Tag Archives: Memoir

Book Buzz: I’m The One Who Got Away

Book Buzz: I'm The One Who Got Away

With scorching honesty infusing her gorgeous prose, Andrea Jarrell looks back at her unconventional childhood in this brave coming of age memoir, I’m the One Who Got Away.

Book Buzz: I'm The One Who Got Away

I’m the One Who Got Away. The title itself is bittersweet. Jarrell did get away, finding the normalcy in love, marriage and parenting as an adult that eluded her as a child.

But did she really get away?

Her past caught up with her in a blinding moment, when the brutal murder of an acquaintance in the small community where she, her husband, and two children had once lived evoked a visceral response. It wasn’t just the horror of the crime and the loss of an innocent life; she flashed back to her own experience as the child of a possessive single mother and the mercurial, frustrated actor father who was in and out of their lives.

The murder victim, a single mother named Susannah, was someone Jarrell knew through their children’s preschool, a mom whose son was the same age as hers.

Although they had been casual friends, Jarrell had always felt uncomfortable in Susannah’s presence. Susannah’s life was centered on her son; the two were inseparable. Just like Jarrell and her single mother had been. The two of them against the world. “Just we two,” her mother often reminded her.

The murder is the catalyst that forces Jarrell to revisit her own relationship with her parents.  Her bright and adventurous mother was married at 16 to a man whose insecurities and alcoholism were a constant threat. Jarrell’s mother loved her husband but loved her daughter more, and with the escalating abuse she knew there was no other solution than for mother and daughter to flee.

Jarrell’s mother, in her youth both valedictorian and homecoming queen, had aspired to be a photojournalist or graphic artist and was offered several scholarships. Instead, she married a man who turned out to be toxic. She never went to college. Throughout her life, Jarrell questioned her mother’s choices, especially when she let her father back in their lives. Would this be her future, too, putting her dreams on hold for a man who held her back?

Eventually, she comes to terms with her past. Her mother did what she could with the imperfect cards she’d been dealt. She didn’t complain about the trajectory of her life, but made the best of it with no apologies.

The loving, complicated relationship between mother and daughter is truly the backbone of I’m the One Who Got Away.

Jarrell’s life would turn out to be different, but not without its stumbles. That’s what life is.

Not simple, or perfect. But if we can choose the best of what we had, what worked really well, and pack away the worst of it in an old cedar chest in the attic to be examined when we need a reminder, we’re the artisans creating the future that we want for ourselves and our children, which is exactly what Jarrell has done.

As she says at the end of the book,

“… I’ve learned again that I can’t go over, under, or around, and I can’t turn back. No matter how high or rough the surf, going through every stage is where the living is.”

 

I received a copy of I’m the One Who Got Away from She Writes Press.
The text and views are all my own.

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Kevin Hart Shines in His Memoir, “I Can’t Make This Up”

Kevin Hart Shines in His Memoir, "I Can't Make This Up"

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible.
The opinions and text are all mine.

If your typical day is like mine, you spend a considerable amount of time in the car. Whether it’s getting to work and back, running errands, shuttling kids to activities, or visiting family and friends, you are behind the wheel a good part of the day.

I find myself flipping from music to talk shows to news, anything to distract me from the boredom of sitting in a traffic jam. Fortunately, there is another option: listening to an audiobook on Audible. When I want to catch up on a novel I’ve missed or discover a new author, I can search through Audible’s vast selection of titles and come up with the perfect choice for the moment.

These days, I often find myself needing to tune out what is happening in the world. I yearn for a selection that will take me away. Something that will make me laugh.

And laugh I did, all the way through Kevin Hart’s funny and heartfelt new memoir, “I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons.”

Kevin Hart Shines in His Memoir,

If you are familiar with Kevin Hart, you know he is an accomplished actor and stand up comedian, as well as a successful businessman. His meteoric rise to fame is all the more admirable because of his humble beginnings in North Philadelphia.

North Philadelphia both then and now is a tough neighborhood besieged by drugs and violence, and Kevin Hart’s family was not immune to the temptations on the street. As he describes, he was born an accident to a father who became a drug addict and was in and out of jail. His older brother was a crack dealer and petty thief. And his mother, although well meaning, was strict to the point of being abusive, beating him with whatever she could get her hands on, whether it was a frying pan, a belt, or even one of Kevin’s toys.

Now how can all the above be funny? Kevin Hart turns tragedy into comedy, and listening to him narrate the book is like attending one of his stand-up concerts. His delivery is what makes this audiobook superior to the written version, in my opinion. You feel like you have a front row seat to his comic genius.

Not that the written version is any less funny. Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review. “[An] emotion-filled memoir full of grit and humor…Inspiring and thoroughly entertaining, Hart’s memoir brings his readers into his hilarious universe of stories and philosophy.”

In addition to all his other talents, the man can write. And what makes this particular memoir stand out for me is not just the funny stuff, but also the life lessons Kevin Hart shares from the bumps in the road. He is introspective, humble, down-to-earth and philosophical. He could have succumbed to the drugs and crime in his neighborhood. He could have grown up angry and rebellious.

But that is not the way he is wired. He chose to find meaning from the life lessons at every turn that helped him forge a way out of the poverty and violence and into a career that has made him adored by millions of fans.

Although this was not written as a self-help book, Kevin Hart’s memoir is truly motivational as well as funny as hell. His message is that we all have challenges that can be overcome through determination, and using laughter as a coping mechanism never hurt anyone.

 

 

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Women’s History Month: The Rules Do Not Apply

Women’s History Month is resonating strongly with me this year. Not since the 60s have women’s collective voices been so clear and purposeful, as evidenced by the Women’s March and beyond. The political climate seems to have opened a channel, empowering women to candidly share their deepest emotions, their challenges, their fears.

Listening to Ariel Levy’s actual voice narrating her new memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply, I felt that this was one of those times when the audiobook surpassed the written version of a woman’s poignant, wrenching story.

Women's History Month: The Rules Do Not Apply

The Rules Do Not Apply

In her brave but vulnerable whiskey-husky voice, Levy opens with this:

“In the last few months, I have lost my son, my spouse, and my house. Every morning I wake up and for a few seconds I’m disoriented, confused as to why I feel grief seeping into my body, and then I remember what has become of my life.”

Suffused with shock and grief, she obsessed over the choices she had made over the course of her life. Before the tragedy, she had always laughed in the face of convention, finding her own interpretations of sexuality, work, love, marriage. Loss had never figured into her life plan. But then, does it ever?

Levy began her career doing scut work at New York Magazine and landed the plum job of staff writer at The New Yorker in 2008. Her beat was often the offbeat: traveling to rural South Africa to track down Caster Semenya, a female Olympic runner whose gender had been under pubic scrutiny; reporting on a gang of lesbian separatists named Lamar Van Dyke. As she wrote in “Thanksgiving in Mongolia,” the New Yorker essay for which she received the 2014 National Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism,

I’ve spent the past twenty years putting myself in foreign surroundings as frequently as possible. There is nothing I love more than traveling to a place where I know nobody, and where everything will be a surprise, and then writing about it. The first time I went to Africa for a story, I was so excited that I barely slept during the entire two-week trip. Everything was new: the taste of springbok meat, the pink haze over Cape Town, the noise and chaos of the corrugated-tin alleyways in Khayelitsha township. I could still feel spikes of adrenaline when I was back at my desk in New York, typing, while my spouse cooked a chicken in the kitchen.

In fact, it was in Mongolia, on a reporting assignment (and the topic of this essay) that Levy lost her baby. A nagging pain in her abdomen became stronger, and then excruciating. Her baby was born in the bathroom of her hotel room and died minutes later.

Later, her doctor told her the miscarriage had been caused by placental abruption, a rare problem that usually arises from high blood pressure or heavy cocaine use. Or because of the pregnant mother’s advanced age. Levy was 38. It could have happened anywhere, her doctor assured her. Traveling was not the factor. Nonetheless, Levy was wracked with guilt.

Her mother came to stay with her for a while. When Levy asked her, what will become of me, her mother answered, you will be fine. Other times she said, you are not alone. During Women’s History Month let us celebrate the voices of women who can share the universal emotions of grief and loss and survival that let others know that we are not alone.

The Rules Do Not Apply is painful, honest, revealing, and intimate. Levy is unforgiving of herself, but you will want to hug the person behind the voice.

See for yourself. Try out Audible with a free month of accessing a vast list of selections.

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible.
The opinions and text are all mine.

If you like my blog post, please share it!
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