I’m currently reading Citizen: An American Lyric, by Claudia Rankine. It was one of this year’s National Book Award finalists, in the poetry category, but these short prose pieces about the daily indignities a black person has to face in this country seem to me more like intense and concentrated essays.
Because I recently lived for a few months near the town of Bristol, Rhode Island, which I discovered was a center of slave trading in the 18th and 19th century, I reread the essays of one of the most necessary of American writers, James Baldwin, and used his essays as a kind of protective bulb of garlic: The Devil Finds Work and Notes of a Native Son are especially powerful.
A little slow here, and sorry about that, but one great collection of essays in memoir is Jessica Hendry Nelson's If Only You People Would Follow Directions.
If Only You People Would Follow Directions is a wonderful memoir-in-essays because the reader gets powerful, stand-alone essays that link together to examine alcoholism, mental illness, and one family as it navigates its way through the father's early death. A written memoir that draws the reader in with a powerful narrative and dynamic writing.
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