Your Weekly Dose of Personal Narrative...
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 sixth original essay, published in First Person Singular in late July, is “Strange Heirloom,” by Elizabeth Roper Marcus. The seventh original essay is coming later this month. Submissions are open. You can find submissions guidelines and more on the “About” page.
Essays from partner publications…
by Salar Abdoh
“I mean to tell him that I came to see this suffering for myself in order to shed my resentment of Ukraine for stealing the show from an Afghanistan left indifferently to bleed. And I have seen such suffering — the staggering grief of mothers and widows and fiancés inside and outside cemeteries. The easy availability of luxury chocolate and cherry-sized blueberries mere kilometers from centers of destruction does not, it turns out, lessen the reality of mourning, any mourning, nor is a death in the Hindu Kush more of a death than one in Donetsk or Kherson.”
Tarek Abi Samra on Stealing Kant from a Bookstore
by Tarek Abi Samra
“I entered the bookshop already terrified and sweaty-palmed, determined to steal Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. I would have liked for the whole thing to be over in the blink of an eye. To be able to run as fast as I could to the section where I’d seen the book before, snatch it off the shelf, and then retrace my steps quickly, out of the bookshop and finally to safety. Or, conversely, I would have liked to be able to go back on my decision: to leave the place without the book, or to simply purchase it, since I had more than enough money for it in my wallet. But I’d resolved to prove to myself that I wasn’t a coward. ”
Horror Films understand the Terror of Pregnancy
by Heather O’Neill
“Even before the recent reversal of Roe v. Wade, I had been thinking about birth as an inherently traumatic experience—a fear that horror cinema has long played on. It’s often men who say that watching their baby being born is the most magical moment of their life. I mean, sure. If I saw someone else give birth to my baby, I might find it a delightful experience too. But it’s a brutal, inexplicable invasion of your body. We are told we will forget the pain, as though all the trauma of childbirth evaporates from our minds. But it did not for me. I can remember the pain and horror of it as though it were yesterday.”
Black and Female
by Tsitsi Dangarembga
“By the time I was in my teens, I had taken up an existence framed by a double negative: not male, not white. Not male came with other ‘nots’: not kind, not benign, not smiling. This meant instead of deploying my energy to positive effect, I was constantly pushing back against negatives. Continually engaging with negativity was disorienting and made me nervous. I felt badly off centre. Racism didn’t describe it all, in spite of Ian Smith’s settler government inclining increasingly toward an apartheid system similar to the one that was in place in South Africa at the time.”
Letter to My Younger Self #1
by Jay Blotcher
“You know the way Batman battles criminals on a Wednesday night and wins by Thursday night? One day, you will win the fight against kids who make you miserable. By junior high you will be that weird, creative kid. By high school you will bloom, finding friends in Drama Club. By college you will be popular. After graduation, you will move to New York City and make hundreds of friends…Most importantly, you will finally figure out why you were glued to the TV, cheering on Batman and Robin. And why you got a greater sense of security when playing with Larry. Hint: It has to do with liking boys.”
by Chanel Brenner
“His arm jerked. Every time I spoke, it happened. I wanted it to stop. I didn’t want it to stop. I kept looking up. I didn’t feel my son’s presence in his body anymore, but his body was all I could reach of him.”
Essays from around the web…
I was a child bride. It’s time to stop teaching girls to stay sweet.
by Tamara MC
“Like the young girls in Netflix’s #2 trending true-crime docuseries, Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey about Warren Jeffs’ Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), I also grew up in a religious fundamentalist community and was brought up to keep sweet and to lower my gaze and voice. I spoke with a high-pitched tone; sentences crumbled into questions because, as the lesser sex, my voice wasn’t valued and was often silenced. I am purposefully using the word girls instead of children because the worst violence in religious cults is against girls, who are the lowest in the hierarchy, after men, women, and boy children. Also, in most religious fundamentalism, genderless language refuses to be adopted—gender is and will probably remain black and white, boy and girl, man and woman.”
As our son flies away, are my tears for him? Or for our own leaving behind of youth?
by Anna Sublet
“I pushed the spiral-bound notebook on him, handing him a pen, pressing the journal into the side slot of his bag, saying, go on, you can document where you had the best beer in Greece, paste the label in, write which mate you were with and under what sort of tree…Will he do that? Maybe not. But I like to see the image in my mind of this kind of travel – its moments of contemplation, of waiting, of hanging out, sitting in the shade by the sea, and I like to think he might stick in a docket, or a restaurant card, or a train ticket, as I did and his father did when we travelled when we were young."”
It’s a Shame You’re So Ugly
by Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer
“The first time that I walked into that studio filled with students quietly chatting and mixing their paints, I felt at home. Jazz music was playing. I took off my clothes behind a screen with no trepidation and climbed up to the platform so the students could see all of me, my face, my flaws, my curves…Modeling for her class became a ritual, one that I kept up week after week. I could quickly shift, turn, pick up my hair, sit down, lie back, give them different angles.”
To the Kid on the Cruise Ship
by Erika Veurink
“The sun burned your pale skin. The whites of your eyes were tinted pink from chlorine, your tongue blue from the slushie machine. There was a mole under your collarbone that sat like a decoration. The ocean rocked us as the cover band played, somewhere between Honolulu and my father’s favorite island, Kauai. He was newly dead. A year and a half after his burial, we were going to the place he loved most, the furthest he had ever traveled from our home in Iowa. You were a long way from Mississippi, but you didn’t talk about home. All of us were on a ship, trying to forget something about life on land.”
My Lost L.A.
by Mari L’Esperance
“I’ve long been interested in how experiences shape a person, determine their choices — those made and not made. In this light, my ‘80s L.A. story is one of many chapters in a peripatetic life, but a formative and significant one. I’d not given it much serious thought for a long time, but late in the pandemic the memories came roaring back — partly due to age, but also, I suspect, because that particular chapter had long been muted by time, the weight of unforeseen adult responsibilities, and intervening personal losses.”
By Kim Steutermann Rogers
“Our instructor, a young man in a red Speedo not much older than my brothers, stands beside my mother. His lips move, but the buzzing in my ears drowns out anything he’s saying. Mom’s wearing her frilly green swim cap. Her fear of water is the reason we’re here. My fear is disappointing her.”
Thanks to everyone who came out to the summer edition of the quarterly Memoir Monday reading last week!
Memoir Monday founder Lilly Dancyger is offering an essay revision workshop you won’t want to miss!
I (Sari Botton) am also leading a workshop you might like. ..
This workshop I led in July went so well, I’m leading it again, August 22nd and 29th. Only 8 spots. Apply!
📢 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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