Review: The Empathy Diaries by Sherry Turkle

The Empathy Diaries: A Memoir by Sherry Turkle (Penguin 2021)

Reviewed by Patricia Steckler

My mother kept secrets and spoke to me in a kind of code. Nothing was straightforward. From childhood, I had to figure out how to read her mind, to intuit the contours of her reality. If I developed empathy, at first, it wasn’t so much a way to find a connection as a survival strategy. (xx)

Secrets, taboo topics, and mystifying family tensions set the stage for Sherry Turkle’s memoir, The Empathy Diaries. Her memoir is a transformational journey from an anxiety-infused childhood to an adulthood devoted to psychological insight and excellence in scholarship. Turkle is the Abby Rockefeller Professor of Social Studies, Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her highly regarded books, especially Reclaiming the Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age and Alone Together, probe the psycho-social impact of the digital world.

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Special Feature: A Snail Found Poem

That Life Continues

Humbled by where we are in the scheme of things 

Human time as opposed to some other kind of time

We are all hostages to time

I listened carefully

Thinking about speed and slowness, 

time can feel quick and expansive

I spent a lot of time noticing

tiny, beautifully made arrows of calcium carbonate, 

I could hear it eating.

The velocity of the ill, however, is like the velocity of the snail 

I am going to withdraw from the world

We so often treat things as other

In a box in a box


This poem was created using quotes from the book and notes from our Drizzle Summer Book Club discussion on The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. It was written collaboratively by Patricia Steckler, Claudine Mininni, Sarena Brown, and Rebecca Valley. You can find the writer bios here. To learn more about the book that inspired the poem, check out our micro review.

July 2021 Reading Round Up: True Stories

It is quite drizzly on this 2nd of July–the perfect day to deliver our next batch of micro reviews for your reading pleasure.

This month, we are bringing you four “true stories” that defy convention, and play with the idea of what it means to write about reality. We have a book of poems that take language from someone else’s diary to tell a new kind of truth. Auto-fiction, which uses fiction as a vehicle to explore a very real autobiography. A hybrid essay-poem that plays with space to portray family truths lost to history. And a book of essays that doesn’t shy away from the ugliest, strangest, funniest parts of what it means to be human.

We hope our picks this month inspire you, and give you space to ponder what it means to tell the truth.

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Review: Fairest: A Memoir by Meredith Talusan

Fairest: A Memoir. By Meredith Talusan (Viking 2020)

Reviewed by P.A Huff

Autobiography is the most personal genre and the most generous. By definition it favors the up-close gaze. It is the fruit of self-absorption but also the turning of self-centeredness to purposes far beyond narcissism. Ancient writers, who rarely saw their reflection, spoke of the first-person narrative as a kind of mirror for the reader. For centuries, we have been entranced by the near magical link between someone else’s self-disclosure and our own self-empowerment. The Latin for looking glass, speculum, is related to a broad family of intriguing spin-offs such as speculation and introspection but also respect and, charmingly, even spice. Meredith Talusan’s memoir, well seasoned with sharp intelligence and rare powers of awareness, is a courageous gift of self that delivers keen insight into the mystery of visualizing who we are and who we long to be.

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Review: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019)

Reviewed by Patricia Steckler

When Lori Gottlieb’s book, You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, came out, I kept it at arm’s length. As a psychologist in practice for 40 years, I what I thought would be the show-offy tell-all of another therapist.

Why would Gottlieb choose to write her story if not to appear in a good light? Wouldn’t she be self-aggrandizing? Wouldn’t the book reek of fake pseudo-modesty to keep the reader from judging her too harshly? Might her attempts at endearing us be, in fact, manipulations designed to keep us from taking a more penetrating look?

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Review: Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot (Counterpoint 2019) 

Reviewed by Yollotl Lopez 

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot is like balloons filled with paint exploding against a white canvas — c. Heart Berries is Mailhot’s debut memoir told in a cyclical narrative touching upon her experience as a writer, mother, mental health patient, and partner all informed by her identity as a First Nations Canadian living in the U.S. It is the story of love, and loss, but most of all it is a story about storytelling. Mailhot writes:

“Things were created by story. The words were conjurers, and ideas were our mothers” (105). 

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Review: What You Have Heard is True by Carolyn Forche

What You Have Heard is True by Carolyn Forche (Penguin Press, 2019)

Reviewed by Allison McCausland

            History is written as much by the victors as it is by its witnesses. Witnesses are often responsible for giving voice to the unrecorded events and marginalized factions that history textbooks tend to gloss over. Poet Carolyn Forche served as one such witness to the beginnings of the Civil War in El Salvador, bearing witness to both atrocities and small glimmers of hope.

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Review: The Dragons, The Giant, The Women: A Memoir by Wayetu Moore

The Dragons, The Giant, The Women: A Memoir By Wayetu Moore (Graywolf Press 2020)

Reviewed by Allison McCausland

There is a quote by G.K. Chesterton that goes, “Fairy tales are not told to tell children that dragons exist. Children already know the dragons exist. Fairy tales are told to tell that dragons can be killed.” But what happens when the dragons follow a child throughout their life? Such is the case with author Wayetu Moore in her memoir The Dragons, The Giant, The Women.

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