I’ll be kicking off Nonfiction November with a mix of memoirs, from Kiese Laymon’s Heavy to Francisco Cantú’s The Line Becomes a River.
I’m hoping to finish four contemporary memoirs this week, after a week of reading twentieth-century Gothic fiction. Some of these titles have been on my radar for a while, while others are recent finds; if I finish all of the memoirs ahead of time, I’m also planning on finishing Susan Orlean’s The Library Book and Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams. Those likely will have to wait until the second week of November, though, since I’m traveling to Chicago over the weekend and won’t have much time to read after the commute.
I’ll begin by listening to Kiese Laymon’s Heavy, a genre-bending memoir that reflects on the author’s life, “from his early experiences of sexual violence, to his suspension from college, to his trek to New York as a young college professor.” I haven’t read any of Laymon’s essays in the past, so I’m excited to have the chance to become familiar with his work this weekend.
I’ll then transition to Terese Marie Mailhot’s Heart Berries, which was recommended to me by Hannah and has been on my list for weeks. The short memoir recounts the author’s coming of age on Seabird Island Indian Reservation in the Pacific Northwest, and her spare, poetic style has been compared to that of Roxane Gay, whose essays and stories I love. Several reviews have mentioned that the book reads like a diary or a series of letters, a technique I’m especially fond of when it comes to life writing.
After reading Rennie’s review of Manal al-Sharif’s Daring to Drive, I thought the book would be perfect to add to my list of memoirs to read over the next week. It follows “a devout woman from a modest family in Saudi Arabia who became the unexpected leader of the courageous movement that won Saudi women the right to drive.” Last year the author had an interview on NPR, which I’d recommend even if you’re not interested in reading the memoir.
Earlier in the week on Tara’s blog I came across Francisco Cantú’s The Line Becomes a River, which describes the author’s experience working for the Border Patrol from 2008 to 2012. I’ve been wanting to read more work related to immigration in America, and the author’s unique perspective seems like a good place to begin.