Clickbait, But for Smart People...Who Enjoy Personal Essays
Narratively meets The Rumpus meets Granta meets Guernica meets Oldster Magazine meets LitHub meets Orion meets The Walrus meets Electric Literature...
Welcome to Memoir Monday—a weekly newsletter featuring the best personal essays from around the web, and a quarterly reading series, brought to you by Narratively, The Rumpus, Granta, Guernica, Oldster Magazine, Literary Hub, Orion Magazine, The Walrus—and this week, we are thrilled to welcome Electric Literature aboard!
In addition to the weekly curation, there are now original personal essays under the heading of First Person Singular. The latest original essay, published in the series last week, is “Ditching Perfect for Joy,” by.
***Submissions for First Person Singular are now PAUSED. An overwhelming number of new submissions have recently come in. There are more essays in my inbox than I could publish in two years. And I’m too overwhelmed to keep bringing in more to read before I go through all those already in there, even with help from recently appointed contributing editor Katie Kosma.
*Going forward, there will be a Submittable account and specific submission periods, which I will announce here. You can find submissions guidelines and more on the “About” page, but, again, submissions are currently PAUSED.
In other news, recently I launched “The Lit Lab,” a new section of this newsletter dedicated to interviews and essays on craft and publishing. It is primarily for paid subscribers. Last week a video interview with author Abigail Thomas went live there. Among other things, Thomas and I discussed her new memoir, Still Life at Eighty: The Next Interesting Thing, and her process.
Memoir Monday is a reader-supported publication that pays contributors for original essays and interviews. To support this work, become a paid subscriber.
Essays from partner publications…
I Dare You To Find the Joke in Pat Benatar’s Music
by Drew Buxton
“In early 2010, I scrolled down my feed and saw a striking black-and-white photo of a woman in a striped shirt, a defiant look on her face. It was a book cover for Between a Heart and a Rock Place by Pat Benatar, a memoir set to be released the following month. I laughed. It’d been a while since I’d thought of her, and all the songs flashed through my head.”
The Public and Private Performance of the Deaf Body
by Raymond Antrobus
“The audiologist who fitted my new hearing aids was surprised when he took my hearing test. He said he’s around people with my level of deafness who struggle more visibly with it. A common saying about deaf people is that what we lack in hearing is compensated for with another sense, like a superpower.”
How Two Pieces of Art 50 Years Apart Helped Me Hate Cooking a Little Bit Less
by Rosalynn Tyo
“Every day around five o’clock, my eldest daughter asks me a question. It’s the same question every day, but I can’t seem to answer it without first skulking into the kitchen, peering into the fridge, and berating myself for having forgotten to defrost that pound of ground beef. The answer is eggs. Again.”
How to Embalm Yourself Before You're Dead
by Michelle Dowd
“As I got ready for Dad’s volleyball game, I used Mother’s body wash, her shampoo, her conditioner, her blow dryer, her comb. I used her toner, her facial and body lotion, her sunscreen, foundation, face powder and the lightest mocha lipstick she had in her collection. I pictured her using each of the products, imagining her getting ready with me. Each application felt like a ritual, like I was embalming myself with a wordless love.”
by Emily Raboteau
“At times it feels our desecration is wholesale. I could describe what it sounds like when my children can’t breathe. Or the scene, after a police raid, when my son asked me to stop walking the city, out of fear I may be shot. But Black pain is not so cheap. And Black joy is not so rare. I would rather you know that the day I took the M4 bus and wondered who had tagged the tundra swan, I was on my way to pick up free seedling kits for my children from the Horticultural Society of New York, so that we could grow pea shoots in the living room window of our apartment, through which we enjoy watching pigeons and the occasional red-tailed hawk.”
Reading My Dead Husband’s Emails
by Nancy Westaway
“The first line of Jon’s obituary read: “Family man, Winnipeg Jets fan and journalist Jonathan Jenkins died after a brutal home invasion—cancer crept in and robbed him of his life in his 50th year.” The line first appeared on Facebook, and then on Twitter. A cascade of messages took over my feeds. At first I was uncomfortable with the online grieving. When people clicked “like” on Jon’s obit after it was posted to Facebook, it felt remote and impersonal as if someone was taking something that belonged to the kids and me. But digital death notices and online goodbyes are part of modern love.”
Essays from around the web…
I’m an Ashkenazi Jew. What More Might My DNA Hold?
by Ilene V. Smith
“Still, I wondered if I would find out anything interesting. I had always harbored a secret hope that I was in some small part Irish. Blue-eyed, fair skinned, slightly freckled and born on St. Patrick’s Day, I felt I must have some blood connection to the residents of the Emerald Isle. Perhaps there was some scandal in the Smith family background that would have shown up through the detected chromosome of a great-great-grandparent’s secret Irish lover. Could there have been a more interesting reason these Jews from Vilna were named Smith?”
by Debbie Feit
“And you wonder when your mother will finally have her reprieve from the in-between, when you and your sister and your father will have your reprieve and when you will finally consider the small glass bottle in the fridge that arrived with the hospice nurse...”
Why Sharing Home-Cooked Meals is a Way of Building Family for One South Asian Writer
by Madhushree Ghosh
“Ma’s kitchen was a flurry with luchis frying in peanut oil, chicken cooking vigorously in a whistling pressure cooker, the smells of cinnamon ground with cloves sauteed in ghee mixed with grated onions/ginger/garlic, ready for minced goat curry. Every weekend was bustling in the kitchen, the roaring gas flame roasting eggplant, or the sizzle of a turmeric-coated piece of hilsa or rohu. ...Food is what we made, and talked about and then ate. Our world was food—the prep, the cooking, the serving, and then the cleanup. And again. And again.”
by Diana Ruzova
“Most of the people were from the Midwest. And where are you fine folks from? He roared with enthusiasm into the microphone, head cocked towards our table. He had shiny white teeth that looked like they belonged on stage. I wondered if he drank a lot of milk. His energy made the room buzz. Now, I guess he must’ve been blown out of his mind. Where ya from? he repeated. My parents looked at the ceiling, at each other, at me for reassurance, leighs wrapped around their necks like gold chains. RUSSIA! They exclaimed in unison before I could intervene.”
Thinking about na3na3
by noam keim
“They say that holding a cup of hot beverage is akin to a hug to the nervous system. I think about the generations of ancestors, who before me and my mother and my grandmother brewed herbs in hot water. I think about the way I already existed in my grandmother’s body when she herself made tea, pregnant with my mother, and the way she was present in her grandmother’s body. Seeds witnessing our lineage’s tradition. A practice of pouring water over the plants available to us, to let them remind us that we are loved along our whole line.”
The First Music I Ever Heard Was the Music of My Mother's Voice
by Caroline Wampole
“Carrying me up Madison Avenue on her way to work, late late late, she is always late coming off her night shift at the hospital, she really shouldn’t have two jobs in her condition, but what’s a girl to do when her husband’s a drunk and their money’s running out because he can’t hold down a job and gambles whatever Granny sends them? She loves to work, and she doesn’t even mind me sloshing around her waist as she dodges cars and cabs, honks and horns, and men with leering eyes.”
📢 Narratively is currently accepting submissions for their 2023 Profile Prize contest. They are looking for profile pieces that tell the story of ordinary people or communities doing extraordinary things. The grand prize winner will receive $3,000, and the two finalists will receive $1,000 each. Guest judges are renowned journalists Gay Talese, Lisa Lucas and Rebecca Traister. For more information and to submit a story, use their pitch form. There is a $20 entry fee and the deadline to submit is April 14.
📢 Lilly Dancyger also has a few new workshops on offer, plus manuscript and essay consultations. Lilly is a talented writer, editor, and teacher who will help you improve your work. Check out her offerings…
📢 The Woodstock Bookfest is back, March 30th to April 2nd in Woodstock, NY! If you attend, don’t miss the personal essay panel on April 1st, at 3:30pm, featuring Alexander Chee, Gary Shteyngart, and Carolita Johnson, moderated by me,.
📢 Attention Publications and writers interested in having published essays considered for inclusion in our weekly curation:
By Thursday of each week, please send to email@example.com:
The title of the essay and a link to it.
The name of the author, and the author’s Twitter handle.
A paragraph or a few lines from the piece that will most entice readers.
Because of data limits for many email platforms, going forward we will only include artwork from our partner publications. No need to send art.
*Please be advised, however, that we cannot accept all submissions, nor respond to the overwhelming number of emails received. Also, please note that we don’t accept author submissions from our partner publications.
You can also support Memoir Monday—and indie bookstores!—by browsing this Bookshop.org list of every book that’s been featured at the Memoir Monday reading series. It’s a great place to find some new titles to add to your TBR list!
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