just south of town that manufactured triggers used to detonate nuclear bombs. And you had to have read news articles in the Daily Camera and the Colorado Daily about problems at the plant with...

Review of Dan Beachy-Quick’s Wonderful Investigations: Essays, Meditations, Tales

Once, at the foot of the Blue Ridge mountains, a four-year-old boy wandered so far into the forest behind his house, his mother called the search-and-rescue. They looked until past dark. Imagining bobcats and rattlesnakes, she cried. I, the boy’s ten-year-old neighbor, peered out the window wondering where the mountains end, if he would take...

Review of Tom Davis’s A Legacy of Madness

Years ago, I dated a mentally ill man. He wrote hours on end without breaks for food or sleep, roared loudly at the slightest joke, and later suffered a complete breakdown that required hospitalization. At first, I brushed off concerns about his mental state. I was going out with an eccentric artist who was so...

Review of Sara Taber’s Born Under An Assumed Name

As a child, I never knew what to say when people asked me where I was from. I’d reply that as the daughter of a diplomat I was born in Virginia, but I’d moved every few years to places like the Philippines, Morocco, and Egypt. Certainly, a nomadic existence was exciting, but I also felt...

Review of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild

As a woman who has traveled extensively through the wilderness, alone, two kinds of cliche adventure stories make me wince in frustration: accounts that are adventurous merely because the traveler is female and single, and tales of travelers seeking redemption in the woods. Surprisingly, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Alfred A....

Review of Mary Cappello’s Swallow

When I was in the fourth grade, somewhere between learning about moving decimal points and the history of the California Gold Rush, I became aware of my body’s automatic responses—breathing, blinking, swallowing.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t hold my breath for long without the teacher noticing my red face, or turning from...

Review of Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama

How do we understand our mothers or any topic that is so close to us, we are not sure where our selves end and the subject begins? As Alison Bechdel reveals in one of the many metanarrative moments of her graphic memoir, Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012,) the task...