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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Review: I’m Telling the Truth But I’m Lying by Bassey Ikpi

I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying: Essays by Bassey Ikpi (Harper perennial 2019)

Reviewed by by Michele Matrisciani

There is an entire library full of memoirs, one that grows greater every day, concerning issues surrounding mental health. Over the course of my twenty years in nonfiction book publishing, I’ve acquired, edited, and ghostwritten numerous such books, all of which I hope have contributed to the robust dialogue and much-needed de-stigmatization of this topic. Nothing I have worked on or read over the years has accomplished in quite the same way what Bassey Ikpi does in her memoir essay collection, I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying: Essays.

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“Just Dandy:” A Review of I’ve Seen the Future and I’m Not Going by Peter McGough

“Just Dandy: ” A Review of I’ve Seen the Future and I’m Not Going: The Art Scene and Downtown New York in the 1980s by Peter McGough (Pantheon 2019)

Review by Michael Quinn

Peter McGough and his partner (in business and romance) David McDermott rose to prominence in the 1980s New York art scene. Their paintings have a vintage feel with a contemporary twist (a still life of flowers has the blossoms arranged into the shape of a dollar sign). Their later photography has a much more mysterious feeling, truer to whatever periods they were aping. Mentored by Julian Schnabel, their work appeared in three Whitney Biennials and graced a 1986 cover of Artforum.

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