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At the Library: Women’s memoirs of emerging on the other side at the Captiva Memorial Library

By Staff | Oct 14, 2015

“Ordinary Light”

by Tracy K. Smith

“The youngest of five children, Tracy K. Smith was raised with limitless affection and a firm belief in God by a stay-at-home mother and an engineer father. But, just as Tracy is about to leave home for college, her mother is diagnosed with cancer, a condition she accepts as part of God’s plan. ‘Ordinary Light’ is the story of a young woman struggling to fashion her own understanding of belief, loss, history, and what it means to be black in America. In lucid, clear prose, Smith interrogates her childhood in suburban California, her first collision with independence at Harvard, and her Alabama-born parents’ recollections of their own youth in the Civil Rights era. These dizzying juxtapositions-of her family’s past, her own comfortable present, and the promise of her future-will in due course compel Tracy to act on her passions for love and ‘ecstatic possibility,’ and her desire to become a writer. Shot through with exquisite lyricism, wry humor, and an acute awareness of the beauty of everyday life, ‘Ordinary Light’ is a gorgeous kaleidoscope of self and family, one that skillfully combines a child’s and teenager’s perceptions with adult retrospection. Here is a universal story of being and becoming, a classic portrait of the ways we find and lose ourselves amid the places we call home.” *

“The Light of the World”

by Elizabeth Alexander

“Elizabeth Alexander finds herself at an existential crossroads after the sudden death of her husband. Channeling her poetic sensibilities into a rich, lucid price, Alexander tells a love story that is, itself, a story of loss. As she reflects on the beauty of her married life, the trauma resulting from her husband’s death, and the solace found in caring for her two teenage sons, Alexander universalizes a very personal quest for meaning and acceptance in the wake of lossat once an endlessly compelling memoir and a deeply felt meditation on the blessings of love, family, art, and community. It is also a lyrical celebration of a life well-lived and a paean to the priceless gift of human companionship. For those who have loved and lost, or for anyone who cares what matters most” *

“The Book of Wanderings:

A Mother-Daughter Pilgrimage”

by Kimberly Meyer

“To a mother and daughter on an illuminating pilgrimage, this is what the desert said: Carry only what you need. Burn what can’t be saved. Leave the remnants as an offering. When Kimberly Meyer gave birth to her first daughter, Ellie, during her senior year of college, the bohemian life of exploration she had once imagined for herself was lost in the responsibilities of single motherhood. For years, both mother and daughter were haunted by how Ellie came into being-Kimberly through a restless ache for the world beyond, Ellie through a fear of abandonment. Longing to bond with Ellie, now a college student, and longing, too, to rediscover herself, Kimberly sets off with her daughter on a quest for meaning across the globe. Leaving behind the rhythms of ordinary life in Houston, Texas, they dedicate a summer to retracing the footsteps of Felix Fabri, a medieval Dominican friar whose written account of his travels resonates with Kimberly. Their mother-daughter pilgrimage takes them to exotic destinations infused with mystery, spirituality, and rich history-from Venice to the Mediterranean through Greece and partitioned Cyprus, to Israel and across the Sinai Desert with Bedouin guides, to the Palestinian territories and to Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt. In spare and gorgeous prose, ‘The Book of Wanderings’ tells the story of Kimberly and Ellie’s journey, and of the intimate, lasting bond they forge along the way. A meditation on stripping away the distractions, on simplicity, on how to live, this is a vibrant memoir with the power to both transport readers to far-off lands and to bring them in closer connection with themselves. It will appeal to anyone who has contemplated the road not taken, who has experienced the gnawing feeling that there is something more, who has faced the void-of offspring leaving, of mortality looming, of searching for someplace that feels, finally, like home.”

“The Story:

A Reporter’s Journey”

by Judith Miller

“Star reporter for the New York Times, the world’s most powerful newspaper; foreign correspondent in some of the most dangerous fields; Pulitzer winner; longest jailed correspondent for protecting her sources, Judith Miller is highly respected and controversial. In this memoir, she turns her reporting skills on herself with the intensity of her professional vocation. Judy Miller grew up near the Nevada atomic proving ground. She got a job at the New York Times after a suit by women employees about discrimination at the paper and went on to cover national politics, head the paper’s bureau in Cairo, and serve as deputy editor in Paris and then deputy at the powerful Washington bureau. She reported on terrorism and the rise of fanatical Islam in the Middle East and on secret biological weapons plants and programs in Iraq, Iran, and Russia. She covered an administration traumatized by 9/11 and an anthrax attack three weeks later. Miller shared a Pulitzer for her reporting. She turns her journalistic skills on herself and her controversial reporting, which marshaled evidence that led America to invade Iraq. She writes about the mistakes she and others made on the existence in Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. She addresses the motives of some of her sources, including the notorious Iraqi Chalabi and the CIA. She describes going to jail to protect her sources in the Scooter Libby investigation of the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame and how the Times subsequently abandoned her after twenty-eight years. The Story describes the real life of a foreign and investigative reporter. It is an adventure story, told with bluntness and wryness. ” *

“Welcome to My Breakdown”

by Benilde Little

“My mother was gone. I never thought I would survive her death. A major bestselling novelist and former magazine editor, long married to a handsome and successful stockbroker with whom she has a beautiful daughter and son, Benilde Little once had every reason to feel on top of the world. But as illness, the aging of her parents, and other hurdles interrupted her seemingly perfect life, she took a tailspin into a pit of clinical depression. Told in her own fearless and wise voice, ‘Welcome to My Breakdown’ chronicles a cavern of depression so dark that Benilde didn’t know if she’d ever recover from what David Foster Wallace called ‘a nausea of the soul.’ Shee discusses everything from her Newark upbringing, once-frequent visits to a Muslim mosque, and how it felt to date a married man, to her doubts about marriage, being caught between elder care and childcare, and ultimately how she treated her depression and found a way out. Writing in the courageous tradition of great female storytellers such as Joan Didion, Nora Ephron, and Pearl Cleage, Benilde doesn’t hold back as she shares insights, inspiration, and intimate details of her life. Powerful, relatable, and ultimately redemptive, Welcome to My Breakdown is a remarkable memoir about the power within us all to rise from despair and to feel hope and joy again.” *

“My Organic Life: How a Pioneering Chef Helped

Shape the Way We Eat Today”

by Nora Pouillon

“A wonderfully engaging memoir from the woman who founded America’s first certified organic restaurant, ‘My Organic Life’ is the story of an unheralded culinary pioneer who made it her mission to bring delicious, wholesome foods to the American table. While growing up on a farm in the Austrian Alps and later in Vienna, Nora Pouillon was surrounded by fresh and delicious foods. So when she and her French husband moved to Washington, D.C., in the 1960s, she was horrified to discover a culinary culture dominated by hormone-bloated meat and unseasonal vegetables. The distance between good, healthy produce and what even the top restaurants were serving was vast, and Nora was determined to bridge that gap. First as a cooking teacher, then as a restaurant owner, and eventually as the country’s premier organic restaurateur, she charted a path that forever changed our relationship with what we eat. Since it opened in 1979, her eponymous restaurant has been a hot spot for reporters, celebrities, and politicians-from Jimmy Carter to the Obamas-alike. Along the way, Nora redefined what food could be, forging close relationships with local producers and launching initiatives to take the organic movement mainstream. As much the story of America’s postwar culinary history as it is a memoir, ‘My Organic Life’ encompasses the birth of the farm-to-table movement, the proliferation of greenmarkets across the country, and the evolution of the chef into social advocate. Spanning the last forty years of our relationship with food, ‘My Organic Life’ is the deeply personal, powerfully felt story of the organic revolution-by the unlikely heroine at its forefront.” *

* Book jacket/publisher description

-Senior Librarian Ann Bradley is branch manager Captiva Memorial Library.