A Closer Look at the American Lives Series

The singular American life is a source of endless diversity, and the methods of telling the life are as important as the details themselves. The American Lives series, called “splendid” by Newsweek, features works of creative or literary memoir that, whether evoking moments of death or disease, in family or marriage, history, politics, religion, or culture, provide glimpses into singular American lives. Taken together, these stories coalesce into a richly textured and colorful portrait of our contemporary culture.



This Is Not the Ivy League

Mary Clearman Blew

This memoir is Blew’s behind-the-scenes account of pursuing a career at a time when a woman’s place in the world was supposed to have limits. It is a story of both the narrowing perspective of the social norm and the ever-expanding possibilities of a woman who refuses to be told what she can and cannot be.



Such a Life

Lee Martin

Whether recounting the observations of a solemn child, understood only much later, or exploring the intricacies of neighborhood politics at middle age, Martin offers us a richly detailed, highly personal view that effortlessly expands to illuminate our world.



Bigger than Life

Dinah Lenney

A meditation on grief and a coming of age story by turns funny and sad, frustrating and fulfilling. Lenny’s candid memoir conducts readers through marriage and divorce, blended and broken families—and, finally, the kinds of conflict that infect the best of us under the best of circumstances.



Between Panic and Desire

Dinty W. Moore

Blending narrative and quizzes, memory and numerology, and imagined interviews and conversations with dead presidents on TV, the book dizzily documents the disorienting experience of growing up in a postmodern world.



Pain Woman Takes Your Keys, and Other Essays from A Nervous System

Sonya Huber

Huber addresses the nature and experience of invisible disability, including the challenges of gender bias in our health care system, the search for effective treatment options, and the difficulty of articulating chronic pain. She makes pain a lens of inquiry and lyricism, finds its humor and complexity, describes its irascible character, and explores its temperature, taste, and even its beauty.



In the Shadow of Memory

Floyd Skloot

In December 1988 Floyd Skloot was stricken by a virus that targeted his brain, leaving him totally disabled and utterly changed. Combining the author’s skills as a poet and novelist, this book finds humor, meaning, and hope in the story of a fragmented life made whole by love and the courage to thrive.



Queen of the Fall

Sonja Livingston

Whether pulled from the folds of memory, channeled through the icons of Greek mythology and Roman Catholicism, or filtered through the lens of pop culture, Sonja Livingston’s Queen of the Fall considers the lives of women. Exploring the legacies of those she has crossed paths with in life and in the larger culture, Livingston weaves together strands of memory with richly imagined vignettes to explore becoming a woman in late 1980s and early 1990s America.



My Wife Wants You to Know I’m Happily Married

Joey Franklin

With honesty and wit, Franklin explores what it takes to raise three boys, succeed in a relationship, and survive as a modern man. This memoir is an uplifting rumination on learning from the past and living for the present, a hopeful take on being a man without being a menace to society.





When We Were Ghouls (March 2018)

Amy E. Wallen

Plumbing the slipperiness of memory and confronting what it means to be a “good” human, Wallen links the fear of loss and mortality to childhood ideas of permanence as she grapples with morally questionable memories. Did she and her family rob graves for a living, as her memory of the pillaging of a pre-Incan grave site indicates? Are they, as the author’s mother posits, “hideous people?” Or is Wallen’s memory out of focus?


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