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The next Memoir Monday reading will be on Monday, June 21, 8pm EST, over Zoom, featuring Anjali Enjeti, Lilly Dancyger, Krys Malcolm Belc, and Larissa Pham. (The first time, after three years of hosting, that I’ll be reading as well!) Register here.
Welcome back to Memoir Monday—a weekly newsletter and quarterly reading series, brought to you by Narratively, The Rumpus, Catapult, Granta, Guernica, and Literary Hub. Each essay in this newsletter has been selected by the editors at the above publications as the best of the week, delivered to you all in one place.
The Bennington Girl
by Jill Eisenstadt
I’m seventeen when my father first pegs me as a “Bennington girl.” I’ve never heard the college mentioned, but immediately recognize the name from Franny and Zooey. Salinger’s Bennington girl looks “like she spent the whole train ride in the john, sculpting or painting or something, or as though she had a leotard under her dress.” If that's how Dad sees me—as a weird, messy artist—it’s also how I see myself, in Rockaway Beach, Queens, NY circa 1980. Here, culture of any kind, even a movie or bookstore, requires crossing a bridge. I travel for weekly flute and dance classes, but the rest of my free time is spent smoking weed and drawing with cray-pas, smoking weed and reading novels, smoking weed and, after my father’s uncharacteristic decree, fantasizing that I’m not glum Jill on the Green Line bus but a Bennington girl on the New Haven line, en route to the Yale-Harvard game. Luckily, the tiny, progressive Vermont school accepts me. Sans parental oversight, it’s the only place where I’ve applied.
“Are We Going to Take It All?” On the Moral Reckoning of Clear-Cutting a Forest
by Suzanne Simard
We walked to one of those forbidden elders, and I wanted to shout at it to run. I understood the pride of claiming what was grandest, the temptation—green-gold fever. The handsomest trees captured top prices. They meant jobs for the locals, mills staying open. I checked out this one’s immense bole, seeing the cut through Ray’s eyes. Once you start hunting, it’s easy to get addicted. Like always wanting to snag the tallest peaks. After a while, your appetite can never be sated.
Dear Taeyeon, It’s Okay Not to Be Okay
by Giaae Kwon
December 2017: I wake up and check social media. Jonghyun, of the boy band SHINee, is trending, and my heart immediately sinks—or is it more accurate to say that it rises to my throat and stays there? While I was sleeping in California, Jonghyun had checked into a hotel and died by suicide. His death wasn’t a surprise. Jonghyun had lived with depression for a long time, but, in a way, I think that makes it worse—when death isn’t a surprise, I always want to believe that it could have been prevented somehow.
Notes on Craft
by Kjersti A. Skomsvold (Translated by Martin Aitken)
Everyone has their boundaries, but writing means having to cross them. When I had my first child I was unable to write for a long time – I found that as life was stretching my boundaries I was trying to keep them in place. With everything around me changing it was difficult to pursue the change imposed by writing.
Voices on Addiction: Searching for Lilacs
by Andrea Jarrell
I was convinced that if I could just find lilacs for my mother—a big bundle on woody stems, wrapped in white paper the way the French do it—that she would know how much I loved her. That all the subterranean tension I felt, all the little barbs, would disappear, and once again we would find that old and easy way we used to have with one another.
My Bizarre Reign as New York’s King of “Virgin Russian Hair”
by Vijai Maheshwari
In my new life as a successful hair merchant whose business feasted on the vanity of the one percent — people willing to pay top dollar for silky wigs and flawless hair extensions — I was met with a mix of jealousy and judgment. One friend who balanced his passionate musical career with a dead-end job in corporate PR mused that he wished he too could sell hair to the rich and devote more time to his music instead. I hadn’t ever expected to be feted in the bars of New York for trafficking in human body parts, but it was another sign of the strange zeitgeist that was transforming America in the early 2010s.
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