Nonfiction for the Brain

Nonfiction for the Brain

Heartland by Sarah Smarsh A compelling literary memoir, the book at its core follows two different threads: one, the idea of a working class did not exist in the U.S. during Smarsh’s childhood and this sociological and economical oversight on the part of policy makers kept millions of farmers and other blue-collar workers in poverty for a generation or more. And two, Smarsh follows a cycle of abuse and addiction back through her great-grandmother that in turn, keeps her own family in poverty. With clarity and lyricism, Smarsh takes you through her childhood, mixing relevant data and statistics from that time period with her own poignant narrative.

The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams This exquisitely written collection of nature essays by the venerable Williams is a testament to the fragile ecosystems within America’s National Parks that have been both protected and exploited by the U.S. government over the last 100 years. A divise and highly politicalized idea from the beginning, the parks have never had it easy, with most elected officials preferring the land be returned to the public throughout its history, yet there have always been fierce, passionate advocates for them, wealthy and ordinary citizen alike. Each essay is dedicated to a different park that is special to Williams, some written in short paragraphs, evoking a fluid and lyrical sense of poetry, and these are a delight to read. Others, like the two set in Canyonlands National Park, and Alcatraz National Park, have a deeper and substantive thread to follow, asking questions about what we are willing to sacrifice for the basic rights of freedom. But the question that runs throughout the book is, why do we continue to put industry ahead of our earth and its needs; why, indeed, do we sacrifice our land when the land is the only thing that will save us in the end?

The Other Side by Lacy M. Johnson A brutal and heartbreaking story about a woman who was kidnapped and raped, the memoir is told in jumbled up pieces of that night and of the months and years leading up to and after that fateful day. Perhaps she wanted this framework because this is the way a rape victim’s mind works in the time before and after an attack like this. Pieces are all she had. At times blatantly and gut-wrenchingly visceral, with stark, yet brilliantly placed metaphors that make scenes come alive with description, her writing is at once difficult to read and hard to put down. Regardless of the difficulty, her writing talent is superb, and I look forward to reading more of her work.

Educated by Tara Westover An exceptionally well-told memoir about a woman’s path to find her identity after being raised by survivalist parents, this is a story written with startling clarity and force. Having never gone to school before, Westover teaches herself enough math, science, and English to pass the ACT and enter Bringham Young University at the age of seventeen. But all of that extra time at home left her prey to the wrong people, and in college she begins to see the consequences of that trauma. The more she learns and explores, the more strength she finds to pull away from home and the people that damaged her psyche, and her ability to see herself clearly. This is an incredible story, fabulously written.

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *