Q: What's Better than a Dozen Personal Essays? A: A Baker's Dozen
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 — and now many additional publications.
In addition to the weekly curation, there are now original personal essays under the heading of First Person Singular, for paying subscribers.
The seventh original essay, published in First Person Singular in August, is “The Sandwich,” by Yi Xue. The eighth original essay is coming in September. Submissions are open. You can find submissions guidelines and more on the “About” page.
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…
Eileen Myles Remembers Bobby Byrd
by Eileen Myles
“I arrived in New York knowing no one. Bobby knew more than me already, he knew Paul which was how he referred to him. He felt like an outlier somehow, this guy from Texas who was nonetheless one of us.”
by Rebecca May Johnson
“When I think about performing the recipe I think about the movements of subatomic particles or the orbits of moons and planets, there is a physics to it. The recipe introduces me to principles of touch, knife work, heat and time. The temporality of white becoming gold in oil. I must be careful about how I move my hands, the interventions they make can be significant, they are always in relation. In the study of electrons nothing is ignored because everything can have an effect, even looking. The proverb ‘a watched pot never boils’ was taken up by physicists trying to find ways to describe the behaviour of quantum particles. ‘Watched pot behaviour’ is another term for the Zeno effect in quantum physics, whereby frequent measurement inhibits the process being observed from actually taking place. Sometimes my anxiety or impatience causes me to take the pan off the heat too soon.”
I'm Retiring. Shouldn't I Be Celebrating?
by Michèle Dawson Haber
“Now that [retirement] is at hand, I feel on the cusp of loss, despite being certain that this is what I want. Sure, I’ll miss the work and my colleagues, but the anxiety I feel is bigger than that. I know I need to stop moping and pirouette into my blessed new life, but first, I want to figure out what it is I’m losing.”
by Nora Broker
“The first thing a baby learns is silence. From the overwhelming constancy of a mother’s heartbeat, that cacophony of blood, they are ripped away into the still empty of a world apart, a world alone. They seek anything then to ameliorate the betrayal in that silence—white noise, the thrum of a car’s engine, the din of a crowded restaurant, a parent’s voice, singing.”
A Fully Funded MFA Doesn't Mean Financial Security
by Katerina Ivanov Prado
“I had a running system with two friends from the program that we called our chaos savings account: emergency mini-loans of ten, twenty dollars so we wouldn’t overdraft. My friend Emma and I sent money to each other to hold onto so we couldn’t use it unthinkingly, so that no matter what, we’d make rent. I, like many other MFA students I knew, sold my plasma. While writing this essay, I tweeted asking other MFA alums to share the odd jobs they had in order to survive. The response I got was astounding: some hilarious, some horrifying, all affirming that it wasn’t just me. I wasn’t lazy or “bad with money” or unprepared. I was like everyone else scrambling for survival in my field.”
by Krys Malcolm Belc
“Now, when I feel the baby moving as I stand in the kitchen waiting for the rice to finish cooking, I think about all the ways my own body has disappointed me. Creation, reproduction, was supposed to be my inheritance, my potential; I, too, was once a daughter cell.”
by Yi Xue
“I can’t remember anything about the taste of that sandwich, but I vividly recall every detail of how that sandwich was “customized” for me…Maybe I used up my memory capacity for a single meal before that sandwich arrived. Or maybe the truth was I spent that entire meal nervously trying to figure out how much of a tip I was supposed to leave.”
Essays from around the web…
At the Pool, My Boy Can Enjoy Summer Like Everyone Else
by Alysia Abbott
“Something profound happens here at the pool, with all this vivid life on display. It’s a richness that makes space for all sorts of difference, including Finn’s. There’s nothing to hide here. Nothing to stare at either. He’s just a boy enjoying himself in the water like everyone else on a hot summer day.”
Finding My Own Voice Helped Me to Rediscover My Mother’s
by Gina Frangello
“I’ve come to understand a few things by now that I didn’t then: the way beauty can seem a threat to a man who doesn’t love himself; the way a woman he was once thrilled to get began to symbolize something he was sure to lose; the way keeping someone small can keep her tethered to you.”
by DW McKinney
“I ate collard greens at the kitchen table while my grandfather spoke about the possible haunting of our lives. He gobbled and slurped, juice spattering his plate, while he told me about The Ol’ White Woman who lived underneath my grandparents’ house. Her home was right below one of the guest bedrooms. Standing in the shade of my grandparents’ lone plantain tree, I would stare at the small door built into the house’s foundation.”
Roll Call of Abandoned Languages
by J. R. Ramakrishnan
“Empire made English my mother tongue—and the only one I have any real dominion over. It is the first language of my mother, who is from an Anglo-Indian minority, and the only language in which I spoke to my father. Educated during colonialism, he spoke English at home, more so than the Malayalam of his ancestors who came to Malaysia generations before, and Malay to the outside world. Chinese dialects and Tamil also formed part of his daily speech, as it did for most Malaysians, then and now.”
The Wonder Years
by Cheryl Graham
“On one of those nights, you pretend to be asleep on the couch, cheek pressed against the floral cushion, your face turned away from your mother, who sits in the chair opposite, talking to another woman in the room, and tells her she had been driving the day before, along the newly-built Interstate, speeding along that smooth white highway, and had thrown her wedding ring out the window.”
Acceptance, Both Ways
By Anita Vijayakumar
“I was an untested psychiatry resident learning the intricacies of therapy. She was my first patient, a young woman who needed to unpack her suffering. She spread out her traumas like snow globes, delicate stories encased in fractured glass. What will you do with them? she asked without speaking.”
📢 Attention Publications and writers interested in having published essays considered for inclusion in our weekly curation:
By Thursday of each week, please send to firstname.lastname@example.org:
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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