Domenica Ruta

Domenica Ruta writes:

“Until very recently, memoirs were not something I reached for when I was hungry for a good read. Before I set out to write one myself, I could count the number of memoirs I’d read on one hand, and most of those books had been assigned reading in college. Personal narratives are now a big part of my literary diet. Here are a few memoirs that I’ve found startling and inspiring.”

The Three of Us
By Julia Blackburn

“I read this book in one breathless night. Blackburn is a dazzling storyteller, and it just so happens that one of the most staggering tales she has in her arsenal is her own. The Three of Us chronicles Blackburn’s formative years amid the battleground of her parents’ marriage in postwar England. Her father was a poet, an alcoholic, and a monster capable of spectacular violence when the mood struck him. Her mother was even worse. It is the Euripidean tragedy of Blackburn and her mother that propels this memoir into its most complicated and fascinating conflicts. After her parents divorce, a teenage Blackburn lives with her mother and the men she takes on as boarders and lovers. A sick love triangle erupts that is as shocking as it is inevitable. Blackburn’s ability to resolve these entanglements as both a writer and a daughter is nothing short of miraculous.”

The Reenactments
By Nick Flynn

The Reenactments does that astonishing, almost dizzying thing only a poet of Nick Flynn’s caliber can do — harness the entire world inside the obscure and specific obsessions of one man’s mind. Following the success of his first memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, Flynn embarks on the strange task of adapting his life story for a movie, Being Flynn. The Reenactments limns the surreal experience of seeing his life recreated by actors — no less than Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore — while reconciling the limits of knowledge, memory, trauma, and recovery through meditations on neuroscience. And then there’s the story of the father-son team of glass blowers who elected the Herculean labor of recreating every known species of flower in glass for a Harvard museum. Flynn braids these threads into an exquisite, disquieting work that is so much more than the sum of its parts.”

Without a Map
By Meredith Hall

“Hall was a bright, sensitive teenager in a 1960s New England town whose first sexual experience — a tryst with a nice college boy on the beach one night — would change her life in heart-wrenching ways. Without a Map begins with the poignant story of the baby she had and was forced to give up at sixteen, but the chapters that follow bring to light the excruciating silence and loss she endured in the decades after. With a quiet, restrained lyrical power, Hall describes the psychic fragmentation wrought by her trauma, and her slow, remarkable journey to become whole again. It is a story of love and forgiveness you will never forget.”

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls
By David Sedaris

“Anything and everything by David Sedaris: please don’t make me choose one. What Sedaris has done with the personal essay is nothing less than alchemy: through well-observed details, defiant honesty, and a musical sense of timing, he transforms the base metals of solipsism, insecurity, failure, and fear into stories that make me proud to be a member of the human race. Whether it’s the endearing grotesquery of a long-term marriage, the brazen war for love and favoritism among siblings, or the baffling behavior of a mother on her deathbed, Sedaris plumbs the depth of emotional truth with more courage and artistry than any ‘humorist’ has dared to do.”

Speak, Memory
By Vladimir Nabokov

” ‘The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.’ This is the first sentence of Nabokov’s autobiographical masterpiece, and it only gets better from there. A work of transcendent, almost unearthly power, Speak, Memory is a book that deserves to be shelved alongside Confessions of Saint Augustine.”