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Memorial Drive
Cover of Memorial Drive
Memorial Drive
A Daughter's Memoir
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An Instant New York Times Bestseller A New York Times Notable Book One of Barack Obama's Favorite Books of 2020Named One of the Best Books of the Year by: The Washington Post, NPR, Shelf Awareness,...
An Instant New York Times Bestseller A New York Times Notable Book One of Barack Obama's Favorite Books of 2020Named One of the Best Books of the Year by: The Washington Post, NPR, Shelf Awareness,...
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  • 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.

 

Awards-

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.

Reviews-

  • AudioFile Magazine Poet Natasha Trethewey's emotional delivery adds to the impact of this harrowing memoir. Trethewey was 19 when her stepfather murdered her mother. In this deeply moving story, she recounts her mother's childhood in the segregated South and her own childhood in Mississippi, where she grew up the child of an interracial marriage. Her strong emotions are palpable as she offers listeners a detailed account of her mother's abusive relationship, her own understanding and experience of it, and the events that eventually led to the murder. It is particularly powerful to hear Trethewey tell her story aloud. Though this memoir is a difficult and often viscerally painful listen, it's a worthwhile one--a nuanced exploration of trauma, race, family, violence, healing, and art. L.S. � AudioFile 2020, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    December 23, 2019
    In this beautifully composed, achingly sad memoir, U.S. poet laureate Trethewey (Monument) addresses the 1985 murder of her mother, Gwendolyn, at age 40, at the hands of her ex-husband, the author’s former stepfather. Over the course of the narrative, Trethewey, 19 at the time of the killing, confronts her wrenching past, which she avoided for decades, as she tries to undo the “willed amnesia buried deep in me like a root.” Born in 1966 in Mississippi, she recalls her childhood in the racist South, the daughter of an African-American mother and a white Canadian father who separated when she was a girl. Mother and daughter moved to Atlanta in 1972, and it’s there that the nightmare begins, after Gwendolyn meets Joel, a Vietnam vet she marries and with whom she soon has a son named Joey. Trethewey chillingly ramps up the tension as Joel is revealed to be a calculating, controlling psychopath who psychologically torments the author and beats her mother. Gwendolyn eventually leaves Joel, but he continues to stalk her, and Trethewey includes ominous documents (including an urgent letter Gwendolyn wrote to police) that reveal the terrifying circumstances of her life before the murder, for which Joel was sent to prison. 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.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from April 1, 2020

    Exploring personal trauma, memory, and closure, Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winner Trethewey returns to the site of her mother's murder. The daughter of an African American mother and white Canadian father, Trethewey grew up in civil rights-era Mississippi and Georgia. After her parents' divorce, her mother married an unstable Vietnam veteran who, over time, became psychologically and physically abusive. After ten years, her mother left with Tretheway and her younger brother in tow but continued to live in fear of her ex-husband. Working with victims' rights groups, the state's attorney general, and local police, her mother achieved renewed independence and strength. But that did not stop Tretheway's former stepfather from murdering her mother in June 1985. Through spare prose and vivid imagery, the author presents a narrative of a trauma survivor's need to remember a past that, for 30 years, lapsed into the mind's shadows. VERDICT A moving, heartbreaking memoir about a traumatic event and the path to healing.--Leah Huey, Dekalb P.L., IL

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    April 15, 2020
    Reprising years that she tried to forget, a daughter unearths pain and trauma. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Trethewey, winner of a Pulitzer Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, and many other awards, begins her graceful, moving memoir with her mother's murder in 1985. Her mother was 41; Trethewey, 19. In an effort to discover "the hidden, covered over, nearly erased," the author returned to the scene of the crime and her own buried memories. "I need now," she writes, "to make sense of our history, to understand the tragic course upon which my mother's life was set and the way my own life has been shaped by that legacy." Trethewey spent her early childhood in Mississippi, where she felt "protected, insulated from racial intimidation and violence." Her black mother, Gwendolyn Turnbough, was a Head Start administrator; her white father was rarely home, either working or pursuing a graduate degree in New Orleans. By the time 6-year-old Trethewey and her mother moved to Atlanta, the couple had divorced. The move, writes the author, "ended the world of my happy early childhood," and soon her comforting sense of "the two-ness" between mother and daughter was broken when Turnbough's new boyfriend, Joel, moved in. When her mother was at work, he found ways to torment Trethewey. "Always," she reveals, "there was some small thing he'd accuse me of, some transgression he invented in order to punish me." He beat her mother, and Trethewey could hear her pleading at night; her face would be swollen and bruised in the morning. Trethewey was in high school when her mother finally divorced Joel, and at last "everything felt normal." But in February 1984, he tried to kill Turnbough. He was arrested and imprisoned, but after his release, he threatened her again, and this time succeeded. Delicate prose distinguishes a narrative of tragedy and grief.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from June 1, 2020
    As a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former U.S. poet laureate, Trethewey (Monument: Poems, New and Selected, 2018) has conducted profound excavations into African American history and her own life. In her memoir, a work of exquisitely distilled anguish and elegiac drama, she confronts the horror of her mother's murder. Trethewey's white Canadian father and her Black American mother met in college and eloped, their 1966 marriage deemed illegal in Mississippi. Trethewey recounts her sunny childhood within the embrace of her mother's accomplished and valiant extended family. Shadows grow after her parents divorced and Trethewey and her mother moved to Atlanta, where Gwendolyn earned a graduate degree in social work while supporting them as a waitress. Enter dangerously unbalanced Joel. Because Gwendolyn silently endured his violence, Trethewey concealed Joel's cruelty to her. When Gwendolyn finally broke free, she secured police protection, but it proved to be catastrophically inadequate. Through finely honed, evermore harrowing memories, dreams, visions, and musings, Trethewey maps the inexorable path to her mother's murder. She even shares transcripts of chilling phone conversations in which Gwendolyn, in spite of her terror, speaks to her killer in the carefully measured mode of a social worker. Trethewey writes, To survive trauma, one must be able to tell a story about it. And tell her tragic story she does in this lyrical, courageous, and resounding remembrance.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

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