Ten Great Personal Essays to Ease You into the Post-Holiday Week
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.
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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.
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Essays from partner publications…
Voices on Addiction: This is Not A Story About Sobriety
by Iris Kim
“Both hands on the glass. Bow your head when receiving a drink. Clink your glass lower than the elder’s. Turn your head to the side when you drink with an elder. Never pour your own drink; always let the elder do it. Never let the elder’s glass go empty, my uncle instructed.”
You Will Bear This Pain Long After You’re Gone
by Courtney Zoffness
“It’s not just that you didn’t tell the doctors that the pain has grown every day since the war began, that the pain is in your hips, yes, but it’s also in your uterus and your chest, that it’s in your hands, that it’s in your womanhood and motherhood and Americanness and Jewishness. That you know why he can’t tell you its origins: its origins are diasporic. This pain is in your lineage. This is a pain that you will bear even when you’re gone. It’s not just that you will pass it on to your children.”
How a Musical Adaptation of Tolstoy Helped Us Get Through the Pandemic
by Theodore Wheeler
“Kids started to withdraw so quickly and profoundly that summer that it was hard to pinpoint exactly what was going on inside their heads. Anne’s favorite thing to do, even before Covid, was to put on her headphones in the car—so not only did we listen to different music, I couldn’t even speak to her. We made an agreement: If we all listened to her music in the car, she would take off her headphones. If she took off her headphones, then we could hear each other speak.”
How to Lengthen Your Life
by Alain de Botton
“Why, then, does time have such different speeds, moving at certain points bewilderingly fast, at others with intricate moderation? The clue is to be found in childhood. The first ten years almost invariably feel longer than any other decade we have on earth. The teens are a little faster but still crawl. Yet by our forties, time will have started to trot; and by our sixties, it will be unfolding at a bewildering gallop…The difference in pace is not mysterious but has to do with novelty.”
Last Week at Marienbad
by Lauren Oyler
“We went because we thought it would be funny; we came to realize the movie isn’t even really set there. It takes place, if not in the mind, then in a composite setting of several nineteenth-century Central European spa towns, in a sense of vague possibility and in danger of being lost. The misunderstanding was Thom’s fault. He had seen the movie once before, a long time ago; I had not, but I knew I would have to eventually, because it’s one of those movies you have to see. ‘It’s a trip,’ he told me.”
Out of the Shadow of a Mountain
by Harley Rustad
“The trip to the Himalaya would give us another moment to share, but it also presented an opportunity for me to ask my father something that had been weighing on me for five years. I knew his life like a movie. I could recount every major scene and setting and plot, except for one: a decade that, for some reason, he had never filled in.”
Essays from around the web…
The Obeah Man
by Camille U. Adams
“That day, I sat on that floor fiddling with my gold necklaces through Eric’s didactic talk of my ancestors being over-protective; and newly remembered harms wrought by my male cousin; and the benefits of being sexually uninhibited cause who doesn’t look back and wish they’d screwed around more; and, though they want me to go and I desperately want to leave, they can’t move me and I won’t be exiting that job for a minute, not until something’s fulfilled and the time is appropriate; and ways to start my own business; and me being married in the spirit to Orunmila and needing to receive icofa or his hand, and and and…”
The Train Wrecked in Slow Motion
by Grace Glassman
“Giving birth at 45 is rolling the dice. In my 30s, I believed in the promise of medical science’s overcoming many age-old biological hurdles, including the unforgiving female reproductive window. The stark reality is that aging is a hard stop that can’t be undone, only pressed against. Even though my last eggs could be milked out with IVF, they were still old eggs. And the body that needed to carry the fetus to term? Well preserved, but past peak for childbearing. Childbirth and AMA (the medical shorthand for women of advanced maternal age, which starts at 35) are an uneasy combination. For all our ideas about how our lives should or could be set up, mucking with nature comes with a disclaimer, written in fine print.”
Baby Got Going: Longing and Leaving in High Fidelity
by Erin Langner
“‘What came first, the music or the misery?’ This is perhaps the most famous quote of both the film and novel. Watching High Fidelity again, twenty-odd years later, my question shifted. Which came first: my vision for my future self, or the movie’s vision? Now, the film feels like a map of directives and places that guided my aspirations for a particular life that I never found but still hold on to.”
Growing Up with My Parents: The Realities of Being a Child of Teen Pregnancy
by Joshua Nicholson
“I was born in 2003, while my mom was 17 years old and my dad 18. Like most ’90s kids, my parents enjoyed both stupid and classic ’90s movies, Missy Elliot, Eminem and the Mortal Kombat games. They played Nintendo 64 and watched Rugrats. My dad played high school football, and my mom competed in high school wrestling. Unlike most ’90s kids, they began raising a child before they were even adults.”
📢 Submissions for ’s second annual Memoir Prize are open until Thursday.
“Through Thursday, November 30, 2023, Narratively is accepting entries for our 2023 Memoir Prize. We’re on the hunt for revealing and emotional first-person nonfiction narratives from unique and overlooked points of view. The winning submission will receive a $3,000 prize and publication on Narratively.”
📢 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!