Vignettes for the Departed

Book review: The Glen Rock Book of the Dead, by Marion Winik After a creative writing assignment led her to thinking about dead people she’d known, poet and author Marion Winik explains that it was “as if tickets to a show had just gone on sale and all my ghosts were screeching up at the box office.” This never seemed morbid or depressing to me. I … Continue reading Vignettes for the Departed

Stories from America’s Melting Pot of Cuisine and Culture

Buttermilk Graffiti, by Edward Lee This says a lot about who we are as a culture now; we care about the person behind the recipes. For us, it is important to know as much about the cook as we do about his or her dishes. Cookbooks are living traditions. They reflect back to us who we are, as individuals, as a culture. Edward Lee is … Continue reading Stories from America’s Melting Pot of Cuisine and Culture

Favorites of the Year So Far

2018 has seen so much great nonfiction and we’re only halfway there. It’s been quite the year for big nonfiction news stories too, kicking off in January with Fire and Fury frenzy, then the memoir debut of a daughter of Mormon survivalists taking the literary world by storm, James Comey’s much-anticipated tell-all, and a triumphant moment for criminal justice with a serial rapist and killer apprehended more than four decades … Continue reading Favorites of the Year So Far

America’s Dead Girl Fixation and Other Obsessions

Book review: Dead Girls, by Alice Bolin Alice Bolin’s debut essay collection opens with a strong and intriguing premise: what is this obsession America (and beyond) has with dead girls? The murdered or missing blonde white ones of media frenzies; the ones that get forgotten after serving as engines for outrage in programs like Serial; the innocent and martyred ones (or else murdered sex workers – … Continue reading America’s Dead Girl Fixation and Other Obsessions

Jon Ronson Double Feature: “Them” and its Could-Be Addendum, “The Elephant in the Room”

Book review: Them and The Elephant in the Room, by Jon Ronson This book began its life in 1995 as a series of profiles of extremist leaders, but it quickly became something stranger. My plan had been to spend time with those people who had been described as the extremist monsters of the Western world – Islamic fundamentalists, neo-Nazis, etc. I wanted to join them as they went about … Continue reading Jon Ronson Double Feature: “Them” and its Could-Be Addendum, “The Elephant in the Room”

David Sedaris on Getting Older, Complicated Families, and the “Sea Section”

Book review: Calypso, by David Sedaris His most recent publications have been a bit of a diversion for David Sedaris. Last year, he published the first part of his diaries, Theft by Finding, which showed the genesis of some of his well known works, as well as being an unconventional glimpse into his early life and bizarre, often hilarious thought processes. I absolutely loved it, but I … Continue reading David Sedaris on Getting Older, Complicated Families, and the “Sea Section”

Love, Loss and Languages We Spoke

Book review: For Single Mothers Working as Train Conductors, by Laura Esther Wolfson Laura Esther Wolfson’s essay collection, the Iowa Prize in Literary Nonfiction winner, is composed of dreamy, reflectional, sometimes confessional pieces of memoir. An interpreter and translator by profession, the idea of translation and the role of language in life, love, questions of identity, relationships, and everyday interpersonal interactions is its common thread. … Continue reading Love, Loss and Languages We Spoke

Life Writing Through Micro-Memoir

Book review: Heating & Cooling, by Beth Ann Fennelly Poet Beth Ann Fennelly writes a collection of 52 “micro-memoirs”: mini-essays, a genre idea I love, loosely based around family, marriage, love, sex, and sometimes grief. This book got a surprising amount of buzz upon its release last year, in my opinion, for an essay-cum-memoir-cum-almost poetry collection. It seemed to hit a sweet spot for a lot … Continue reading Life Writing Through Micro-Memoir

Sharp Essays on America’s Social, Political, and Economic Bruises

Book review: The View from Flyover Country, by Sarah Kendzior An old adage says to write what you know. As a journalist living in a decayed Midwestern city waiting – and waiting and waiting – for the Great Recession to end, that was what I knew. Political writer, analyst and academic researcher of authoritarian states Sarah Kendzior rose to prominence a few years ago after … Continue reading Sharp Essays on America’s Social, Political, and Economic Bruises

Observational Essays on Neighbors, Health, Gossip Girl Gossips, and Sometimes the Mundane

Book review: Look Alive Out There, by Sloane Crosley Sloane Crosley’s new essay collection is the first of her work I’ve read, despite her popularity, particularly for her personal essays, and having recognized her name when she made a cameo on Gossip Girl (I’ve recently admitted my shame over this, let’s not dwell on it.) I definitely needed a lighthearted essay collection when I read … Continue reading Observational Essays on Neighbors, Health, Gossip Girl Gossips, and Sometimes the Mundane

Heartening Anecdotes of Cooking and Life, Disastrous and Otherwise

Book review: Home Cooking, by Laurie Colwin Originally published 1988, this collection of memoir-centric essays on cooking and life is insightful, funny, surprisingly practical and helpful, and still fresh and relevant thirty years later. Beloved novelist Laurie Colwin loved being in the kitchen, especially cooking for other people. She has an upbeat, happy sense of humor that infuses her stories, often making jokes at her … Continue reading Heartening Anecdotes of Cooking and Life, Disastrous and Otherwise

Letting the Rust Belt Speak

Book review: Voices from the Rust Belt, edited by Anne Trubek These essays address segregated schools, rural childhoods, suburban ennui, lead poisoning, opiate addiction, and job loss. They reflect upon happy childhoods, successful community ventures, warm refuges for outsiders, and hidden oases of natural beauty. But mainly they are stories drawn from uniquely personal experiences. A girl has her bike stolen. A social worker in … Continue reading Letting the Rust Belt Speak