Childhood Scenes from the Tent Revival Circuit

Book review: Holy Ghost Girl, by Donna M. Johnson (Amazon / Book Depository) [The tent] gathered and sheltered us from a world that told us we were too poor, too white trash, too black, too uneducated, too much of everything that didn’t matter and not enough of anything that did. Society, or at least the respectable chunk of it, saw the tent and those of … Continue reading Childhood Scenes from the Tent Revival Circuit

Coming of Age in Cold War America

Book review: A Girl’s Guide to Missiles, by Karen Piper Amazon Karen Piper, a professor of literature and geology and author of several books on environmental issues, writes a personal memoir about her life, including scenes from her childhood growing up in the 1970s in China Lake, a secretive missile range in the Mojave Desert. Her narrative as she walks readers through her life folds … Continue reading Coming of Age in Cold War America

A Darkly Funny, Sweet Coming-of-Age Story Between Two Countries

Book review: Miss Ex-Yugoslavia, by Sofija Stefanovic Amazon My mother said, “just imagine this situation we’re in is a massive black cloud falling from the sky, and be like a net. Allow it to pass through you.” I pictured a net through which a black cloud is squeezed, dispersing into many pieces; I imagined holding my breath as it passed, careful not to catch the … Continue reading A Darkly Funny, Sweet Coming-of-Age Story Between Two Countries

Obsession on the Upper East Side

Book review: You All Grow Up and Leave Me, by Piper Weiss (Amazon / Book Depository) In this Gossip Girl meets true crime hybrid memoir, the story of Gary Wilensky, private tennis coach to wealthy Manhattan teenagers who made a thankfully unsuccessful abduction attempt of one his students, is recounted alongside the author’s growing pains. She had been his student too. In spring of 1993, Wilensky tried … Continue reading Obsession on the Upper East Side

You Can’t Go Home Again

Book review: Educated, by Tara Westover (Amazon / Book Depository) Not knowing my birthday had never seemed strange. I knew I’d been born near the end of September, and each year I picked a day, one that didn’t fall on a Sunday because it’s no fun spending your birthday in church…”I have a birthday, same as you,” I wanted to tell [bureaucrats struggling to understand her … Continue reading You Can’t Go Home Again

Making Light of a Soviet Childhood

Book review: Everything is Normal, by Sergey Grechishkin Book Depository Railways and trains in Russia have always been much more than just pragmatic modes of getting from point A to point B. For a Russian soul, a never-ending train journey across the empty vastness of its land is a state of mind, a meditation, an existential reflection on life itself. One might also argue that … Continue reading Making Light of a Soviet Childhood

A Girl, Growing Up and Growing Wiser, in Leningrad

Book review: A Mountain of Crumbs, by Elena Gorokhova Book Depository This memoir has one of the most beautiful and intensely evocative openings I’ve read in a long time: I wish my mother had come from Leningrad, from the world of Pushkin and the tsars, of granite embankments and lace ironwork, of pearly domes buttressing the low sky. Leningrad’s sophistication would have infected her the … Continue reading A Girl, Growing Up and Growing Wiser, in Leningrad

A Daughter After Her Mother: Rich Storytelling of Memoir and Murder

Book review: After the Eclipse, by Sarah Perry Amazon She believed in the souls of housecats and in the melancholy of rainy days. She believed in hard work, and the energy she poured into her job — hand-sewing shoes at a factory — seemed boundless…She was terrified of birds, at close range, and moths, at any distance, their blurred wings beating the air, their flight paths unpredictable…The clicking … Continue reading A Daughter After Her Mother: Rich Storytelling of Memoir and Murder

An Unusual Coming of Age in L.A.

Book review: We Are All Shipwrecks, by Kelly Grey Carlisle If you read history, you could learn where the ideas you took for granted actually came from and, what I found oddly reassuring, that the world had always been a terrible mess. Kelly Grey Carlisle had an unconventional childhood, to put it mildly. In 1976, at three weeks old, while she lay in a dresser drawer … Continue reading An Unusual Coming of Age in L.A.

A Memoir of Murder and the Male Gaze

Book review: The Hot One, by Carolyn Murnick (Amazon / Book Depository) New York magazine editor Carolyn Murnick was childhood best friends with Ashley Ellerin, growing up in suburban New Jersey. Attending different high schools, then Ashley’s relocation to her home state of California, the friendship began developing the natural divide that accompanies growing up and apart. But unlike many similar friendships, the two maintain some … Continue reading A Memoir of Murder and the Male Gaze

Food As Love in Any Language

Book review: The Language of Baklava, by Diana Abu-Jaber (Amazon / Book Depository) I’m falling in love with “foodoirs” lately. Those are food-themed memoirs, in case you’re late to the genre, like I was. This one moved me more than I unexpected. Novelist Diana Abu-Jaber was born in America to a Jordanian immigrant father and an American mother. Her family, including two younger sisters, lived in … Continue reading Food As Love in Any Language