Narrative Voice in Writing Memoir

Ann Seymour's I've Always Loved You

Ann Seymour’s I’ve Always Loved You is a book everyone interested in writing historical memoir should read. It is a remarkable example in emphasizing how to sustain a narrative voice when history is a big part of the memoir. Fascinating and heartbreaking are the first two words that come to mind after reading Ann Seymour’s beautiful tribute to her family, especially her father, as well as all those who served in WW2. Seymour writes achingly beautiful prose as she gives us a view of WW2 through the eyes of an enchanting, gregarious child, who doesn’t understand why Daddy has gone to war and will never return. But the well woven story goes beyond the eyes and ears of a loving daughter. I’ve Always Loved You moves between the diaries and journals her parents kept and the actual documented words of the power brokers of Imperial Japan in such a way as to give anyone a more fully rounded picture of WW2, which is an accomplishment worthy of applause. “Only an ephemeral

[Read More]

Obsession, Passion, & Transformation Make for Accordion Dreams

Accordion Dreams

I was lured into Blair Kilpatrick’s memoir, Accordion Dreams: A Journey into Cajun and Creole Music, the moment I saw the charming cover depicting a happy little girl holding her accordion, although I was surprisingly unprepared for the extent of the adventure she’d lead me on in this extraordinary musical memoir. Before I even opened the book, a small voice in the recesses of my mind encouraged me to find my BeauSoleil album, Bayou Cadillac, which I hadn’t listened to for ages. Find it I did, and as the first beats of Bon Temps Rouler resounded,  I settled back in a comfortable chair and darn near didn’t get up until I’d read this entire, enchanting book. To my delight, within the first dozen pages, Kilpatrick talked about how she had excitedly ripped the plastic from her newly purchased BeauSoleil cassette, which shows off the battered red Cadillac convertible, upended in a swamp. Now the hook in me worked itself deeper and deeper. Her compelling, obsessive journey

[Read More]

Captivating Throne of Passion, Juana la Loca of Spain

The Last Queen

I'm posting this book review on an historical novel by C.W. Gortner because I think The Last Queen is a great read and highlights the difficulties women have had throughout history attempting to be taken seriously whether they are royalty or not.  Gortner will be honored this October 15th at an event for National Reading Group Month by Women's National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter. See links below for more information. Juana’s courage, strength, and passion amazed me as The Last Queen came of age so vividly under C.W. Gortner’s admirable pen. This historical novel is fraught with crushing battles of power and chilling intrigue throughout the courts of her parents, Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, and of her husband, Philip of Flanders, as the Infanta of Spain attempts to take her rightful place on the thrown she inherited from her mother. My soul was struck as I witnessed, through Gortner’s well paced story, the agony Juana endured as her

[Read More]

Love Made of Heart Strikes a Universal Chord

Love Made of Heart

Teresa LeYung Ryan's, Love Made of Heart, is a stirring look at the intricacies of familial relationships, including mental illness and abuse, that for Ruby Lin, the narrator, have taken the bright, clear color from her world as she struggles to grow up as an American girl drowning in a sea of distinctly Asian values. Although the intricacies of the mother-daughter bond are the overall theme of this heartfelt story, there is a convoluted push and pull in Ruby's psyche as she clashes with her father, her Chinese husband, and in-laws, while leaning heavily on the powerful goodness and understanding she discovers in her sister and an adopted Jewish grandmother who has become her beacon in this violent coming of age saga. LeYung Ryan has Ruby slowly awaken through self-reflection to a universal truth as she works over time with her psychologist. Dr. Thatcher encourages her to unravel the conflicts and mysteries within by speaking with a clarity that resonated with Ruby (as it does

[Read More]

Where Love Transcends the Confines of Disease

Lynn Scott & Mother from book cover copy

A Joyful Encounter: My Mother, My Alzheimer Clients, and Me A Memoir by Lynn Scott                                 The Story Woman Book Review Well, what can I say? I am overwhelmed with feelings after reading Lynn Scott’s, A Joyful Encounter, My Mother, My Alzheimer Clients, and Me. Her memoir brought up passion and emotion in me about my Alzheimer’s afflicted mother on so many levels that I know will stay with me forever. It is hard to describe or even fully recognize this gamut of feelings that came over me when reading this collection of short, true tales written in Scott’s honest, lyrical prose as she interacts with her Alzheimer clients, all the while discovering realities about her relationship with her long deceased mother. Scott gently, but powerfully, leads readers into the hearts and minds of this frequently fearful, heartbreakingly confused, sometimes hilarious, often enchanting, but mostly misunderstood group of elders who

[Read More]

Rare Blend of Mystery, Magic, Metaphor, and Melody

Saints is Limbo 7-09

I just finished reading Saints in Limbo by River Jordan. I was lucky enough to hear her read and talk some about her life and writing this June during the Women’s National Book Association’s annual conference in Nashville. She is a full-blown delight, who talks a mile-a-minute, and you hope she'll never stop. I can’t put my finger on the exact genre – this book seems to be in a class by itself. So entrancing is her brand of fiction that you want it to be true, and perhaps it is.                                     RIPE FOR BOOK CLUB PICK Rare Blend of Mystery, Magic, Metaphor, and Melody River Jordan has an amazing way of pulling you in and making you believe mysterious, other-worldly `things' in Saints in Limbo, and I don't quite know how she does it. (But then that's the genius of her writing.) I think it sneaks up on you while you're sleeping, while her captivating characters are playing their tunes and haunting your dreams. Her

[Read More]

Passion & Emotion in Memoir

Harlot's Sauce PV Davis

A Spicy Treat: Passion & Emotion in Memoir Need a great summer read? Look no further. I have another memoir to recommend for your enjoyment written by a friend of mine, Patricia V Davis, who seems to be forever on tour speaking and presenting Harlot’s Sauce: A Memoir of Food, Family, Love, Loss, and Greece all over the country. You’ll love and identify with Patricia's insights,  in retrospect, on life, love, cultures, friendships, conscious mothering, running a business in an adopted country, wifely duties, and a domineering mother-in-law, generously spiced with wretched dogs (and their owners), flying cockroaches,  baseball bats, harlot’s sauce, and a no-account woman who smells bad.  As she cavorts through a couple decades, often laughing at herself, you see innocence retreat and a strong, self-reliant woman come into full bloom, holding no grudges and willing to share herself and the sauce with all of us. The Story Woman reminds you to honor a loved one with a

[Read More]

First Mine for gold, then Write Memoir

First Mine for gold, then Write Memoir Hello, all you writers and authors and artists from across the board.  I recently read a great little book by Abigail Thomas, Thinking About Memoir, so I wanted to share my thoughts with you about this book and add it to my new Book Review blog category. By the way, my reviews aren’t confined to the memoir genre. From the inception of my blog, which wasn’t that long ago, one of my main purposes was to give voice to a wide range of nonfiction and fiction writers as well as artists in general who have caught my eye and my spirit. If you’d like me to post a blog about you and your work, please contact me and we’ll go from there. I believe the inspiration we get from each connection we make with art, whether through books, paintings, sculptures, theatre, dance, or music breathes life into our beings as we discover new ways to view our world. Abigail Thomas’ book, Thinking About Memoir, is oriented towards crafting the story of

[Read More]

Can’t buy me love, no, no, no, no

Yup, here is a terrific new novel by Tanya Egan Gibson - How to Buy a Love of Reading, and the book is every bit as engaging as the title. She a new writer of fiction living here in Northern California. I attended her very first reading the other night at Book Passage in Corte Madera, cheered her on, bought an autographed copy, and read and read and read some more. This book is a huge chunk of change - I think it was ten years in the making - full of emotion and passion, reality shows, and protagonists in search of love and self with a surprisingly fresh twist. I would characterize Tanya Egan Gibson’s delicious debut novel, How to Buy a Love of Reading, as love stories between three couples even though ‘love story’ isn’t the premise of her book. Or is it?  But these love stories come with a twist, wherein the power of choice prevails as the characters literally rewrite their stories, their lives, and their fate. Actually there are three tales of love within two

[Read More]

Tales from the Doctor’s Office


Last night I finished reading the book, The Orange Wire Problem and Other Tales from the Doctor's Office, just off the presses, written by Dr. David Watts. His first book of stories, published in 2005, was Bedside Manners; you may have read it. This new book is another delight, a treasure, comprised of vignettes shedding more light on the doctor-patient relationship. Watts is not only a doctor, he's a gifted writer and poet, and his brand of storytelling comes across elegantly on every page of his book. I'm not suggesting you write like he writes. Don't. To take on the style of someone else is the best way to choke your story.  If you attempt to write by imitating the technique and voice of someone else, you will kill the authenticity of your story. Find your unique voice by trusting yourself and the process. To be sure, the stories I've collected for the TellTale Souls' anthology, written by "ordinary" people, are beyond compare. The Orange Wire Problem review I wrote is

[Read More]