I am focusing for a moment today on memoirs. I have read over seventy memoirs since 2019, at one time requiring my Advanced Writing students to read one and to write a short one. I am about to ask my fall class (which is already full and hopefully, champing at the bit to begin writing) to read a memoir and write a good review of it. If things work out, especially if some turn them in early, I will share some with my readers.

One that appeared as a donation to my Little Free Library is Shasta Martin’s 2015 memoir, Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness. I didn’t know what to expect, except probably recipes, of which I was not disappointed, but the narrative itself was very moving and memorable–that’s where the “forgiveness” came in.

This was an honest memoir which presented the bad along with the good.

To say Martin had a “rough childhood” is putting it mildly. She lived in more than one foster home and was rejected from one which was supposed to become her forever home, a crushing blow. The book narrates a “journey of self-acceptance and discovery,” as Martin finds that cooking helps create her own happiness . At times, the author refused to trust her good luck in life, not accustomed to having good luck in her childhood. At times this memoir is heartbreaking, but at times it is redeeming as well.

We follow Martin’s “culinary journey” as she sets out to cook (and eat) food from every country in the world. This results in a “Global Table” event which is amazing and fulfilling to both the author and the reader. 195 recipes, 195 countries, 195 weeks made up her culinary endeavor, and as a reader, I was rooting for her along the whole way… You will too.

This turned out to be a darned good read!

There’s a lot to be learned about life as well as about cooking in this fascinating memoir.


THE PURPLE BOOKER asks us to copy a few lines from a current read to “tease” others into adding our book to their TBR pile. Here’s mine for 6/8/21, a memoir by Mary Karr.

After their parents broke up, Mary, the author, and her sister move with their mother to Antelope, Colorado:

“By daylight the landscape was capital-B Beautiful. But something grim and Gothic hung over the place. The mountains seemed to lurch over the town. Plus, that fall the sky stayed gray, not unlike the skies I’d read about in Dracula, vaulted over by the Carpathian Mountains with their bare trees clawing out.”

This does not bode well, considering the author’s mother’s fragile mental state.

READ ANY GOOD MEMOIRS LATELY? This one is as harrowing and horrible as anything you can imagine, but un-putdownable!


First Line Fridays or Friday First Liners was begun by “Hoarding Books,” blog, and I first saw it on “Carla Loves to Read.” I could hardly wait to get started.

My first line comes from a book I should have read years ago, Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs.  It is hands-down the strangest memoir I have read–ever. The first chapter, “Something Isn’t Right” begins:

“My mother is standing in front of the bathroom mirror smelling polished and ready; like Jean Nate, Dippity Do, and the waxy sweetness of lipstick. Her white, handgun-shaped blowdryer is lying on top of the wicker clothes hamper, ticking as it cools.”

I am on page 80, after beginning it late last night, and I am fascinated by the bizarreness, the oddness, the weirdness of the author’s narration. I definitely will finish this one.

THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB by Will Schwalbe: A Review

I have been in a two-person book club for a while; my girlfriend and I call ourselves, “Book Buddies.” We always recommend books to each other,and loan them or give them to each other, then discuss them.  At least once, we have read a book series simultaneously and commented via email and have sent clippings of reviews or interesting snippets concerning movies or TV shows to be made from a book we have read as well. When I heard that this book was about a man and his dying mother forming a two person book club and reading the books together, I was interested, then thought, “Eeeww, another book about dying and loss…no thanks”! In a weak moment after hearing a Third Tuesday Book Club friend had started reading this book, I ordered it from Amazon.

It is NOT depressing or a “downer” as I feared, but uplifting and even inspiring at times; never maudlin nor graphic in the details of Schwalbe’s mother’s pain and suffering, the memoir/literary criticism/biographical tribute of a book showed me the proper way one should deal with suffering, and ultimately, dying. Mrs. Schwalbe was an educated, intelligent activist, and an altogether “classy” woman. Mother and son’s choices of books were varied and ones I had not encountered myself.  I read with pen and paper at hand to copy down titles and authors. Interestingly enough, they did not avoid books about death and dying, but instead embraced them, which often opened the door for them to have conversations about final wishes, and to say things that are awkward to broach to someone whose life is coming to an end.

Dealing with themes of mothers and sons, celebration of a life, and celebration of books, End of Your Life expresses Mrs. Schwalbe’s and her son’s “devotion to the printed word.” (Stanley Schiff, author). The simple dedication reads, “What follows is my story. It’s mostly about Mom and me.” We learn much about the woman featured by her son, and much about him as well as he describes the meetings of their two-person book club during her chemo treatments over the period of her illness, and then at home after she discontinues her treatments.  They formed this club to pass the time, but it did so much more; it bonded them in a special way and gave them knowledge about each other neither would have thought to give the other under “normal” circumstances.

It is a fine read. I was able to put it down and pick it up again some time later without losing the “thread” of the story or the appreciation of the two’s appreciation for good writing and passion for books.


The object of this little game hosted by the Purple Booker is to grab what you are currently reading, open to where you left off, copy a couple of sentences and see if that will tease someone else into reading your book. Be sure to state title and author.  You may leave your blog address here, directing us where to read your Teaser, or you may put your teaser in the comment box below the post. Happy Tuesday reading!

From The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe:

“The Elegance of the Hedgehog placed Mom and me squarely in Monsieur Ozu’s Paris apartment–or perhaps another similar one. We started to plot our family’s life there.”

This fantasy planning for a new location/ living arrangement for the extended family was a pastime Schwalbe and his mother used to pass the time during chemo treatments. They had established their two-person book club at the beginning of the treatments and had discussed many books, some about death and dying, which allowed them to discuss some things they preferred not to address head-on. If you have read Elegance, you are aware that the author has wonderful descriptive talents, especially one that occurs early on, painting for the reader Msr. Ozu’s elegant apartment.

INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT, A memoir by Ron Rozelle: Review

This book, which was an alternate selection for my Third Tuesday book club, has been described as a “haunting memoir,” which, indeed, it is. It is a true story of loss: loss of Rozelle’s father, and the loss of his father’s memory.

The title comes from Dylan Thomas’ famous poem, which begins…

“Do not go gentle into that good night…Rage, rage against the dying of the light”…and ends  “And you, my father, there on the sad height , Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray. / Do not go gentle into that good night./Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

The father, who is the subject of Rozelle’s eulogy/memoir/biography is a principled man who for most of his career was a principal. Rozelle expresses the hope at the end of the book that his father had “gone to a place of order and kindness. Judging from Rozelle’s memories of his father, that’s the exact kind of person the man was–one of order and kindness. The memories of the author’s coming of age years and later are set in Oakwood, a small town near San Antonio, Texas. Rozelle lives now a “few miles down highway 35” from where I live in a town called Lake Jackson, Texas. Because he was a local writer, and because he had spoken at our Alvin Library League luncheon once (I was unable to attend.), I chose his book to read for that particular month.  I am very glad I did because not only was it a good story of a good man’s life written by a loving son, but it was a superbly written one.

TWO RECENT READS–Morningstar:Growing up With Books and Playing with Fire: REVIEWS

The following two books were ones I read purely for escape while waiting for my delayed-by-ice semester to start:

First, Morningstar:Growing Up with Books a 2017 publication by Ann Hood, was a slim volume which needs to be read with one’s TBR list close by. The book might be described as a memoir organized by what the author was reading at various stages of her life. I had read her earlier novel, The Book That Matters Most, and thoroughly enjoyed it, sharing it with friends at my book club, so when I saw it displayed at the library, I checked it out. Hood grew up in a household that “didn’t foster a love of literature but discovered literature anyway. Sometimes lonely as a child she experienced “the companionship of books.” She read eclectically, pouring equally over classics, bestsellers, and books that were “not so nice,” her mother’s description. Because it was so short, it was a quick read and a unique one. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves books and is interested in other people who love them too.

Tess Gerritsen’s 2015 novel is one I found at Half Price Books.  As a fan of the TNT series, Rissoli and Isles, selecting Playing with Fire, was a no-brainer.  The cover alone was enough to capture my interest. Gerritsen employs great skills of characterization, and her plots and sub-plots combine psychological thriller appeal as well as mystery, action, and plenty of twists and turns. Beginning in the US and continuing in Venice, Julia, the protagonist, is soon caught up in espionage and violence, something she never dreamed a concert violinist would experience.  The intertwining stories of the modern-day professional violinist and the Jewish holocaust-era composer provide good reading and good mystery.

Tuesday Teaser

“Tuesday Teaser is a bookish meme hosted by The Purple Booker.” I take this directly from my blogger friend who writes Brainfluff, a really great blog to follow with something for every taste in reading and anyone interested in life in the UK.  It is always fresh, sometimes funny, and her updates on what she has accomplished are amazing. The idea is to open your current read, pick a couple of sentences at random, being careful not to include any spoilers, and copy them here, giving the title and author as well.

I started reading Jeannette Walls’ Half Broke Horses during the Dewey’s marathon and was instantly hooked.  My Teaser comes from page 135 where I currently am reading.  It begins with the first sentences of the chapter:

“The following morning, as Rooster was getting ready to head back to Red Lake, he caught me alone in the kitchen…He looked at me a moment, ‘You know I always been carrying a torch for you’…He paused and then asked, ‘You think I’ll ever get married?'” The woman he is addressing, the author, is already married.

” ‘I do,’ I said.  I had just been being polite, but suddenly I saw it clearly…’You just got to look in unexpected places.”

This has been an attention grabber, interest keeper from the get-go, and I am hoping to steal some time from today’s demands to read a little more.  OR, is that what I just did? LOL