Memorial Drive A daughter's memoir

Natasha D. Trethewey, 1966-

Book - 2020

"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."--Dust jacket.

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Subjects
Genres
Autobiographies
Published
New York, NY : Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers [2020]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
211 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN
9780062248572
006224857X
Main Author
Natasha D. Trethewey, 1966- (author)
  • Prologue
  • Another country
  • Terminus
  • Soul train
  • Loop
  • Pardon
  • You know
  • Dear diary
  • Accounting
  • Clairvoyance
  • Evidence: last words
  • Hallelujah
  • Disclosure
  • Evidence: tape of recorded conversations, June 3 and 4, 1985
  • What the record shows
  • June 5, 1985
  • Jettison
  • Proximity
  • Before knowing remembers.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* 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. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

When former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Trethewey was 19, her former stepfather shot and killed her mother. Here she uses her corrosive grief to examine the challenges her mother faced in the segregated South and her own challenges as a "child of miscegenation" in Mississippi, Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

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.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

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. (July) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

The former U.S. poet laureate shares a personal memoir about the brutal murder of her mother at the hands of her former stepfather, and how this profound experience of loss shaped her as an adult and an artist.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Native Guard shares a chillingly personal memoir about the brutal murder of her mother at the hands of her former stepfather. 150,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

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, Esquire, Electric Literature, Slate, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and InStyleA 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 tragedyAt 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.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

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, Esquire, Electric Literature, Slate, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and InStyleA 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 tragedyAt 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.