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Giveaway and review: Ready for Air, and more!

2013 October 18
by Rachel Turiel

Welcome to my new series on What Makes Memoir Outstanding!

But first: yesterday Dan rushed, on his lunch break, to pick up Rose from shared school, who’d been crying and sad and missing me, so she could….immediately assume the role of teacher, delivering art, spanish and guitar lessons to her students. I don’t even pretend to understand.


Welcome to my new series on What Makes Memoir Outstanding!

Ok. I’m not really starting a new series, because as you’ve noticed, I can barely pluck one post a week from the un-tuned guitar of my life. (Although, I wish I could just publish my little pocket notebook, because I’m still prolific, ideas-wise). But, if I were to write about what makes memoir, a genre I’m personally drawn to, outstanding, I would call upon these mentors:

Kristen Kimball, who wrote The Dirty Life (Do you like how I link to my very own review rather than, what, Amazon or something?) is masterful at moving her story along without getting bogged down in the telling-ness of emotions, thoughts and backstory. Rather, those are revealed, but only through the action of the story, like in these lines (after Kimball drives from NYC to Pennsylvania to interview a farmer who puts her to work for three days before granting her an interview):

“Michael did not look optimistic about my work capacity. I had traded my white blouse for a vintage Cheap Trick T-shirt, tight jeans, and a part of thrift store Dingos with chunky little heels. It was the kind of ironic-chic outfit that worked well in the East Village but looked strange and slightly slutty in a field in Pennsylvania.” 

Mary Karr is another masterful memoirist. She crafts sentences so stunning, you stop to savor them. Like she’s salting a stew, Karr uses just enough metaphor, but not too much. In Lit, she’s meeting her WASPy boyfriend’s parents for the first time, sitting at their formal dinner table, feeling the unspoken family tension in the air, when her boyfriend, Warren, gives a snide reply to  his father’s question:

“Warren’s reply prompts the first of many silences I’ll sit through at that table. Silence rolls across us like a grey sea fog. Ice crystals form around our faces. Forks freeze in place. The salad plates are cleared. Warren sits straight enough to be lashed to a stake.” 

Kate Hopper (who also wrote the indispensable writing tool-kit of books Use Your Words) just published, Ready for Air, a memoir about her daughter’s premature birth. I read it in two days due to the gripping-ness of it. Kate teaches, above else, to trust in honesty. Yes, you want your readers to like you, but they will like you for being vulnerable and uncloaked, not for being winner of The Martha Stewart Perfectionism Awards.

kate hopper

Hopper says, upon first seeing her daughter, “I don’t want this tiny yellow thing to be my baby.” She asks all the brave questions about motherhood, including (paraphrasing, here): what the fuck are we supposed to do all day with these helpless infants we love more than our own pumping heart? Or, what does it mean to be lucky; can you have suffered and still find the luckiness? Hopper answers her own questions as she lives and tells her courageous story. I am so glad Kate’s story is out in the world.

kate hopper2

Kate Hopper

Kate is a writing teacher (both in person and online), and creator of the class “Motherhood and Words,” and an encouraging midwife to all Mamas who have a story to share.

Read Kate’s blog here

Kate on Twitter

THREE cool options:

1) Kate Hopper’s publisher is giving away ONE FREE COPY to a reader of this blog. Leave a comment below telling me your favorite memoir. 

2) Fifteen copies will be given to NICUs. Enter the NICU of your choice (how COOL is that?).  Click on Kate’s blog to enter this giveaway. Please include in your comment the name and address of the hospital, specifying whether it goes to the NICU or family resource center, etc. At the end of the tour, Kate will randomly pick 15 hospitals to receive signed copies of Ready for Air.

3) Third: a book club visit. Kate wants to come to your book club — either virtually or in person. Kate believes that memoir   connects us, heals us, makes us feel less alone, and makes the new known, familiar, and necessary, and she is available to talk to your book club about this and more! To enter the contest, all you need to do is e-mail with the subject line Ready for Air Book Club Contest and include a few sentences about why you’d like to have Kate visit your book club.



More beloved memoir:

Gabrielle Hamilton: Bones, Blood, Butter

Melissa Coleman: This Life is in Your Hands

Anne Lamott: Operating Instructions (and all other non-fiction)

Catherine Newman: Waiting for Birdy

Ayun Halliday: The Big Rumpus

Katrina Kenison – The Gift of an Ordinary Day

Jeannette Walls – The Glass Castle

Annie Dillard – Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Kay Redfield Jamison – An Unquiet Mind

Beth Kephart – Slant of Sun

27 Responses leave one →
  1. Trina permalink
    October 18, 2013

    Favorite memoir? Favorite? Too hard. I too loved Slant of Sun by Beth Kephart.

  2. Lisa permalink
    October 18, 2013

    I loved Kelle Hampton’s (whose website I found you through) book Bloom, about her first year with her daughter who has down syndrome. So beautiful and uplifting.

  3. October 18, 2013

    You gave me some new ones here in your list to check out – YAY!!! I love Anne Lammot. I pretend she is my aunt. It really helps. Also loved Wild (Cheryl Strayed) and recently read If You Lived Here I’d Know Your Name by Heather Lende about her life in Alaska…and along the lines of hard and true stories around birth, Monica Wesolowska wrote an amazing book about the short life of her son in Holding Silvan. Not sentimental, sometimes really hard to read, but so present and giving.

  4. linden permalink
    October 18, 2013

    I love the memoir Little by Little – Jean Little, very inspirational, after reading her young adult books and them getting me through my difficult, low self esteem years, it was wonderful reading her memoir.

  5. Sara permalink
    October 18, 2013

    There are a lot on your list that I read and liked— liked Kenison’s Magical Journey too. Now restraining myself from running through my Goodreads list to think of others that I’ve forgotten. Just added Holding Silvan to my list based on Debbie’s suggestion.

    Both of Kate’s books are wonderful.

  6. Christine D. permalink
    October 18, 2013

    I haven’t read enough memoirs – note to self – read more!!! However, I too loved Kelle Hampton’s Bloom – it’s also how I found you!!

    And now I will need to check out the list you have above and start reading :)

  7. Bree permalink
    October 18, 2013

    My love of memoirs started when I was 11 years old and found the book Alex, the Life of a Child. Maybe it wasn’t the best-written book (I can’t really remember) but it made such an impression on me.

    ‘This Life is in Your Hands’ is probably my current favorite. I would also suggest: ‘A Million Miles in a Thousand Years’ by Donald Hall and ‘The Seasons on Henry’s Farm’ by Terra Brockman

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      October 18, 2013

      My love of memoirs started when I was a kid too, probably with Harriet The Spy or Island of the Blue Dolphins, fiction-memoirs that they are.

  8. Rachel Buklad permalink
    October 18, 2013

    I admit that it is lame that I only leave comments when you do giveaways. Pretty sure that says something about myself. Rachel, your posts are so brilliant and inspiring. I read them even when I am supposed to be doing other things, like now, for instance. I am waiting for your memoir, which I’m sure would top my list. Otherwise some recent ones I’ve enjoyed are Wild, and Hit by a Farm which is about a lesbian city couple who try sheep farming and is really hilarious.

  9. October 18, 2013

    Does it count if our favourites are ones you’ve already mentioned? :)The Dirty Life is awfully close to the top of my list, with anything by Anne Lamott close behind.
    I’m also drawn to spiritual memoirs of any kind; I LOVED both of Karen Maezen Miller’s Books, Momma Zen and Hand Wash Cold (Buddhist slant) and Philip Yancey’s book, Soul Survivor (Christian slant).

    Thanks for this post… I’m so excited to order some of these titles from my library. I’ve learned to totally trust your recommendations.

    Also, we love you just as much if you only put out one post per week. It means you may have had time for an extra cuddle? snack? nap? shower? writing project? and that’s all good.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      October 18, 2013


      Thank you for that affirmation. There’s probably been more time put to snuggles and writing projects. Confession: I had to put “shower” on my to do list yesterday.

  10. kim permalink
    October 18, 2013

    I’ve read quite a few blog posts lately about reading and it’s painfully clear that I don’t read enough. I did read Wild though and loved it……also The Mother Knot by Jane Lazarre comes to mind as something I really connected with.

  11. October 18, 2013

    yer list is pretty darn inclusive, girl! Anne Lammott, Catherine Newman (swoon), Jeanette Walls and Ayun Halliday definitely all top my list – but you have GOT to put “Chelsea Whistle” by Michelle Tea on yer personal book-roll. gritty, uncomfortable, beautifully written and so so smart. i also really like “wasted” by Marya Hornbacher. heartbreaking, twisty, utterly devoid of bullshit – so good.

  12. Jeanne permalink
    October 18, 2013

    She hasn’t finished a book yet, but Nici Holt Cline’s blog “Dig This Chick” is fantastic!

  13. October 19, 2013

    I’m back here today for some of the titles you suggested and thought I’d better give you (and your comment readers) one more. It’s called “An Everlasting Meal” by Tamar Adler and it’s exquisite. It’s a foodie memoir–and I’m very picky about foodie memoirs–but this one gripped me and had me laughing, nodding my head, and salivating til the very last page. Even if you don’t like cooking, it’s worth reading for her writing.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      October 19, 2013

      Yes! Love foodie memoir (have you read Bones, Blood, Butter? Keep ’em coming!

    • Alanya permalink
      October 21, 2013

      Here to second An Everlasting Meal — very elegant and lovable book.

      • Rachel Turiel permalink
        October 21, 2013

        Just reserved this at my library. Thanks for the double recommendation!

  14. Marlene permalink
    October 19, 2013

    Oy. For a bit of Canadiana, and a memoir that I would guarantee you will love, but really, there are no guarantees except for those that involve lego and vacuum cleaners: Too Close to the Falls, by Catherine Gildiner. Oh wait. It’s not set in Canada. But she lives here. Does that count? So. Damn. Good.
    And speaking of prematurity and motherhood, have you read Half-Baked? By, um, Alexa, who I feel like I know because I read her blog, but obviously, I don’t, because I don’t know her last name. And I could google it, but I won’t, to leave you with the full impact of my twitterpattedness.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      October 20, 2013

      I did read Half-Baked, on your suggestion! Will check out the Gildiner book.

  15. Nicole permalink
    October 19, 2013

    I love so many of the memoirs you have listed, especially Ayun Halliday’s “the Big Rumpus” which will always have a special place in my heart. It would not be overstating to say that it saved me from post-partum depression. But, my absolute favorite (and another post-partum lifesaver) is Ariel Gore’s “Atlas of the Human Heart”. It’s a travel memoir which culminates in the birth and babyhood of her daughter and is so outrageous and beautiful you wouldn’t believe it as fiction.

  16. October 20, 2013

    Love, love, love Kate!!

  17. Crazy tomato lady permalink
    October 20, 2013

    Memoirs are my favorite genre! I just finished reading Tony Hillerman’s memoir, Seldom Disappointed. I skipped some dry parts about his military service, but enjoyed the childhood and NM related stuff. My favorite memoir I read in the last few months was The Good Life Lab by Wendy Tremayne, which was a part of your last giveaway! Thanks for the recommendation.

    One of my all time favorites is Sastun, My Apprenticeship with a Maya Healer by Rosita Arvigo. I love ethnobotany and had done some archeological work in the area in Belize the author wrote about, so i could visualize everything. I lean toward gardening, farming, and natures memoirs, but I admit I loved Eat, Pray, Love when I read it years ago, as well as her follow up book, Committed. Wesley the Owl by Stacey O’Brian was a quick fun read if you are a bird nut or have bird lovers in your life. Last recommendation is Lizards in the Mantel, Burros at the Door: A Big Bend Memoir by Etta Koch. Thanks for the contest… Will share book with friends if I win! :)

  18. melissa permalink
    October 20, 2013

    I love this! And thanks for the new book list… This will keep me busy for the next year!

  19. October 22, 2013

    I’m so happy to have this list of wonderful memoirs. Thanks again, Rachel, for being part of the tour. And thanks for everyone for the suggestions!

  20. October 31, 2013

    that are one ok post! Coach Outlet Stores Usa

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