Upper Bohemia

S. & S. Jun. 2021. 272p. ISBN 9781982105280. $26. MEMOIR
Spanning the art hubs of New York, Mexico City, and Cape Cod in the 1940s and 1950s, this memoir by art historian and author Herrera (Listening to Stone) recounts a childhood where parental disinterest and absence led to wild adventures and even danger. Herrera documents her and her sister’s childhood vulnerability and experiences of near-kidnapping and sexual assault. Beyond the memoir’s informal cameos of artists and writers who made up her parents’ social circle, Herrera’s clear, piercing language both manifests and foils the allure of the society her mother calls “Upper Bohemia.” Herrera’s craft shines in her ability to write candidly about class and privilege in a memoir dedicated to childhood wonder.The book imparts a desire for belonging and parental affirmation; Herrera writes affectionate and at times scandalous portraits that preserve her younger self, her siblings, her parents, and her parents’ lovers, sometimes with images of their naked bodies. And yet, the romance she best preserves in this memoir is her relationship with Cape Cod, a pastoral setting of lost generational wealth and intense familiarity.
VERDICT Herrera’s memoir engages in discussions of mental health, equality, and fulfillment without passing judgement on her subjects; a rare feat. A riveting story of necessary resilience.
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