This two-session online class explores acclaimed memoirs by writers who endured challenging childhoods during the 1970s and 80s—and who transformed those turbulent years into compelling coming-of-age stories.
Before the first class session, please read “Small Fry: A Memoir,” by Lisa Brennan Jobs—named one of the top 10 best books of 2018 by the New York Times. Tinged with yearning, awe, and disappointment, Brennan-Jobs’ memoir recounts her life growing up in two disparate California worlds: at home with her creative, spirited, single mother, who struggled financially and emotionally; and later, within the precarious, rarified realm of her father, Steve Jobs—whose wealth and fame as the CEO of Apple loomed as large as the shame, illegitimacy, and longing that suffused her emotional life. While the book includes an ample dose of celebrity gossip, it avoids sensationalism and self-pity and offers an exquisitely rendered story of family, love, and identity.
The second class will focus on Kiese Laymon’s “Heavy: An American Memoir,” awarded the LA Times Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose and Audible’s Book of the Year in 2018. In this powerful and provocative account, Laymon explores what the weight of a lifetime of secrets, lies, and deception does to a black body, a black family, and a national teetering on the brink of moral collapse. Born to a complicated black mother in Jackson, Mississippi, Laymon recounts his early experiences of sexual violence, his suspension from college, and his journey to New York as a young college professor, all the while chronicling his complex relationship with his family, his weight, sex, gambling, and writing. Critics have praised the memoir’s humility, bravery, and “raw humanity rendered in prose that begs for repeat readings.”
Join cultural historian Lori Rotskoff online to share your thoughts, opinions, and questions with other passionate readers.