Between the Lines – January 2019

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True Stories by Real People. Memoir Suggestions from Orinda Books.

    Reading a great memoir is like listening to a friend share hopes and dreams. At best, we go on a journey, learning about obstacles in life and how they changed the author. At their very best, the second we put the memoir down we tell all our friends they have to read it.
    Celebrity memoirs have always been popular, and Sally Field’s In Pieces pulled me in immediately. Her storytelling is direct, warm and honest. She gives the reader a backstage pass into the world of film and television, where she developed savvy, humility and grace. Just like her famous Academy Award speech, You like me, right now, you like me, you will not only like getting to know Field, you’ll admire her sharp-witted perseverance even more.
    Another memoir set against the backdrop of film and television is Christine S. O’Brien’s debut Crave: A Memoir of Food and Longing. O’Brien, daughter of high-profile ABC television executive Ed Scherick, along with her three brothers, survived living in a household teeming with control in which their mother forced a liquid diet regimen upon them. It’s a powerful story of survival and transformation, which is not an easy route for O’Brien. She is a gorgeous writer with sentences that light up even the darkest of moments, page after page.
    Dani Shapiro is a master memoirist, continually exploring vast themes from the perspective of a grounded observer. Her newest work, Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love reads at top speed when Shapiro discovers (through Ancestry.com!), that her origin story is much different than the story her parents told her. Inheritance makes you want to jump to the end to see if she’s able to get the answers she desperately needs to integrate her new identity.
    Senator Kamala Harris’ The Truths We Hold: An American Journey is a hybrid of memoir and current affairs, skillfully blending the Senator’s personal story, beginning with her early life in Oakland through her current work in the Senate, all while encouraging us as readers to consider our own opportunities for activism and leadership. We, too, can be vigilant in pursuit of our own truths.
    I recently discovered Karl Ove Knausgaard’s four-part essay series which begins with Autumn and ends with the newly released Winter. His short autobiographical essays contemplate the mundane and bat around fanciful abstractions—all in the name of cataloguing the world before his baby’s arrival. Knausgaard writes letters addressed to his Unborn Daughter and they are dazzling—simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking.
    If you’re looking for an edgy book (also set against the backdrop of Hollywood), I recommend Jill Soloway’s memoir She Wants It. When Soloway, a successful television showrunner, learns that her father is transgender, her family must adjust to the new normal. To cope, understand and give voice to the transgender community, Soloway created the award-winning television show Transparent. Entertainment mirroring life makes for a gripping read.
    Tell Me More And 11 Other Important Things I’m Learning To Say by Kelly Corrigan is a collection of essays that here at Orinda Books, we keep in the Inspiration section. Corrigan’s laugh-out-loud funny when writing about family life and she’s candid about her struggles with pain and grief. It’s the perfect book for a wide audience and fitting for many occasions.
    Noteworthy new paperbacks: Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine by Joe Hagan (controversial unauthorized biography). Happiness:  A Memoir: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After by Heather Harpham (beautiful story of parenthood under the harshest of circumstances).
    Enjoy a memoir in the new year!

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