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

English with Style and Humor: Random House’s Chief Copy Editor on Lessons Learned

Book review: Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer (Amazon / Book Depository) Never thought you were the type to stay up late reading a grammar and style guide, dissolving in laughter every few pages? I thought I wasn’t either. Allow this book to prove you wrong like it did me. Random House chief copy editor Benjamin Dreyer is … Continue reading English with Style and Humor: Random House’s Chief Copy Editor on Lessons Learned

The Nostalgia of Coming Home When Everything’s Changed

Book review: Bettyville, by George Hodgman (Amazon / Book Depository) My friends worry that I am falling into a hole here, that this time away is really giving up, running away. Since I lost my job, I don’t know quite who it is I am now. Suddenly I feel older. In New York, my closet is full of clothes that still smell a little like … Continue reading The Nostalgia of Coming Home When Everything’s Changed

Brave, Funny Takes on “Cultural Shifts” and Being an Outspoken Feminist Writer

Book review: Shrill, by Lindy West That period—when I was wholly myself, effortlessly certain, my identity still undistorted by the magnetic fields of culture—was so long ago that it’s beyond readily accessible memory. I do not recall being that person. Lindy West has written boldly and bluntly – but not actually shrilly – on all manner of cultural, artistic, and feminist topics for newspapers like … Continue reading Brave, Funny Takes on “Cultural Shifts” and Being an Outspoken Feminist Writer

Life Writing Through Micro-Memoir

Book review: Heating & Cooling, by Beth Ann Fennelly (Amazon / Book Depository) 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 … Continue reading Life Writing Through Micro-Memoir

How the Message Got Made in Obama’s White House

Book review: West Winging It, by Pat Cunnane (Amazon / Book Depository) This year and last have seen a wave of newly published memoirs from former Obama staffers. I read speechwriter David Litt’s wonderful, charming Thanks, Obama last year, so after that I was on board with the genre. West Winging It begins with a similar premise – young college grad Pat Cunnane stumbles into his first “real” job … Continue reading How the Message Got Made in Obama’s White House

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

Book review: Look Alive Out There, by Sloane Crosley (Amazon / Book Depository) 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 … Continue reading Observational Essays on Neighbors, Health, Gossip Girl Gossips, and Sometimes the Mundane

Taming Agoraphobia, and One’s Twenties

Book review: Agorafabulous! by Sara Benincasa (Amazon / Book Depository) This day was different. This day I woke up, stared at the ceiling, and was gripped by the certain knowledge that, if I left the apartment, something terrible would happen. I did not know what the terrible event was, only that it would occur, and with a fury. One might reasonably ask how I could have “known” such … Continue reading Taming Agoraphobia, and One’s Twenties

South African Roots and Apartheid’s Influence, with a Sense of Humor

Book review: Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah Amazon Where most children are proof of their parents’ love, I was the proof of their criminality. Apartheid is one of those subjects that I know embarrassingly little about beyond the basics. If you’re in the same position, I highly recommend comedian and Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s 2016 memoir, Born a Crime, of his unique experience growing up as mixed-race … Continue reading South African Roots and Apartheid’s Influence, with a Sense of Humor

Sweet, Funny, Smart Takes On Life’s Wilderness

Book review: Vacationland, by John Hodgman (Amazon / Book Depository) “Nobody knows,” I said, meaning at least one person does not know, and that person is me. I didn’t know anything about John Hodgman (comedian, author, Daily Show and This American Life contributor, podcaster) at all before I picked up his most recent book, a collection of essayish memoirs, Vacationland. I came to it without any preconceptions about him or … Continue reading Sweet, Funny, Smart Takes On Life’s Wilderness

Surprisingly Moving Essays on Personal Strength, Humor, and Embracing Mistakes

Book review: The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer I like Amy Schumer’s comedy, but I’m not enough in love with it that her book was a priority when it came out nearly a year ago. Until I happened upon a review praising it as something much more meaningful than a reiteration of Schumer’s jokes or skits from her show. The review stressed that … Continue reading Surprisingly Moving Essays on Personal Strength, Humor, and Embracing Mistakes

Vignettes of Life and Memories from the American Midwest to Italy

Book review: American English, Italian Chocolate, by Rick Bailey English professor Rick Bailey writes a sweet, soft memoir in vignette-style essays stretching from the American Midwest to northern Italy. Musings include high school dramas and levitation parties, medical issues humorous and otherwise, death, home insect infestations, historical perceptions of beans, how Nutella might taste better in Italy than in America, and, a favorite: observations on espresso making in … Continue reading Vignettes of Life and Memories from the American Midwest to Italy