Memorial Drive: A Daughter's Memoir (Hardcover)

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With a poet’s eye and a daughter’s heart, Natasha Trethewey returns to the night her mother was murdered and the path of her own life was forever altered. Trethewey was 19 when her stepfather finally made good on his threats to end her mother’s life. She carefully documents the path that lead them to that night—all the times her mother reported the abuse and protected her family, and all the times the system left them vulnerable to a mentally unstable man. As Trethewey examines the  tragedy that has become her legacy, she constructs a heartbreakingly beautiful memorial to her mother and all the women let down by those who were supposed to protect them.  —Luisa

— From Elaine and Luisa's Picks: Summer 2020

August 2020 Indie Next List


“Natasha Trethewey was 19 when her mother was murdered by her stepfather in 1985. For decades, she hid the event, and memories of her mother, in the recesses of her mind while she went on to win a Pulitzer Prize and become the Poet Laureate of the United States. Now, decades later, she opens herself up to her past to produce a harrowing yet beautiful memorial.”
— Mike Hare, Northshire Saratoga, Saratoga Springs, NY

Description


An Instant New York Times Bestseller 

A New York Times Notable Book 

One of Barack Obama's Favorite Books of 2020

Named One of the Best Books of the Year by: The Washington Post, NPR, Shelf Awareness, Esquire, Electric Literature, Slate, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and InStyle

A chillingly personal and exquisitely wrought memoir of a daughter reckoning with the brutal murder of her mother at the hands of her former stepfather, and the moving, intimate story of a poet coming into her own in the wake of a tragedy

At age nineteen, Natasha Trethewey had her world turned upside down when her former stepfather shot and killed her mother. Grieving and still new to adulthood, she confronted the twin pulls of life and death in the aftermath of unimaginable trauma and now explores the way this experience lastingly shaped the artist she became.

With penetrating insight and a searing voice that moves from the wrenching to the elegiac, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Natasha Trethewey explores this profound experience of pain, loss, and grief as an entry point into understanding the tragic course of her mother’s life and the way her own life has been shaped by a legacy of fierce love and resilience. Moving through her mother’s history in the deeply segregated South and through her own girlhood as a “child of miscegenation” in Mississippi, Trethewey plumbs her sense of dislocation and displacement in the lead-up to the harrowing crime that took place on Memorial Drive in Atlanta in 1985.

Memorial Drive is a compelling and searching look at a shared human experience of sudden loss and absence but also a piercing glimpse at the enduring ripple effects of white racism and domestic abuse. Animated by unforgettable prose and inflected by a poet’s attention to language, this is a luminous, urgent, and visceral memoir from one of our most important contemporary writers and thinkers.

About the Author


Natasha Trethewey is a former US poet laureate and the author of five collections of poetry, as well as a book of creative nonfiction. She is currently the Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University. In 2007 she won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her collection Native Guard.

Praise For…


"A luminous and searing work.... In the end, we stand with Trethewey’s grief, feeling it as friends rather than voyeurs. That is perhaps what makes this book both so timely and timeless. The lonely death, the personal tragedy, haunts our daily living now more than ever. Even the sweetest moments of progress seem to always be marked by unimaginable loss. Memorial Drive answers the question: How we might manage it."
Boston Globe

"I’ve not read an American memoir where more happens in the assemblage of language..Memorial Drive forces the reader to think about how the sublime Southern conjurers of words, spaces, sounds and patterns protect themselves from trauma when trauma may be, in part, what nudged them down the dusty road to poetic mastery...The more virtuosic our ability to use language to probe, the harder it becomes to protect ourselves from the secrets buried in our — and our nation’s — marrow. This is the conundrum and the blessing of the poet. This is the conundrum and blessing of Memorial Drive."

New York Times Book Review

“Alternately beautiful and devastating.”
Washington Post

"Nothing [Trethewey] has written drills down into her past, and her family’s, as powerfully as Memorial Drive. It is a controlled burn of chaos and intellection; it is a memoir that will really lay you out.... This is a book with a slow, steady build. This is restraint in service to release....Even though you intuit what is coming, the moment you learn of Gwendolyn’s death is as stunning as the moment when Anna Magnani is shot in the street in Roberto Rossellini’s Rome, Open City."
— New York Times

"In Memorial Drive, Natasha Trethewey has transformed unimaginable tragedy into a work of sublimity. There’s sorrow and heartbreak, yes, but also a beautiful portrait of a mother and her daughter’s enduring love. Trethewey writes elegantly, trenchantly, intimately as well about the fraught history of the south and what it means live at the intersection of America’s struggle between blackness and whiteness. And what, in our troubled republic, is a subject more evergreen?"
— Mitchell S.  Jackson, author of Survival Math

“Haunting, powerful, and painfully stunning, Memorial Drive is one of the best memoirs I've read in a long time. A brilliant storyteller, Trethewey writes the unimaginable truth with a clear-eyed courage that proves, once again, that she's one of the nation's best writers.” 
— Ada Limón, author of Bright Dead Things and NBCC award-winner The Carrying

"Beautifully composed, achingly sad...This profound story of the horrors of domestic abuse and a daughter’s eternal love for her mother will linger long after the book’s last page is turned."
Publishers Weekly

"[A] graceful, moving memoir...Delicate prose distinguishes a narrative of tragedy and grief."
Kirkus Reviews

"A moving, heartbreaking memoir about a traumatic event and the path to healing."
Library Journal

“Natasha Trethewey has composed a riveting memoir that reads like a detective story about her mother’s murder by a malevolent ex-husband. It reads with all the poise and clarity of Trethewey’s unforgettable poetry—heartrending without a trace of pathos, wise and smart at once, unforgettable. The short section her mother penned as she was trying to escape the marriage moved me to tears. I read the book in one gulp and expect to reread it more than once. A must-read classic.”
— Mary Karr, author of The Liars' Club; Cherry; and Lit
Product Details
ISBN: 9780062248572
ISBN-10: 006224857X
Publisher: Ecco
Publication Date: July 28th, 2020
Pages: 224
Language: English