The New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice
Long-listed for the Believer Book Award for Nonfiction
A Georgia Author of the Year Awards Nominee
"Christle tenderly engages the unsavory aspects of sadness until they become less strange. Rather than denying that self-pity can be pleasurable, she reveals how that pleasure comes from enfolding oneself in imagined care. The book inhabits an ambivalent zone between the acknowledgment that adult women have needs and the author’s fear that she has too many needs nevertheless. “ Katy Waldman, The New Yorker
"[A] lyrical, moving book: part essay, part memoir, part surprising cultural study." The New York Times Book Review
"[An] indelible book . . . [Christle is] fully aware that tears aren’t always to be trusted, even though they can come unbidden and unwantedthe reflexive byproduct of overwhelming emotion. She conveys her beliefs and suspicions in discrete paragraphs of text, quoting lines of poetry, personal correspondence, psychological studies . . . She’s drawn to metaphor, even though 'it is dangerous to always think one thing is another.' To insist on anything too permanent is to lay a trap. The kind of metaphor Christle seeks is at once truer and more tenuous." Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times
"Christle explores the mystery of tears while mining her own sorrows in this intelligent, compelling read." Kim Hubbard, People
"Poet Heather Christle’s book is about more than crying. As she reflects on the loss of a close friend to suicide and her own battle with depression, Christle asks why and how we cry and what it means, especially for women, to do so. But in The Crying Book, the author’s blend of personal experience and scientific research gives way to broader discussions about motherhood, mental health, grief and art." Annabel Gutterman, Time
"Invigorating . . . Unique and inspired . . . 'They say perhaps we cry when language fails, when words can no longer adequately convey our hurt,' Christle muses. But with The Crying Book, language hasn’t failed. Precisely the opposite. She’s used her gifts as a poet to get at the heart of why sadness arrives and how it affects us." Alexis Burling, San Francisco Chronicle
"The book’s effects are sly and cumulative, relying not so much on any one observation as on associations, echoes, contrastsa method that reflects Christle’s view of art and life, the interdependence, the complex contagion and repetition of feeling and action and reaction that marks them . . . It’s about grief and friendship, but only delicately so. Christle wants to preserve the particularity of experiences while illuminating what they have in common. Again and again she emphasizes that separation: 'It is dangerous,' she insists, 'to always think one thing is another, every event a metaphor for another.' This is also to say that writing itself is dangerous, as well as essential." Lidija Haas, Harper's Magazine
"Christle is a poet, and her prose shows it. You will surely end the book knowing much more about tears than when you started . . . Christle invites us into her sadness and along the way manages to unlock the beauty within." Jonathan Foiles, Psychology Today
"The Crying Book is a roving history, spanning a remarkable cast of grief experts showcased in wide-ranging vignettes . . . With a poet’s touch, gentle and delightfully promiscuous, Christle moves fluidly across disparate disciplines and between her sources’ professional and personal lives." Fathima Calder, Guernica
"Heather Christle's new book is a combination of personal musings about depression, childbirth, and motherhood, and fascinating researched tidbits about cryingits history, its use in literature and pop culture, its politics, and the science behind it all. Basically, it's Maggie Nelson's Bluets, but about crying, and it's every bit as dazzling as the stars that dot its cover." Cristina Arreola, Bustle
"Yes, this is a whole book on crying, and it’s sad and also beautiful . . . It’s a gorgeous book. Everything from the cover to the ideas to the sentences is moving and sometimes, in spite of what you might expect given the subject matter, comforting. Readers who like the fragmentary style of Sarah Manguso and Maggie Nelson will want to get a copy." Rebecca Hussey, Book Riot
"An eclectic reflection on human waterworks . . . The unconventional format, combined with the author's vast survey of the topic, provides fascinating food for thought. A surprisingly hopeful meditation on why we shed tears." Kirkus Reviews
"Readers are sure to be moved to tears themselves. This is a lovely meditation on life and death through the lens of tears, both those spurred by grief and those by joy." Booklist
"In The Crying Book, Heather Christle makes a poignant and piercing examination of the phenomenon of tearsexhaustive, yes, but also open-ended, such that I was left clutching this book to my chest with wonder, asking myself when the last time was that I cried, and why. A deeply felt, and genuinely touching, book." Esmé Weijun Wang, author of The Collected Schizophrenias
An eclectic reflection on human waterworks.
Award-winning poet Christle (Creative Writing/Emory Univ. Heliopause, 2015, etc.) pushes the boundaries of her genre with this hybrid approach to tears. Fusing poetry with lyric essay and a significant amount of research, the author sheds new light on the basic, universal phenomenon of crying. Beyond fact—namely, that at one point or another, fluid has leaked from everyone's eyes—some may wonder what more there is to know. This book provides the definitive answer: plenty. There are no chapters. Rather, in one long reflection, divided into small, partial-page sections, Christle examines such elements as pretend grief (she cites poet Chelsey Minnis, who calls it "cry-hustling"); "white tears," (a Caucasian person's response to suddenly realizing the enormity of systemic racism); and the differences between the three types of tears: basal (lubricant), irritant (a response to a foreign substance), and psychogenic (emotional). She also considers the distinction between crying and weeping—"crying is louder; weeping is wetter"—and introduces readers to professional mourners and lachrymatories, small vessels in which tears are stored. Of particular interest is Christle's inquiry into the connections among grief, gender, and anger. She wonders "whether men kill to create an occasion for the grief they already feel." The author infuses these tear-related themes with prose about her personal experiences, including her own treatment for depression and her staggering grief over a dear friend's suicide. The format of the book lends itself to either quick consumption or measured contemplation; sections range from one sentence to a little more than a page. Though this structure could make for a choppy text, the transitions between her various sources and streams of thought are mostly seamless, providing a pleasurable, even restful reading experience. The narrative is saturated with significant threads of sadness, but they don't overwhelm. Rather, the unconventional format, combined with the author's vast survey of the topic, provides fascinating food for thought.
A surprisingly hopeful meditation on why we shed tears.