Posts tagged ‘Memoir’

August 17th, 2014

SheBooks ~ Out of Dublin by Ethel Rohan

by Gwen


I tend not to like short pieces because they leave me feeling unfulfilled and wanting more. However, when I learned about SheBooks this was the first title that caught my eye.  My Great-Great Grandparents came out of Ireland in the late 1800’s and settled in New York. Here was a contemporary emigration and not to the east coast, but to San Francisco, a city I have loved and lived in. I wondered why the author left and how she felt about NorCal. I worried that the short format wouldn’t allow me to grasp either answer.

Let me tell you, I cried. That’s right, Ethel Rohan was able to pluck my heart strings by bringing me back in my own time machine in less than 38 pages. It’s embarrassing; very few books make me cry, but this one had me balling and I’ll tell why.

This isn’t so much a story of going away as it is a story of coming home and taking care of those that took such wonderful care of you as a wee bairn. Rohan made every word count in recounting her childhood and the lengths she took to make her mother feel useful and uses just 4 teeny paragraphs to explain the burden that no child should have, little own, to themselves.

Fast forward to years later when first she loses her mother than perhaps the most heart wrenching of all, her father while back in Ireland. If was the most heartfelt, vulnerable, and touching few paragraphs of goodbye that I have ever read. Grab Out of Dublin if you love your family, if you have lost members of your family, or just because you could use a good cry. I did.

Out of Dublin by Ethel Rohan

Sort of Like Gwen's Signature

September 1st, 2010

Hiroshima in the Morning by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto ~Review

by Gwen


From Goodreads:

In June 2001 Rahna Reiko Rizzuto went to Hiroshima in search of a deeper understanding of her war-torn heritage. She planned to spend six months there, interviewing the few remaining survivors of the atomic bomb. A mother of two young boys, she was encouraged to go by her husband, who quickly became disenchanted by her absence.

It is her first solo life adventure, immediately exhilarating for her, but her research starts off badly. Interviews with the hibakusha* feel rehearsed, and the survivors reveal little beyond published accounts. Then the attacks on September 11 change everything. The survivors’ carefully constructed memories are shattered, causing them to relive their agonizing experiences and to open up to Rizzuto in astonishing ways.”

That was enough to make me want to read it, but there is more.

Separated from family and country while the world seems to fall apart, Rizzuto’s marriage begins to crumble as she wrestles with her ambivalence about being a wife and mother. Woven into the story of her own awakening are the stories of Hiroshima in the survivors’ own words. The parallel narratives explore the role of memory in our lives and show how memory is not history but a story we tell ourselves to explain who we are.”

My take:

Hiroshima in the Morning started out really slow for me and frankly, Reiko’s constant questioning of herself and her motives for taking trip was a tad annoying. Seriously, she is a published author and a mother of two, how could she have been so insure of herself and her identity?

Slowly, I felt a change in her thinking and that brought about a change in my opinion. While 9/11 made a big impact in how the people she was interviewing treated her, I could also see her true identity emerging. Truly, it was like watching a butterfly come out of a cocoon and I hate butterfly analogies, so I don’t use them lightly. She began to stand up for herself and what she wanted, not just go along with the flow or try to placate her husband.

The book is less about Hiroshima or 9/11 and more about a woman defining herself. Call it a self-exploration or a memoir while horrific events are being studied and still happening in the background.

I could go on and on about what stuck with me and made me think. She has an interesting way of looking at things and processing them in her own mind, as well as dealing with so much inner turmoil at a time that our country as a whole was in flux.

Hiroshima in the Morning is a book that will float around in my mind for a long time, not only for what she wrote, but because how she made me look back at my own memories, questioning how I let them define me….if I choose to let them define me at all.

From Hiroshima in the Morning….

“I spent the last seven months assembling. Making a life collage, and hoping that, if I step back far enough, if others do, an image will appear. There are a million facts, a million stories: every writer will find a different one in the same rubble. Each of us will reconceive the story. We will build an argument; we will raise a truth. It may not resemble “the truth,” if there is such a thing-we may mistake someone else’s opinion for fact; we may be lying or hoping for the best.”

Hiroshima in the Morning by Rhana Reiko Rizzuto

For info on the author, a trailer, & much more check out The Feminist Press

Just released today!

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: The Feminist Press at CUNY (September 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558616675
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558616677



May 13th, 2010

The Bucolic Plague: From Drag Queen to Goat Farmer by Josh Kilmer-Purcell ~Review

by Gwen


What happens when two New Yorkers (one an ex–drag queen) do the unthinkable: start over, have a herd of kids, and get a little dirty?

The Bucolic Plague starts off with the most hilarious Authors Caution that I have ever read.

This book is not about living your dream. It will not inspire you. You will not be emboldened to attempt anything more than making a fresh pot of coffee.
The author reminds you that there are plenty of other memoirs out there written by courageous souls who have broken with their past, poetically leaving behind things such as:
1. Drugs and/or Drinking
2. Career Ennui
3. Bad Relationships
….and have successfully achieved goals such as:
1. Creative Fulfillment
2. The Simple Life
3. Jesus’s Approval
The author notes that those memoirs are generally full of more shit than a bard at the end of a long winter.

The Bucolic Plague had me from that page and I couldn’t put it down. Part memoir, part making fun of the things that we all try and fail the first time around, it kept me cheering for the pair. You find yourself cheering for them at the same time you are could I pull this off?

Josh Kilmer-Purcell, a former drag queen and current ad executive and his partner, Dr. Brent Ridge, formerly a Vice President of Healthy Living at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, were on an apple picking trip in upstate New York when they stumbled upon the Beekman Mansion in Sharon Springs. It was love at first site with the historic home completed in 1802.

The pair thought that it would make a great getaway home and that it would be fun to become gentleman farmers. How hard could it be, right? Let me tell you right now, the fun really begins when you are cleaning up poop covered goats with wet naps for their debut on the Martha Stewart show and gets better from there.
What was a bonus to The Bucolic Plague was the over all message Kilmer-Purcell learns and shares with us. That it isn’t about being perfect, like Martha Stewart, or about having the “best life” like Oprah, it is about living the best way for you.

If you pick up one memoir this year, make it this one. You’ll laugh, you will encounter zombie flies and you will learn some very important things.

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May 7th, 2010

Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting! By Robert Boich ~Review

by Gwen

Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting! “A Bridge from Addiction to Early recovery” By Robert Boich

Let me preface this review by telling you this, my name is Gwen and I am an alcoholic. What makes that important for this review is that Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting! is about Boich’s first six months or so of his sobriety and the lessons that he has learned. If you aren’t an addict/alcoholic yourself or have one in your life, this book isn’t for you and I will see you on my next review.

Still here? Howdy.

Robert Boich has written a great introduction to the world of living clean and  sober. What many don’t realize, is that being sober has very little to do with just not drinking. It is about living and creating a totally different way to deal with life and all it entails with an ever growing set of tools and new outlooks. Boich realized that really early on in his sobriety, bares quite a lot of himself in this book and shares what he has learned.

Excuse Me includes chapters on gratitude, honesty, acceptance, resentment and more, Boich interweaves his experiences with the things that alcoholics/addicts face in recovery. I really appreciated the journaling aspect of it. It was less about having the 12 steps crammed down your throat and more about how he came to realize how to deal with life in his own way.

The book is subtitled, A Bridge from Addiction to Early Recovery and that is important to note. This is a primer of sorts, if you have been sober for a while, like I have, there isn’t as much in it for you as there would be for someone that is new to recovery. Still, there are some unique ways of looking at things that may be new for the person that has been in recovery for a while. I wish that this book had been around when I first got the hint that maybe I needed to stop drinking. Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting! would have been a godsend.

I applaud Robert Boich for his honesty, thoughts, for getting this published and most of all, for getting clean and sober.

Excuse Me Your Life is Waiting

I was sent a copy of this great book by Robert Boich and Pump Up Your Book and I thank them kindly!


October 28th, 2009

Lit: A Memoir by Mary Karr

by Gwen

Lit: A Memoir by Mary Karr

Mary Karr has proven my own personal idea that behind every alcoholic is a creative comedic genius just crying to get out. Lit is not only her story of getting sober, but of how she stumbled into writing memoirs.

If you have ever wondered what goes on inside the twisted mind of an alcoholic, but wanted to be laughing while learning, this is the book. Karr’s ability to laugh at her own insane antics while writing about her road to recovery had me, at times, laughing so hard that I was crying.

Let me just give you a taste….

”If you’d told me even a year before I start taking my son to church regular that I’d wind up whispering my sins in the confessional or on my knees saying the rosary, I would’ve laughed myself cockeyed. More likely pastime? Pole dancer. International spy. Drug mule. Assassin.”

I have read many memoirs about getting drunk, getting sober and just plain getting over a tough childhood, but seldom have I been treated to someone letting it all hang out with a wry wit, a touch or sarcasm, and such openness as Mary Karr gifted us all in Lit.

There are a few, I think unique, ways that I measure books and their worth. One way is when passages touch me so much that I follow Art around the house, constantly telling him, “(You have to hear this.” I have to give him a hug for putting up with me on this.)

The second, and most important, way that I judge a book is by how it changes me or my outlook when I am done reading. There are great books that entertain, fill time, or maybe make me wish that I had been a spy as opposed to what I do now, but very few are good enough to not only entertain you and give you a few lightning bolt moments.

Lit, gave me a few of those moments where I suddenly understood some things that have baffled me for years. I may not be as far along in my recovery as Mary Karr is, but I am further along thanks to reading her work.

Lit: A Memoir
By Mary Karr

Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Harper (November 3, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0060596988
ISBN-13: 978-0060596989

For more about Lit: A Memoir and Mary Karr check out Harper Collins