A Baker's Dozen of Excellent Personal Essays
Welcome to Memoir Monday—a weekly newsletter and a quarterly reading series, brought to you by Narratively, The Rumpus, Catapult, Granta, Guernica, Oldster Magazine, Literary Hub — plus many additional publications. And this week we welcome Orion Magazine as a partner publication.
The ninth original essay, published in the First Person Singular series in October, is “Close the Cabinet” by Starina Catchatoorian. The tenth original essay is coming in a few weeks. Submissions are open. You can find submissions guidelines and more on the “About” page.
Our first in what will be a series of seminars was Publicity 101 For Writers with book publicist Lauren Cerand, held October 8th. Paying subscribers can view the resulting video here.
Memoir Monday is a reader-supported publication that pays contributors to its First Person Singular original essay series. To support this work, become a paid subscriber.
Essays from partner publications…
by Ross Gay
“Better than any writer I know—okay, Morrison, yup—[John Edgar Wideman] studies the murderous lie of race the way you might study someone’s game: dude always goes left, but he’s shifty in traffic, so heads up; also, he doesn’t miss open shots, so get a hand up, but stay on your goddamn feet because he’s good with his fakes, best I’ve ever seen, pump fake so crisp you don’t even know you’re going for it till you sail by and he’s stepped in for an easy fifteen-footer, and boom, you’re dead.”
The Moving Target of Being
by Suzanne Scanlon
“It scares me now to imagine what would have happened had I said yes, had I created a fantasy trauma to please the doctors. They were, after all, so seductive, and I was so young and susceptible, with complete and naive trust in the authority of the medical establishment, wanting to please them, to give them what they wanted. To say yes would have been another way to perform, to be a person. It was clear, if I said yes, if I recovered a memory or two, it would explain everything: my attempts to die, my rage and my self-destruction. If I could make this admission – Tell us your secrets was the motto of the treatment plan. You are only as sick as your secrets! – then they could heal me, treat me. A kind of reward.”
Locked Outside the Gates of Europe
by Sam Edwards
“Mohammed, who spoke in rapid, expressive bursts between draws on a cigarette, knew that his appeal depended on his ability to demonstrate his own story of suffering. But he was also frank that his motivations for leaving were as much about what he hoped to find in Europe as they were about what he was escaping back home. He seemed to sense he stood little chance of being granted the right to stay, but he felt unable to concede that he had spent so much time here for nothing.”
The Me in the Screen: Steffan Triplett on Doppelgängers and Doubles, in Horror and Queer Life
by Steffan Triplett
“My semester abroad was the first time I had sex with someone who wasn’t already my boyfriend. I’d planned for this to happen, even though it was something that, before, I’d told myself I wasn’t planning on. I’d convinced myself it was something that I wouldn’t do or that I was uninterested in. It was 2013, and I was 20 years old, still shaking off the rhetorical and emotional baggage that came with a southwestern Missouri upbringing, tinged with morality and religion, the abstinence-only sex education carved into my memory of middle school.”
Scattered Pictures #2: Naz Riahi As a Young Girl in Post-Revolution Iran
by Naz Riahi
“When our second grade teacher told us, her classroom of 8-year-old girls, to take off our roosary (headscarf), we were confused. We looked around the room at each other, frightened, unsure of what to do. Was this a trap? Was she going to report us? Have us arrested? Have our families killed? It may seem dramatic to ascribe so much power to a teacher (she was also our vice principal), but she was affiliated with the Islamic regime, and no evil was beyond them.”
I Sought a Good-Luck Charm to Write. I Found My Body Instead
by Katie Okamoto
“I think this is why writing is hard: Writing is an act of translating what is true inside through the medium of language. It is laborious and exhausting because it requires at least two kinds of mindfulness, becoming conscious of oneself and converting that consciousness as precisely as possible into words, which are gooey and imprecise. The body is essential to writing because it is where sensing lives. And I can’t write when I don’t want to feel.”
I Have Never Been to the Place Where I am From, But I Will Imagine It For Us
By Mai Serhan
“I have never been to the place where I am from, but I can imagine it for us, Baba, for you and me. Memory might fail us more than 70 years on, but I have read all the stories you denied me, tinkered with all the words, stored endless images I can now mix and match to piece it all together.” *This essay was a finalist in Narratively’s spring essay contest.
Essays from Around the Web…
The Orca and the Spider: On Motherhood, Loss, and Community
by Grace Loh Prasad
“My sorrow was like a stone dropped into a lake that immediately sank to the bottom and made no ripples; like hearing deafening music that no one else could hear. It felt to me like a form of madness, this loneliness that was too profound for words.”
How Graffiti’s Origin Story Helped Me Make Peace with Writing for the Internet
by Liz Charlotte Grant
“I almost never see my words in actual ink. I’m an elder-Millennial a decade into a writing career. Most of the essays I have published have never made it to paper, existing only on the intangible wires of the Internet. This is the experience of most of my literary generation. We translate our sentences into a digital language we do not understand in order to reach across voids, where our words exist as brief blots of light in the minds of our readers. It’s miraculous and also fleeting in a way writers of other generations never experienced.”
The Young Harris Psalter (a graphic memoir)
by author/illustrator Coyote Shook
“The stories she would tell would make your skin crawl, and to top it off, she'd cross her heart & hope to die. But, like all good traumatizing cautionary tales, they prevented accidents, and that was the main thing.”
by Wiley Wei-Chiun Ho
“I slam cupboard doors and hack at the tofu on the cutting board like it’s pork bone. As I stir over the stove, I brood. I’m a grown-ass woman with a grown-ass life in Canada, holding down a demanding job, managing a house and raising a child on my own. But to my mother in Taiwan, my independence spells failure. “No father around for your son, no husband to take care of you.” My mother still can’t utter the “D” word in public without first glancing around in case someone might recognize her. After my divorce was finalized, I stopped visiting. Instead, once a month I call, teeth clenched.”
by Stephanie Vessely
“In a world where we treat motherhood as the peak achievement of womanhood, how can anyone who chooses a different path avoid feeling like they are missing out on something?”
My Mother's Son-Mat Reminds Me That Home Is Where The Heart Is
by Iris (Yi Youn) Kim
“Growing up as a 1.5-generation Korean American, I’d always been filled with preemptive anxiety for the day I’d introduce my significant other to my parents. The odds were that whoever I ended up dating might not be Korean—and they’d have to pass the dinner table test. I wasn’t sure how Theo, who is half-Filipino and half-Jewish, would react to the cultural challenges.”
📢 Memoir Monday founder (and reading series host) Lilly Dancyger is offering a workshop:
Essay Revision Intensive, 12/3
📢 Attention Publications and writers interested in having published essays considered for inclusion in our weekly curation:
By Thursday of each week, please send to email@example.com:
The title of the essay and a link to it.
The name of the author, and the author’s Twitter handle.
A paragraph or a few lines from the piece that will most entice readers.
Because of data limits for many email platforms, going forward we will only include artwork from our partner publications. No need to send art.
*Please be advised, however, that we cannot accept all submissions, nor respond to the overwhelming number of emails received. Also, please note that we don’t accept author submissions from our partner publications.
Memoir Monday is a reader-supported publication that pays contributors to its First Person Singular series of original essays. To support this work, become a paid subscriber.
You can also support Memoir Monday—and indie bookstores!—by browsing this Bookshop.org list of every book that’s been featured at the Memoir Monday reading series. It’s a great place to find some new titles to add to your TBR list!
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