You might know that November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but did you know that November is also National Life-Writing Month? Bucknell University Press’s catalog includes several exemplars of the genre, which we’re pleased to share with you here.
Suzanne Farrell Smith’s father was killed by a drunk driver when she was six, and a devastating fire nearly destroyed her house when she was eight. She remembers those two—and only those two—events from her first nearly twelve years of life. While her three older sisters hold on to rich and rewarding memories of their father, Smith recalls nothing of him. Her entire childhood was, seemingly, erased. In The Memory Sessions, Smith attempts to excavate lost childhood memories. The result is an experimental memoir that upends our understanding of the genre. Rather than recount a childhood, The Memory Sessions attempts to create one from research, archives, imagination, and the memories of others.
by A.W. Barnes
The Dark Eclipse is a book of personal essays in which author A.W. Barnes seeks to come to terms with the suicide of his older brother, Mike. Using source documentation—police report, autopsy, suicide note, and death certificate—the essays explore Barnes’ relationship with Mike and their status as gay brothers raised in a large conservative family in the Midwest. Because of their shared sexual orientation, Andrew hoped he and Mike would be close, but their relationship was as fraught as the author’s relationship with his other brothers and father. While the rest of the family seems to have forgotten about Mike, who died in 1993, Barnes has not been able to let him go. This book is his attempt to do so.
Edited by Tanya M. Caldwell
Writing Lives in the Eighteenth Century is a collection of essays on memoir, biography, and autobiography during a formative period for the genre. The essays revolve around recognized male and female figures—returning to the Boswell and Burney circle—but present arguments that dismantle traditional privileging of biographical modes. The contributors reconsider the processes of hero making in the beginning phases of a culture of celebrity. New work on Frances Burney D’Arblay’s son, Alexander, as revealed through letters; on Isabelle de Charriere; on Hester Thrale Piozzi; and on Alicia LeFanu and Frances Burney’s realignment of family biography extend current conversations about eighteenth century biography and autobiography.
Writing Home offers readers a firsthand account of the life of Emma Alderson, an otherwise unexceptional English immigrant on the Ohio frontier in mid-nineteenth-century America, who documented the five years preceding her death with astonishing detail and insight. Her convictions as a Quaker offer unique perspectives on racism, slavery, and abolition; the impending war with Mexico; presidential elections; various religious and utopian movements; and the practices of everyday life in a young country. Introductions and notes situate the letters in relation to their critical, biographical, literary, and historical contexts.
Whenever Bakhtin, in his final decade, was queried about writing his memoirs, he shrugged it off. This reticence to tell his own story was the point of access for Viktor Duvakin, Mayakovsky scholar, fellow academic, and head of an oral history project, who in 1973 taped six interviews with Bakhtin over twelve hours. They remain our primary source of Bakhtin’s personal views: on formative moments in his education and exile, his reaction to the Revolution, his impressions of political, intellectual, and theatrical figures during the first two decades of the twentieth century, and his non-conformist opinions on Russian and Soviet poets and musicians. Mikhail Bakhtin: The Duvakin Interviews, 1973, translated and annotated here from the complete transcript of the tapes, offers a fuller, more flexible image of Bakhtin than we could have imagined beneath his now famous texts.
by Keith Crook
Joseph Forsyth, traveling through an Italy plundered by Napoleon, was unjustly imprisoned in 1803 by the French as an enemy alien. Out of his arduous eleven-year “detention” came his only book, Remarks on Antiquities, Arts, and Letters during an Excursion in Italy (1813). Written as an (unsuccessful) appeal for release, praised by Forsyth’s contemporaries for its originality and fine taste, it is now recognized as a classic of Romantic period travel writing. Keith Crook, in this authoritative study, evokes the peculiar miseries that Forsyth endured in French prisons, reveals the significance of Forsyth’s encounters with scientists, poets, scholars, and ordinary Italians, and analyzes his judgments on Italian artworks. He uncovers how Forsyth’s allusiveness functions as a method of covert protest against Napoleon and reproduces the hitherto unpublished correspondence between the imprisoned Forsyth and his brother.
By Rosario Ferré, translated by Suzanne Hintz and Benigno Trigo
Memoir is Rosario Ferré’s account of her life both as a writer and as a member of a family at the center of the economic and political history of Puerto Rico during the American Century, one hundred years of territorial “non-incorporation” into the United States. The autobiography tells the story of Ferré’s transformation from the daughter of a privileged family into a celebrated novelist, poet, and essayist concerned with the welfare of Puerto Ricans, and with the difficulties of being a woman in Puerto Rican society. It is a snapshot of twentieth-century Puerto Rico through the lens of a writer profoundly aware of her social position. Included are many photographs that connect Ferré’s life with the story of her writing career.
By Sascha Feinstein
In this memoir, Sascha Feinstein recounts life with his father, Sam Feinstein, who was both a brilliant artist and a hoarder of monumental proportions. He collected only uncollectible objects—artifacts that required him to give them importance—and at the time of his death in 2003, his hoarding had fundamentally destroyed all three of his large homes. Despite this, Sam Feinstein was a remarkable painter and art teacher. This strange double helix of creativity and destruction guides these collage-like reflections. Like his students’ canvases—paintings inspired by enormous still lifes constructed from the world’s refuse—this book incorporates myriad sources in order to create a more layered experience for the reader. The final result is the depiction of a painter with the highest artistic ideals who nevertheless left behind an incalculable amount of physical and emotional wreckage.
You can order these books by following the title links to their individual ordering page, or discover more books through our partnership with Rutgers University Press or distributed by Rowman & Littlefield.