Literary Nonfiction

Heroines book cover

Heroines

Kate Zambreno

809.89287 /Zambreno
Literary Nonfiction, Nonfiction

I am beginning to realize that taking the self out of our essays is a form of repression. Taking the self out feels like obeying a gag order—pretending an objectivity where there is nothing objective about the experience of confronting and engaging with and swooning over literature.”—from Heroines On the last day of December, 2009 Kate Zambreno began a blog called Frances Farmer Is My Sister, arising from her obsession with the female modernists and her recent transplantation to Akron, Ohio, where her husband held a university job. Widely reposted, Zambreno's blog became an outlet for her highly informed and passionate rants about the fates of the modernist “wives and mistresses.” In her blog entries, Zambreno reclaimed the traditionally pathologized biographies of Vivienne Eliot, Jane Bowles, Jean Rhys, and Zelda Fitzgerald: writers and artists themselves who served as male writers' muses only to end their lives silenced, erased, and institutionalized. Over the course of two years, Frances Farmer Is My Sister helped create a community where today's “toxic girls” could devise a new feminist discourse, writing in the margins and developing an alternative canon. In Heroines, Zambreno extends the polemic begun on her blog into a dazzling, original work of literary scholarship. Combing theories that have dictated what literature should be and who is allowed to write it—from T. S. Eliot's New Criticism to the writings of such mid-century intellectuals as Elizabeth Hardwick and Mary McCarthy to the occasional “girl-on-girl crime” of the Second Wave of feminism—she traces the genesis of a cultural template that consistently exiles female experience to the realm of the “minor,” and diagnoses women for transgressing social bounds. “ANXIETY: When she experiences it, it's pathological,” writes Zambreno. “When he does, it's existential.” By advancing the Girl-As-Philosopher, Zambreno reinvents feminism for her generation while providing a model for a newly subjectivized criticism.

Heidi K's picture

If you have any interest in the lives and work of Modernist female authors (Virginia Woolf, Zelda Fitzgerald, Jean Rhys, Anais Nin...) do yourself a favor and pick up this book! Kate Zambreno, author of the novel Green Girl, creates a fascinating work of nonfiction by braiding personal narrative and historical research. She offers fascinating analysis on how feminine creativity has been conflated with mental illness both historically and today. -Heidi K

All the Wild Hungers book cover

All the Wild Hungers

Karen Babine

616.994 /Babine
Memoir, Literary Nonfiction

“My sister is pregnant with a Lemon this week, Week 14, and this is amusing. My mother’s uterine tumor, the size of a cabbage, is Week 30, and this is terrifying.” When her mother is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Karen Babine—a cook, collector of thrifted vintage cast iron, and fiercely devoted daughter, sister, and aunt—can’t help but wonder: feed a fever, starve a cold, but what do we do for cancer? And so she commits herself to preparing her mother anything she will eat, a vegetarian diving headfirst into the unfamiliar world of bone broth and pot roast. In these essays, Babine ponders the intimate connections between food, family, and illness. What draws us toward food metaphors to describe disease? What is the power of language, of naming, in a medical culture where patients are too often made invisible? How do we seek meaning where none is to be found—and can we create it from scratch? And how, Babine asks as she bakes cookies with her small niece and nephew, does a family create its own food culture across generations? Generous and bittersweet, All the Wild Hungers is an affecting chronicle of one family’s experience of illness and of a writer’s culinary attempt to make sense of the inexplicable.

Melody's picture

Really beautiful language and emotionally gripping. -Melody

Black is the body : stories from my grandmother's time, my mother's time, and mine book cover

Black is the body : stories from my grandmother's time, my mother's time, and mine

Emily Bernard

305.48896 /Bernard
Memoir, Literary Nonfiction, Biographies

An extraordinary, exquisitely written memoir (of sorts) that looks at race--in a fearless, penetrating, honest, true way--in twelve telltale, connected, deeply personal essays that explore, up-close, the complexities and paradoxes, the haunting memories and ambushing realities of growing up black in the South with a family name inherited from a white man, of getting a PhD from Yale, of marrying a white man from the North, of adopting two babies from Ethiopia, of teaching at a white college and living in America's New England today. From the acclaimed editor of Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten ("A major contribution," Henry Louis Gates; "Magnificent," Washington Post).

Anne M's picture

Emily Bernard’s acclaimed memoir, “Black is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine,” is a collection of personal essays documenting experiences from her own life. These stories follow her time growing up in the South, getting an education at Yale, and teaching at a college in northern New England. The poetic memoir illustrates how her experiences are formed and framed through the lens of race. She writes, "I am black--and brown, too. Brown is the body I was born into. Black is the body of the stories I tell." It is incredibly personal and beautifully written. -Anne M

Underground book cover

Underground

Haruki Murakami

363.320952 /Murakami
Nonfiction, Literary Nonfiction

In this haunting work of journalistic investigation, Haruki Murakami tells the story of the horrific terrorist attack on Japanese soil that shook the entire world. On a clear spring day in 1995, five members of a religious cult unleashed poison gas on the Tokyo subway system. In attempt to discover why, Haruki Murakmi talks to the people who lived through the catastrophe, and in so doing lays bare the Japanese psyche. As he discerns the fundamental issues that led to the attack, Murakami paints a clear vision of an event that could occur anytime, anywhere.

Anne M's picture

Novelist Murakami interviews both victims of the 1995 Tokyo Subway Sarin Attack, as well as members of the cult, Aum Shinrikyo, which was responsible for the attack. It is a pretty amazing work--one that captures an historical moment--what happened and the aftermath both for the individuals and the attack's meaning to Japanese society. -Anne M

Literary witches : a celebration of magical women writers book cover

Literary witches : a celebration of magical women writers

Taisia Kitaiskaia

809.89287 /Kitaiskaia
Nonfiction, Literary Nonfiction, Poetry

"Literary Witches draws a connection between witches and visionary writers: both are figures of formidable creativity, empowerment, and general badassery. Through poetic portraits, Taisia Kitaiskaia and Katy Horan honor the witchy qualities of well-known and obscure authors alike, including Virginia Woolf, Mira Bai, Toni Morrison, Emily Dickinson, Octavia E. Butler, Sandra Cisneros, and many more.

Amanda's picture

This book is a lot of things--biography, poetry, grimoire. The illustrations are gorgeous, and the poetry is deliciously odd. Plus, it's all about incredible female writers! -Amanda

The art of the wasted day book cover

The art of the wasted day

Patricia Hampl

818.5409 /Hampl
Nonfiction, Literary Nonfiction, Memoir, Travel

In an effort to discover the value of daydreaming and leisure, the author sets out on a journey that will take her to the homes of people who famously wasted time daydreaming, but were better for it, including Gregor Mendel.

Candice's picture

Hampl extols the happiness and contentment that can come from simply being, the up-side of letting things go, taking a look around, going within. She travels far and wide to find others who hit upon this idea in one way or another, at the same time seeking to recover some sort of 'ease' that has missing from her life since the death of her husband. A sweet, quiet book. -Candice

Women & power : a manifesto book cover

Women & power : a manifesto

Mary Beard

305.42 /Beard
Literary Nonfiction

Two essays connect the past with the present, tracing the history of misogyny to its ancient roots and examining the pitfalls of gender.

Heidi L's picture

A tiny but mighty book. Mary Beard is a classicist who writes about ancient history in a very readable and enjoyable way. (See also her recent titles "SPQR" and "Confronting the Classics" in our collection.) In this book, which is based on two lectures from 2014 and 2017, she takes on the long history of silencing women, setting side-by-side examples from Greek and Roman literature and modern day life. As she says in her preface, "When it comes to silencing women, Western culture has had thousands of years of practice." She admits she doesn't have the answers on how to change things, but you may feel less alone after reading her book. -Heidi L

Not quite a genius book cover

Not quite a genius

Nate Dern

817.6 /Dern
Humor, Literary Nonfiction

"From Funny Or Die senior writer and former artistic director at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre comes a collection of absurdist, hilarious stories and essays on relationships, technology, and contemporary society. A brave archaeologist journeys into a suburban man cave. Leif Eriksson writes Christopher Columbus a long overdue letter. A corporate flack admonishes a room of marijuana sales people to get their revenues up. A young man's penis turns into a lobster. Walt Whitman even teaches a spin class. With humor, originality, and narrative guile, Nate Dern examines man buns, dating apps, Wi-Fi terms and conditions, juicing crazes, vegetarianism, and so much more, all while plumbing his own life and a series of fantastical scenarios for a truth that's both revelatory and beautiful."--Jacket.

Heidi K's picture

If you just want something funny and interesting to read that doesn't take too much time or energy, I recommend this fun book. -Heidi K