There's No Such Thing As Too Many Personal Essays...(Here Are 7 of Them.)
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 occasional original personal essays under the heading of First Person Singular, for paying subscribers. If you haven’t become a paid subscriber, please consider becoming one.
The first essay, published in March, is Not Everyone Survived, by Lori Yeghiayan Friedman, in which she weighs the lasting trauma of a 1988 car accident that took the lives her her high school classmates.
Essays from partner publications…
An Ode to the Milk Bar of my Childhood
by Madelaine Lucas
"As the food dried into clumps it acquired a sickly sheen. Time took on a jellied stillness, and darkness began shading over the garden I’d been staring out at, my features doubtless as blank as the windowpane itself. My mother sighed heavily as she paced between the kitchen and breakfast room, wrestling with her own impatience. I remember feeling rather pleased with myself. My refusal, it seemed, was king. I relished the power I believed I exerted over my mother in that moment, the power of holding out. I revelled in my own inner resolve.Every childhood deserves a Boo Radley house and the Olympia Milk Bar was mine, although for years I didn’t know your shop had a name. I was eight the year my father and stepmother moved in three doors down and we became your neighbors. Remember me then—twiggy limbs and home-cut bangs, blonde hair already tarnishing. The sign out the front of your shop was missing as many letters as I was teeth. It read: MILK AND SNACK, SMOKES, S_E_TS, like an unfinished game of hangman. To me, you looked impossibly old, emerging out of the dark, cool interior with your black eyes and gray pallor, your thinning white hair."
"Who Is Steven Hotdog? Or, Untangling the 'Braided Essay'“
by Jess Zimmerman
"Like a Chicago-style hot dog, which famously can not be served with ketchup (yes, I looked up some styles of hot dog, leave me alone), what’s significant about the Steven Hotdog tweet is not only what it includes but what it omits. It gestures toward a braided structure, with two ideas set in parallel, but it’s missing the third. I think part of the reason the tweet feels so incriminating is that for writers or even readers of personal essays, that absence is loud. It resonates. The elision highlights the alchemy of metaphor; we can’t help but imagine a third part, born of the relationship between strand one (the writer’s hot dog memories) and strand two (the history of hot dogs). It’s this final strand, the synthesis, that will give the work its shape.”
From Voice on Addiction, "Nineteen"
by Mark Wallace
“You'll look back and you'll think the scars seem almost invisible, like maybe they'll be gone one day. But then you'll realize you're just looking at the smaller ones, and yes, the bigger one is still right there.”
Everything (Really Is) Fine
by Kim France
“I had decided long before getting fired that Lucky would be my last magazine job, and I wasn’t entirely certain what I wanted to do instead. At 46, I feared I’d be nobody’s top choice for any job. I felt, in some meaningful ways, that my career was maybe over…And as far as some were concerned, it was. Because I didn’t even try to follow up with another big job, which I guess did not go unnoted: For a long time after Lucky, if you typed my name into Google, the most popular Autofill was, ‘What happened to Kim France?’”
In the Heart of the Hall of Mirrors
by Chris Dennis
“I was seventeen when I moved to Enfield, Illinois, a village with a population of 600, to live with my mother. I had only seen her twice over the past few years. At fourteen I ran away from home to live with a man who was nearly a decade older than me. My parents were divorced, and before my mother moved to Enfield, she and my father had been living in separate apartments on opposite sides of the Saline County Housing Projects. My mother had a new boyfriend then, who had pinned me to the wall by my throat because I’d said I didn’t think the Bible was divinely inspired. He was one of those guys who’d sober up every few months and become very emotional about Christianity. When I left home they all thought I was living with the other parent. When they found out where I was, they were either too uncomfortable to say anything or too consumed by their own tragedies to make me come home.”
Essays from around the web…
By Cassie Mannes Murray
“I have been learning that it doesn’t make me more worthy of anything—to know. Knowing is finite. To not know is always the bigger burden. Burden: another word we have turned negative though it isn’t inherently so. We are all carrying histories like paper cuts, cultivating our own in the thin slice leftover. Trying to settle within, beside, or above our ghosts. Granulation tissue forcing the wound inward until we, some of us, choose to forget it was ever there. Whiteness is just the fibers of new tissue, the ability to gloss over. I realized I wanted Petty to have a legacy so he couldn’t refuse the history he carries, look down at his hands and call everyone else’s story, anyone else’s story, healed.”
by Alex Poppe
"It was his recipe book. Luke used to cook in his parents’ restaurant before they closed up shop and traded America for Korea. My mind flashed to the family dinner we had had the month prior: Luke, cooking; all of us sprinkled around the kitchen, holding greedy plates. ‘Give the book to Olivia yourself. You’re not leaving for a few days.’ My skin pricked. ‘Why are you going to a hotel? You’re not thinking of, of killing yourself?’”
📢 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.
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!
If you received this email from a friend or found it on social media, sign up below to get Memoir Monday in your inbox every week!