Lucky 13. (That's How Many Essays Are Featured in Today's Roundup.)
Welcome to Memoir Land—a newsletter edited by, now featuring three verticals:
Memoir Monday, a weekly curation of the best personal essays from around the web brought to you by Narratively, The Rumpus, Granta, Guernica, Oldster Magazine, Literary Hub, Orion Magazine, The Walrus, and Electric Literature. Below is this week’s curation.
- . A new essay is coming soon.
The Lit Lab, featuring interviews and essays on craft and publishing, plus writing prompts and exercises. It is primarily for paid subscribers. Recently I posted “The Prompt-o-Matic #4,” the latest in that writing prompt series.
Memoir Monday is a reader-supported publication that pays contributors for original essays and interviews. To support this work, become a paid subscriber.
Please note: I am no longer posting about these roundups on X/Twitter.
Essays from partner publications…
Reading in the Dark
by Jemma Rowan Deer
“I always thought that I knew what it was to read…That was until late one evening in April 2019, when I came across a newspaper article describing a condition called “aphantasia”: the inability to produce mental imagery, the total lack of a “mind’s eye.” As I lay staring at the shadowy ceiling above my bed, a whole cluster of terms that I had always taken to be metaphorical erupted into literality. Imagining, visualizing, daydreaming: I had never realized these terms referred—in a simple, descriptive, nonfigurative sense—to the mental capacities of around 98 percent of the population…I had never realized that the yawning blankness of my own mind was not the norm.”
A Very Muslim Christmas
by Hana Shafi
“It was Eid in December and I was eight years-old. My mother had worked tirelessly that day, making dozens of little cut-outs, employing my sister and me as Muslim elves to her brown auntie Santa. We spent hours decorating the tiny paper mosques and crescent moons, making them shimmer. From there, we hung the DIY masterpieces from every branch of our plastic evergreen. Gold bangles adorned the entire tree; it dripped with golden beads and string. On the top, we placed a white crescent moon and star, shining for everyone to see. The Eid tree was a thing of beauty—and, perhaps, blasphemy.”
Meals and Memories: Sheila Squillante on Writing to Remember Her Father
by Sheila Squillante
“I am trying to write about food and my relationship with my father and I keep writing variations of the phrase, “My father died almost eighteen years ago.” Why do I prefer this phrasing to “My father has been dead almost eighteen years?” Something active about the revision. Something alive: My father died. Even in that ending he was acting. To be dead is to be passive, acted upon by dirt and time. I am mostly ﬁne telling people that my father died but I ﬁnd every day, even eighteen years later, that I am still not ready for my father to be dead.”
Twisting My Life Into a Story Sacrificed My Ability to Live It
by Jessica L. Pavia
“As writers, all we do is search for and make meaning from the mundane. We are sensitive to overheard conversations, to the passing of coffee from employee to customer. Moments that fester and form inside us until, one day, they burst forth demanding to be made into something new. We craft, constantly. It’s an obsession, all this meaning-making. A sort of high that we are constantly chasing. Just like Laroche, I suspect we are also hoping that some form of success (money or meaning or, ideally, both) waits at the other end.”
by Tiffany Marie Tucker
“The baby blue paint on my grandmother’s Dutch colonial on Yale Avenue never faded in the eleven years I lived with her, but I worried that ours might be the next home marked wrong with a red 'X.' Let the city tell it, the 'Xs' did not mark a structure for demolition, but in this neighborhood left to atrophy, no one could be sure.”
In the Movie Bunker
by Lutz Seiler
“It started with the poster – the wording framed in black, not unlike an obituary. Year after year, it was displayed at railway stations, at bus stops and on trees along the streets. The headline read MUSTERUNG, followed in bold by the year of birth of those who were being summoned. As a child, I thought I knew well enough what the word Musterung meant – ‘pattern’. For me, it was a word almost entirely associated with the plastic cloth on our kitchen table, with its dull sheen and pale blue check pattern that every morning took my tired eyes hostage. But for what or for whom was this ‘pattern’ being announced on the poster?”
by Lena Crown
“What was what like? I find myself wondering throughout. Each time I produce a different answer. Living in a city. Living in the twenty-first century. Living under late capitalism. Living in a city invaded by hotels. Living through the ephemerification of everything. Being in love. Having a body (while being in love, living in a city invaded by hotels).”
You're Not Supposed to Become a Huge Fan of Black Flag as a Middle-Aged Dad
“Moments after I dropped my daughter off at school, my employer laid me off…I boxed up the computer and signed up for unemployment while blasting Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown.” Although I didn’t consider myself a fan of this ’80s punk band, the song’s blazing fast guitar riff was the perfect accompaniment for releasing anger.”
by (Guest edited by )
“For the last ten years I’ve viewed our difficulties as an afterword, a sad addenda, circumstances so outside my expectations, they seemed to be happening to someone else. Our early heat replaced by caretaking, extravagant gifts by his forgetting our anniversary, home remodels reduced to raised toilet seats and grab bars. My sadness and grief, my rage, have so clouded my vision, it has taken a while for me to see what is obvious. This is marriage too. My marriage—most marriage—is eventually all of us facing decline and loss.”
Essays from around the web…
The Sound of Your Voice
by Joann Plockova
“Is it odd that my closest friend is someone I never see? I feel self-conscious admitting that. Like, I'm not good enough to have a relationship in real life. I mean, I do. But Sara is who I speak with most frequently (often daily, sometimes more than once a day), she is who I reach out to when I have something on my mind, or something I just care to share, be it funny, random, or related to something we've been talking about. She is my closest friend in terms of my openness to her, what I'm able to expose. Yet, our friendship is almost entirely voice note-based.”
The Pending Excitement of Being Alive
“My father was a night dispatcher for the electric company for 25+ years and wrote prolific letters to the editor to his local newspaper in Homer, Alaska. I'm searching through 40 years of newspapers to find him, his letters, and discovering the place that made me.”
The Quiet Exhilaration of Reading in Italian
by Jeanne Bonner
“In my years in Florence, I lived and died by whether an Italian mistook me for a native speaker. It was not unlike trying to break into a hostile high school clique that hazes you until it finally accepts you. By the time you’re “in,” you are meant to overlook that these were the people torturing you – in the case of Italy because you said capelli (hair) when you meant to say cappelli (hats).”
by Jerelle Kraus
“My husband was very nearly disappeared when, while walking near his home, seven soldiers ordered him onto a truck. Perhaps it was his gravitas that made them suspicious, or maybe it was his beard. In any case, they demanded his identity card, which showed him clean shaven. That discrepancy would have sealed his fate were it not for a colleague who chanced by. From the truck’s flatbed, my husband, surrounded by dozens of the now disappeared, called out to his friend, “Roberto, quick! Run to my house and ask my mother for my journalist ID. The one with a beard.”
📢 is Leading another “Writing the Mother Wound” workshop.
This one-day intensive runs from 12-3pm ET on December 17th. Tuition is $75. For registration & inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org
📢 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.Nope…not doing Twitter anymore! Read and share the newsletter to find out/spread the word about whose pieces are featured.
A paragraph or a few lines from the piece that will most entice readers.
Please be advised 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!