Nonfiction Previews, Aug. 2013, Pt. 3: Six Memoirs by Asante, Kephart, and More

Asante, MK. Buck: A Memoir. Spiegel & Grau. Aug. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9780812993417. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780679645450. MEMOIR
Asante is a veritable renaissance man, or perhaps, as the Philadelphia Inquirer says, someone who “brings to mind the great artists of the Harlem Renaissance.” His genres range from essay and creative nonfiction to poetry and film, his dozen awards from the Academy of American Poets’ Jean Corrie Poetry Prize in 2002 to best director (for The Black Candle) at the Arkansas Black Film Festival in 2012. LJ enthused that It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop “expertly blends historical information about hip-hop and the civil rights movement with personal narrative…to create an original and daring work.” Meanwhile, Asante keeps himself even busier as a tenured professor in creative writing and film at Morgan State University. All of which highly recommends this memoir.

Fontanel, Sophie. The Art of Sleeping Alone: Why One French Woman Gave Up Sex. Scribner. Aug. 2013. 160p. ISBN 9781451696271. $19.99; ebk. ISBN 9781451696295. MEMOIR
At first, I had an exasperated sense that this memoir might be self-regardingly whiny or faux-profound, but Fontanel really does seem to have something to say. At age 49, after decades of enjoying sex, she decided to give herself a break and found a surprising sense of fulfillment (and self-reliance) in being the only one without an “other” at dinner parties, on vacations, and more. Some skill-building here for many readers; Fontanel is a celebrated novelist and longtime editor at Elle France, which recommends the writing. Not huge but consider.

Kephart, Beth. Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir. Gotham Bks: Penguin Group (USA). Aug. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9781592408153. pap. $16. WRITING
Not a memoir proper, this book fits nicely with the others on this list because it’s about writing memoir. Kephart has penned five, including A Slant of Sun: One Child’s Courage, which was a National Book Award finalist. She’s also mastered the fiction and essay forms and currently teaches memoir writing at the University of Pennsylvania, so she’s got the skills to explain every facet of the writing process, including that crucial issue for memoirists: where does imaginative shaping stop and disregard for truth begin.

Moezzi, Melody. Haldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life. Avery: Penguin Group (USA). Aug. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781583334683. $26. MEMOIR
A Ms. and Huffington Post blogger, NPR commentator, and blogger/columnist for Bipolar Magazine, plus author of the praised War on Error, Iranian American Muslim activist and attorney Moezzi has a build-in readership for this memoir. Here she recounts her experiences with clinical and cultural bipolarity and her refusal to succumb to either. As Moezzi explains, when she was physically ill at age 18, her hospital room was flooded with flowers (including Iranian hyacinths), but her diagnosis of manic-depression after a suicide attempt was met with stony silence from her family—and some bad doctoring. She learned not just to survive but to thrive and has become a voice for both manic-depressives and Muslim Americans.

St. Germain, Justin. Son of a Gun: A Memoir. Random. Aug. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781400068623. $26; ISBN 9780345538741. Downloadable: Random Audio. MEMOIR.
St. Germain was irretrievably marked by his mother’s September 2001 murder in Tombstone, AZ, in a broken-down trailer far from any community. Despite subsequent successes (e.g., he became a Stegner Fellow), he found himself called back to the desert where he grew up with a string of undependable and sometimes violent stepfathers, his mother ever dependent on a dangerous man’s love despite her having been an army paratrooper. Here he tries to determine what really happened to his mother while trying to do her proud. Expect a big push.

Theall, Michelle, Teaching the Cat To Sit: A Memoir. Gallery: S. & S. Aug. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781451697292. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781451697315. MEMOIR
Here’s a memoir from a gay Catholic woman that asks why Christians aren’t as loving as they claim to be. Growing up in the Texas Bible Belt, Theall felt relentlessly at odds with her environment and eventually decamped to the Colorado Mountains, where she saw more elk than humans. At age 43, having accepted her sexuality, she tried with her partner to have their son baptized at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in free-spirited Boulder, CO, and found herself in conflict with both the church and her strict Catholic mother. A journalist who’s appeared all over television (even on the Fox Sports Network) and has won numerous awards for her features and editorial writing, Theall has the skills to deliver an effective read.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.


  1. Karl Helicher says:

    Beth Kephart writes on he blog how delighted she is to be chosen as one of your “Previews.” She will return to Book Chat here in August to discuss the above mentioned book. She is a terrific writer who is frequently praised in the New York Times and other major review outlets for her poetry and YA books. Best, Karl

  2. John J says:

    Can’t wait for Asante’s book BUCK.