Critics, Cartoonists, Cooks, & More: Memoir Previews, Apr. 2019, Pt. 4 | Prepub Alert

Critic Harold Bloom, cartoonist Cathy Guisewhite, celebrity cook Kwame Onwuachi, and journalists Iyer, May, and Scott are among those offering memoirs this month.

Bloom, Harold. Possessed by Memory: The Inward Light of Criticism. Knopf. Apr. 2019. 560p. ISBN 9780525520887. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780525520894. Downloadable. MEMOIR
Not surprisingly, masterly and sometimes lightning-rod literary critic Bloom here discusses 80 crucial texts throughout the ages, from Shakespeare to Joyce to Amy Clampitt, but he does so to show how they have influenced his thinking and his life. As he further clarifies, “One of my concerns throughout Possessed by Memory is with the beloved dead. Most of my good friends in my generation have departed. Their voices are still in my ears. I find that they are woven into what I read.” Weave that into your reading.

Guisewite, Cathy. Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault: Essays from the Grown-up Years. Putnam. Apr. 2019. 336p. ISBN 9780735218420. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780735218444. Downloadable. MEMOIR
We have Guisewite to thank for the Cathy comic strip, which ran in nearly 1,400 newspapers for 34 years, was gathered into more than 20 books, and netted Guisewite a National Cartoonists Society Reuben Award and an Emmy. Now it’s time for some funny and heartfelt autobiographical essays in the style of Nora Ephron, with Guisewite addressing the care of aging parents and growing children while also watching out for oneself. Here’s the real Cathy; with a national tour.

Iyer, Pico. Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells. Knopf. Apr. 2019. 256p. ISBN 9780451493934. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780451493941. MEMOIR
Noteworthy essayist/novelist Iyer is perhaps best appreciated for travel writing that goes beyond travelog, as he does here. For years, Iyer divided his time between California and Japan, where he and his Japanese wife have a home. But his father-in-law’s recent death called them back to Japan earlier than expected, prompting meditations on how we hold on to what we love and how we learn to let go, framed by the culture of a people who honor their dead and regard the autumn light differently than we do. A sequel of sorts to 1991’s The Lady and the Monk, with good review attention for a beloved writer’s writer.

May, Meredith. The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees. Park Row: Harlequin. Apr. 2019. 336p. ISBN 9780778307785. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488095450. MEMOIR
Award-winning journalist May worked at the San Francisco Chronicle for many years, but she’s also a fifth-generation beekeeper, the real thrust of this memoir. In a book compared to H Is for Hawk, she recounts how she was raised by her grandfather, an offbeat original who made honey while living in a rusty old bus. With her parents having spun apart when she was five and her mother hiding out in the bedroom, always on the edge, May bonded with her grandfather and learned the glories of nature, and particularly bees. Lots of in-house love for this one; there’s a 175,000-copy first printing.

Moraga, Cherríe. Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir. Farrar. Apr. 2019. 256p. ISBN 9780374219666. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780374718541. MEMOIR
Influential queer Latina feminist Moraga, who cofounded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press and edited the important anthology This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, here tells not just her own story but that of her mother, Elvira. Hired out as a child by her own father to pick cotton in California, Elvira worked as a cigarette girl in late-1920s Tijuana, learned about sex and power from a wealthy white man, and eventually became a strong-willed matriarch who slowly succumbed to Alzheimer’s. Moraga charts their relationship and her own discovery of her sexual identity while using these stories to clarify the Mexican American experience and sense of loss.

Onwuachi, Kwame with Joshua David Stein. Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir. Knopf. Apr. 2019. 288p. ISBN 9781524732622. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781524732639. Downloadable. MEMOIR
Having been raised partly in the Bronx and partly in Nigeria, Onwuachi opened his first catering company with $20,000 he made selling candy on the subway, then went on to become a Top Chef star and a Forbes and Zagat 30 Under 30 honoree who has cooked twice at the White House. He’s now executive chef at Kith and Kin in Washington, DC. Unfortunately, though, the world of classy eats isn’t always easy on people of color. With author/journalist Stein (e.g., the U.S. editor of Where Chefs Eat), Onwuachi shares his highs and lows; recipes, too.

Rush, Chris. The Light Years: A Memoir. Farrar. Apr. 2019. 384p. ISBN 9780374294410. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374719463. MEMOIR
Award-winning artist Rush may have been raised in a strict Catholic family in New Jersey, but by age 12 he had been introduced to LSD by a friend of his older sister, and he rounded out his teenage years by being tossed from art school and heading to Tucson to buy drugs and enter America’s flourishing counterculture. A personal story of his search for belonging that also sums up America’s transition from sparkly Sixties to darkening Seventies; an FSG reading group selection attracting interest.

Scott, Janny. The Beneficiary: Fortune, Misfortune, and the Story of My Father. Riverhead. Apr. 2019. 288p. ISBN 9781594634192. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780698195752. Downloadable. MEMOIR
Part of a New York Times reporting team that won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2000, Scott is also the author of A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother. Here she turns to her own family, opening with the 800-acre estate built by Scott’s investment banker great-grandfather on Philadelphia’s Main Line to show the consequences for several generations (especially her troubled father) of land and wealth.

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Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Book Review; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president of the National Book Critics Circle, to which she has just been reelected.

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