For the past few weeks, as I've been planning ahead for the courses I get to teach in the Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA program next Spring, I've felt the same anxiety I've felt since I was a kid whenever someone gave me a gift certificate to a book or record store, my favorite gift bar none. I obsess over the options and worry that I will make a poor choice. I wring my hands. I wander the aisles or keep updating my cart online. Finally I click to buy and hope for the best.
So now I get to choose not one or two books, but several. Not just for myself but for my students. Two courses: Craft of Nonfiction and Directed Readings in Contemporary Memoir. It's like the ultimate gift certificate. Should I choose forty books or eighty? The lists beside my desk on scrap paper kept accumulating. I emailed friends for advice, and then promptly ignored it. I honed the list over and over until it occurred to me, yesterday, that I had other work that probably needed doing, most notably firewood splitting and putting the garden to bed, but also teaching my current classes.
Anyway here's the final list for The Contemporary Memoir. Now that it's finalized, please let me know what you think so that I can start the inevitable regretting.
Two craft books for reference:
The Art of Time in Memoir: Then, Again by Sven Birkerts
Fearless Confessions by Sue William Silverman
Ten fine books:
Brother I’m Dying Edwidge Danticat
Another Bullshit Night in Suck City Nick Flynn
Lit Mary Karr
Autobiography of a Face Lucy Grealy
Somehow Form a Family Tony Earley
Boyhood J.M Coetzee
The Tender Land Kathleen Finneran
I’ve Heard the Vultures Singing Lucia Perillo
Jarhead Anthony Swofford
Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood Melissa Hart
With apologies to the many also-rans: Mark Doty, Alexandra Fuller, Judith Barrington, Michael Ondaatje, Danielle Trussoni, Frank McCourt, Maxine Hong Kingston, Thomas Merton. I don't suspect it bothers them to have missed the cut. But good lord does it bother me. Next time. Next time.
PS - For my most recent CD purchase, in spring, I was stuck between Clem Snide and Fruit Bats, nearly paralyzed for weeks. Finally, I bought both. Big splurge. No regrets. I'll take this as an omen.