1. Behind Closed Doors on Long Island | Memoir

    Dylan told us all that “everything is gonna be diff’rent when I paint my masterpiece.” The belief that things could be different, even if they weren’t going to be perfect, carried many of this month’s memoirists through very trying times. Masterpieces are not always on canvas: here we glimpse families, houses, and careers that are themselves real works of art.

    Coincidentally, half of this month’s memoirs deal with growing up on Long Island. The circumstances described range from apparently idyllic to squalor—you just never know what’s going on in the house next door, do you?

    LJ memoir columnist (and Long Island resident) Therese Nielsen tackles memoirs about what goes on behind closed doors.

  2. In Memoir Is Storytelling, LJ memoir columnist Therese Neilsen gives Monica Wesokowska’s Holding Silvan: A Brief Life, a star:


With a heartbreaking clarity and precision, Wesolowska (Univ. of California, Berkeley) retells the story of the 38 days of her son’s life. Silvan, her first child, suffered a catastrophic brain injury at or before birth and Wesolowska and her husband soon found themselves immersed in a world of pain, ethical decisions, and uncertainty. The facts of Silvan’s short, hard life are almost too difficult to read, but Wesolowska doesn’t flinch in their retelling. VERDICT This is a brutal story, beautifully told. When the only question you can answer on behalf of a beloved child is “What would be a good death?” The only rule that remains is love, and Wesolowska leaves readers with no doubt that 38 days of love can be a whole life.

    In Memoir Is StorytellingLJ memoir columnist Therese Neilsen gives Monica Wesokowska’s Holding Silvan: A Brief Life, a star:

    With a heartbreaking clarity and precision, Wesolowska (Univ. of California, Berkeley) retells the story of the 38 days of her son’s life. Silvan, her first child, suffered a catastrophic brain injury at or before birth and Wesolowska and her husband soon found themselves immersed in a world of pain, ethical decisions, and uncertainty. The facts of Silvan’s short, hard life are almost too difficult to read, but Wesolowska doesn’t flinch in their retelling. VERDICT This is a brutal story, beautifully told. When the only question you can answer on behalf of a beloved child is “What would be a good death?” The only rule that remains is love, and Wesolowska leaves readers with no doubt that 38 days of love can be a whole life.

  3. Some stories of survival leave powerful imprints on human consciousness: a wrist stuck under a boulder; a teenager stranded with only a hatchet; cloned dinosaurs on a rampage.*  Such images leave us white knuckled with tense jaws and a ferocious desire to know what will happen next. Still, survival may mean something as simple as putting one foot in front of the other each morning, joining a choir, moving into a van, getting sober, or leaving the country. This month’s memoirs column features acts of survival that may seem small but are in fact indispensable steps taken in the direction of a more fulfilling life.

    I Will Survive | Memoir Short Takes by Erin Shea aka darienlibrary.

  4. 
Parravani, Christa. Her: A Memoir. Holt. Mar. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780805096538. $26. MEMOIR
Parravani’s twin sister Cara died of a drug overdose at the age of 28 and the author herself danced close to the same edge from time to time. In recounting their tumultuous upbringing, young marriages, and a devastating assault on Cara, Parravani succeeds in “writing Cara back to life” and saving her own life in the process. No punches are pulled here, and Parravani’s matter-of-fact tone does nothing to shield readers from the enormity of her loss. VERDICT Imagine looking in a mirror and not seeing yourself. Imagine living the rest of your life with half of yourself missing. Imagine looking at your own corpse. You don’t have to imagine: Parravani’s story makes it all clear.

Lost Halves, Lost Houses, and Lost Homes | Library Journal Memoir Short Takes

    OrangeReviewStar Lost Halves, Lost Houses, and Lost Homes | Memoir Short TakesParravani, Christa. Her: A Memoir. Holt. Mar. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780805096538. $26. MEMOIR

    Parravani’s twin sister Cara died of a drug overdose at the age of 28 and the author herself danced close to the same edge from time to time. In recounting their tumultuous upbringing, young marriages, and a devastating assault on Cara, Parravani succeeds in “writing Cara back to life” and saving her own life in the process. No punches are pulled here, and Parravani’s matter-of-fact tone does nothing to shield readers from the enormity of her loss. VERDICT Imagine looking in a mirror and not seeing yourself. Imagine living the rest of your life with half of yourself missing. Imagine looking at your own corpse. You don’t have to imagine: Parravani’s story makes it all clear.

    Lost Halves, Lost Houses, and Lost Homes | Library Journal Memoir Short Takes

  5. Our own Erin Shea, aka darienlibrary, debuts as LJ's second memoir columnist today. Check out her first column! In it she gives a star to Elizabeth Scarboro’s My Foreign Cities:

Conceived from a New York Times “Modern Love” column, this entrancing story of a woman’s marriage to Stephen, a man living with cystic fibrosis (CF), should not be written off as merely a memoir of disease. When Scarboro met her future husband at 17, she struggled to make a life for herself while faced with the challenge of loving someone with a constantly looming expiration date. While Scarboro, her husband, and CF are the three main characters, the story truly shines as the two try to navigate their twenties bouncing between the Bay Area, Boulder, and Boston during the 1990s. VERDICT This book squeezes a soul-encompassing marriage into the events of just one decade, and Scarboro manages to tell—with strength and grace—her all-too-short love story in less than 300 pages.

    Our own Erin Shea, aka darienlibrary, debuts as LJ's second memoir columnist today. Check out her first column! In it she gives a star to Elizabeth Scarboro’s My Foreign Cities:

    Conceived from a New York Times “Modern Love” column, this entrancing story of a woman’s marriage to Stephen, a man living with cystic fibrosis (CF), should not be written off as merely a memoir of disease. When Scarboro met her future husband at 17, she struggled to make a life for herself while faced with the challenge of loving someone with a constantly looming expiration date. While Scarboro, her husband, and CF are the three main characters, the story truly shines as the two try to navigate their twenties bouncing between the Bay Area, Boulder, and Boston during the 1990s. VERDICT This book squeezes a soul-encompassing marriage into the events of just one decade, and Scarboro manages to tell—with strength and grace—her all-too-short love story in less than 300 pages.

  6. 




Blair, Joe. By the Iowa Sea: A Memoir of Disaster and Love. Scribner. ISBN9781451636055. $24; ebk. ISBN 9781451636079. MEMOIR
A startling, bleak, and thoroughly honest memoir from husband and father Blair, it documents a flood, a marriage in danger, a family in flux, and an inscrutable but mesmerizing boy whose developmental disabilities make his parents’ life a kind of hell but whose lovely, undulating patterns, which he traces in the dirt of their backyard, will stay with readers long after they finish the book. While the midlife-crisis memoir might seem typical, this one isn’t. (LJ 12/11)—Molly McArdle





See all of Library Journal's Best Books 2012: Top Ten

    Blair, Joe. By the Iowa Sea: A Memoir of Disaster and Love. Scribner. ISBN9781451636055. $24; ebk. ISBN 9781451636079. MEMOIR

    A startling, bleak, and thoroughly honest memoir from husband and father Blair, it documents a flood, a marriage in danger, a family in flux, and an inscrutable but mesmerizing boy whose developmental disabilities make his parents’ life a kind of hell but whose lovely, undulating patterns, which he traces in the dirt of their backyard, will stay with readers long after they finish the book. While the midlife-crisis memoir might seem typical, this one isn’t. (LJ 12/11)—Molly McArdle

    See all of Library Journal's Best Books 2012: Top Ten

  7. My publisher asked me to [write a memoir], but there’s a point at which your life is not interesting, at least to me. I’d rather write fiction.

    — 

    Toni Morrison cancels her memoir. (via fsgbooks)

    Sad in a way that there will be no memoir to read, but I trust Morrison. If she’d rather write fiction, I’d rather read it.

  8. More of our best book lists! Check out LJ memoir columnist’s favorite memoirs of the year.

    More of our best book lists! Check out LJ memoir columnist’s favorite memoirs of the year.

  9. HEY GUYS: My Memoir/Biography/Autobiography Webcast

    Hey everyone! I know how much you must love script typefaces, so you’re bound you love this webcast I’m hosting. One thing about a webcast is that it’s mostly talking (with some slides), and so while there will be little if any more opportunities for more script typeface, you can imagine me (your LJ editor, tumblrer, and webcast moderator) and my distinguished panelists talking in script (which actually I imagine would sound something like this.)

    I’ll be joined by Laura Cusack of Wiley, Jonathan Merkh of Howard Books, and Michael Gentile of Random House Inc. and we’ll be talking about their forthcoming memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies—and, if there’s time, will conclude with a Q&A session. I’m up to my neck in biographies right now, almost done with Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs bio and about to begin Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith’s Van Gogh: The Life. (What an authoritative choice of article!) Much to talk about!

    It’s free and easy to sign up. Join us!