Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir


Memorial Drive book coverA Novel
by Natasha Trethewey

On Sale: July 28, 2020
Publisher: Ecco
Print Lenght: 224 Pages


Memorial Drive is 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.


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About the author

Natasha Trethewey is an American poet who was appointed United States Poet Laureate in June 2012; she began her official duties in September. She won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her 2006 collection Native Guard, and she is the Poet Laureate of Mississippi.

She is the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University, where she also directs the Creative Writing Program.

Structurally, her work combines free verse with more structured, traditional forms like the sonnet and the villanelle. Thematically, her work examines “memory and the racial legacy of America”. Bellocq’s Ophelia (2002), for example, is a collection of poetry in the form of an epistolary novella; it tells the fictional story a mixed-race prostitute who was photographed by E. J. Bellocq in early 20th-century New Orleans.

The American Civil War makes frequent appearances in her work. Born on Confederate Memorial Day—exactly 100 years afterwards—Trethewey explains that she could not have “escaped learning about the Civil War and what it represented”, and that it had fascinated her since childhood. For example, Native Guard tells the story of the Louisiana Native Guards, an all-black regiment in the Union Army, composed mainly of former slaves who enlisted, that guarded the Confederate prisoners of war.

Praise

“Haunting, powerful, and painfully stunning, Memorial Drive is one of the best memoirs I’ve read in a long time. A brilliant storyteller, Trethewey writes the unimaginable truth with a clear-eyed courage that proves, once again, that she’s one of the nation’s best writers.”  Ada Limón, author of Bright Dead Things and NBCC award-winner The Carrying

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“In Memorial Drive, Natasha Trethewey has transformed unimaginable tragedy into a work of sublimity. There’s sorrow and heartbreak, yes, but also a beautiful portrait of a mother and her daughter’s enduring love. Trethewey writes elegantly, trenchantly, intimately as well about the fraught history of the south and what it means live at the intersection of America’s struggle between blackness and whiteness. And what, in our troubled republic, is a subject more evergreen?” Mitchell S.  Jackson, author of Survival Math

“Beautifully composed, achingly sad…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.” Publishers Weekly

“[A] graceful, moving memoir…Delicate prose distinguishes a narrative of tragedy and grief.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“A moving, heartbreaking memoir about a traumatic event and the path to healing.” Library Journal

“Natasha Trethewey has composed a riveting memoir that reads like a detective story about her mother’s murder by a malevolent ex-husband. It reads with all the poise and clarity of Trethewey’s unforgettable poetry—heartrending without a trace of pathos, wise and smart at once, unforgettable. The short section her mother penned as she was trying to escape the marriage moved me to tears. I read the book in one gulp and expect to reread it more than once. A must-read classic.” Mary Karr, author of The Liars’ ClubCherry; and Lit


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