The art of the memoir

Posted: April 28th, 2017 | Arts & Entertainment, Featured, La Mesa Reads | No Comments

By Heather Pisani-Kristl | La Mesa Reads

On the surface, reading memoirs is a curious pastime. We latch on to someone we know superficially — from a movie role, political office, historical event, etc. — and eagerly follow their first-person progress through college, careers, marriages, dalliances, and maybe even rehab. Sometimes the writer is as ordinary as ourselves, but has experienced an event in their lives that makes us question how we would react in the same situation.

Readers of memoirs know that deep truths and sympathetic understanding can be extracted from the author’s brutal self-examination. Below are some upcoming memoirs that have been purchased for the County Library system.

“Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg” by Todd Barry. What’s it like to be a famous comedian touring a circuit of secondary cities? Well, you hunt for coffee shops, rack up frequent-flyer miles, dodge dirty toilets — and meet a lot of appreciative fans. Readers who enjoy travelogues, and fans of standup comedy, will appreciate this glimpse of life on the road.

“The Price of Illusion: A Memoir” by Joan Juliet Buck. The former editor-in-chief of Paris Vogue — the only American woman ever to hold that position — recalls life in London, New York, Los Angeles and Paris during the 1960s through the 1990s. Even the most star-studded careers come to a close eventually, and as Buck faces the future, she struggles to connect with the self that was submerged under the superficial successes of the fashion world.

“The Family Gene: A Mission to Turn My Deadly Inheritance Into a Hopeful Future” by Joselin Linder. After experiencing the same life-threatening symptoms that led to her father’s, uncle’s, and great-grandmother’s deaths, Linder embarks on a journey to solve a genetic mystery. The path leads her through family memories, moral questions, and a molecular genetics lab at Harvard, where she discovers that her family has a private mutation — a unique genetic code not seen outside of her lineage.

“The New Old Me: My Late-Life Reinvention” by Meredith Maran. Sixty is the new midlife … crisis! Former Bay Area resident and freelance writer Meredith Maran changes cities, jobs and marital status in a seismic shift of life’s priorities. But is Los Angeles the right place to start over as a woman of a certain age? Reviewers are lauding this funny, poignant and well-written account of life after divorce.

If you’re interested in one of these titles, place your request online at or by calling 619-469-2151 with your library card ready.

Memoir Writing Class – Tuesday, May 23 at 10 a.m.

Writing coach Marni Freedman will help you with the journey toward creating a dynamic, original, well-structured memoir. She will touch on the basics of creating your memoir, such as crafting the hook, selecting memories, sculpting narrative from memories, editing, transitions, theme, character arc, dialogue and flashbacks. Enrollment is limited; call 619-469-2151 or visit the library’s front desk to sign up.

Local Author Event – Thursday, May 11, 6:30 p.m.

Local writer Roger L. Conlee will read from his latest historical thriller “Deep Water.” During the Cold War, reporter Jake Weaver runs afoul of powerful banking interests while proving they took illegal profits from the Nazis during World War II. Meanwhile, his friend, Marine Corps officer Kenny Nielsen, is trapped in the civil war between Chairman Mao’s communists and Chiang-Kai-shek’s Nationalists. This author event is free, and Mr. Conlee’s books will be for sale after the reading.

Second Saturday Concert – Saturday, May 13, 1 p.m.

The Friends of La Mesa Library and San Diego County Library are hosting the Shirthouse Bluegrass Band at the library. This popular group has recently played at the Ramona Music Festival and at Urban Solace Restaurant’s “Bluegrass Brunch.” All performances in this concert series take place on the second Saturday of each month and feature local talent in a family-friendly environment.

—Heather Pisani-Kristl is branch manager of the La Mesa branch of the San Diego County Library. Call the library at 619-469-2151; visit in person at 8074 Allison Ave.; or go online at

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