Upper Bohemia A memoir

Hayden Herrera

Book - 2021

"A coming-of-age memoir by the daughter of privileged, artistic, hard-drinking, bohemian parents, set against a backdrop of 1950s New York, Cape Cod, and Mexico"--

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BIOGRAPHY/Herrera, Hayden
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Subjects
Genres
Autobiographies
Published
New York : Simon & Schuster 2021.
Edition
First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xix, 248 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
ISBN
9781982105280
1982105283
Main Author
Hayden Herrera (author)
  • The Big House
  • Friends
  • Turkey farm
  • Divorce
  • Manhattan
  • Mountain climber
  • Scary
  • Granny Blair
  • Birthday Parties
  • Thoughts
  • The City
  • Cornwall
  • Dasya
  • Mougouch
  • Hickory Ridge
  • Toads
  • The Manheims
  • Gaga
  • Naked
  • Coche de Mama
  • Mexico
  • Coyoacán
  • Cuernavaca
  • Outings
  • Parque Melchor Ocampo
  • With family
  • Without Blair
  • Esquela Pan Americana
  • Betrayal
  • Myrtle Street
  • Edward Norman
  • Beach Glass
  • Postscript.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Herrera's gorgeous parents, each born in 1908, were married five times, had "numerous love affairs," and were devoted to living "a passionate life," no matter their children's needs. They were "upper bohemians," blue blood American nonconformists living impulsive, hand-to-mouth lives of shabby privilege and epic ardor. Herrera's incisive portraits of her parents and their volatile world subtly forecast her future calling as a superb biographer of artists Frida Kahlo, Isamu Noguchi, and Arshile Gorky (whose widow became Herrera's stepmother and godmother). Herrera's stunning, fearless, narcissistic mother put her lovers before her two daughters, precipitating a wildly improvisational, sometimes exciting, often harrowing and nomadic existence in New York, Boston, Cape Cod, and Mexico. The girls had to fend for themselves physically and emotionally except during brief interludes of tender, loving care with wealthy relatives. Herrera seems to have cultivated her keen powers of observation to survive neglect, upheaval, and worse. But she also recounts the joy she found in nature and other exhilarating experiences as she reveals a little-known realm of insistent liberation, romance, restlessness, recklessness, and the pursuit of beauty. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

The parents of Pulitzer Prize finalist, Los Angeles Times Book Prize-winning biographer Herrera lived in what her mother called Upper Bohemia. They were from wealthy backgrounds, living the artistic life (with friends like Max Ernst, Edmund Wilson, and Peggy Guggenheim). But they neglected their children, divorcing when Herrera was five and each marrying four more times. With a 50,000-copy first printing. Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Spanning the art hubs of New York, Mexico City, and Cape Cod in the 1940s and 1950s, this memoir by art historian and author Herrera (Listening to Stone) recounts a childhood where parental disinterest and absence led to wild adventures and even danger. Herrera documents her and her sister's childhood vulnerability and experiences of near-kidnapping and sexual assault. Beyond the memoir's informal cameos of artists and writers who made up her parents' social circle, Herrera's clear, piercing language both manifests and foils the allure of the society her mother calls "Upper Bohemia." Herrera's craft shines in her ability to write candidly about class and privilege in a memoir dedicated to childhood wonder.The book imparts a desire for belonging and parental affirmation; Herrera writes affectionate and at times scandalous portraits that preserve her younger self, her siblings, her parents, and her parents' lovers, sometimes with images of their naked bodies. And yet, the romance she best preserves in this memoir is her relationship with Cape Cod, a pastoral setting of lost generational wealth and intense familiarity. VERDICT Herrera's memoir engages in discussions of mental health, equality, and fulfillment without passing judgement on her subjects; a rare feat. A riveting story of necessary resilience.—Asa Drake, Marion County P.L., FL Copyright 2021 Library Journal.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

In this intimate memoir, art historian Herrera (Isamu Noguchi) writes of being the daughter of "upper bohemian" artist parents who believed in "the importance of pleasure and living life to the hilt." Herrera vividly brings to life her childhood summers in the 1940s and '50s spent with her sister swimming at the family property, Horseleech Pond, in Cape Cod and of her chaotic and often magical experiences living in Manhattan and on the outskirts of Mexico City. Herrera's father had inherited land on Cape Cod, and on it built houses that would eventually host their bohemian friends, including British architect Serge Chermayeff, Hungarian Futurist designer Marcel Breuer, artists György and Juliet Kepes, structural engineer Paul Weidlinger, novelist and critic Mary McCarthy, writer Edmund Wilson, and Peggy Guggenheim. Herrera notes that her often itinerant childhood was confusing, but her mother remains at the center: Herrera tells of the end of her parents' marriage when her mother began an affair with scientist George Senseney; and of being driven to Mexico at age 10 in the "Coche de Mama" (her mother's Chrysler station wagon, with real wood paneling) to live with her mother's new boyfriend, Edmundo Lasalle. Her mother died in 1995, and Herrera writes that she felt "something enormous, like sunshine, like the pull of gravity, went out of my life." This is a sparkling portrait of a rarified and complex upbringing. (June) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"A coming-of-age memoir by the daughter of privileged, artistic, hard-drinking, bohemian parents, set against a backdrop of 1950s New York, Cape Cod, and Mexico"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Set against a backdrop of 1950s New York, Cape Cod and Mexico, this poignant coming-of-age memoir follows the author, the daughter of artistic, bohemian parents, as she recounts an idyllic and surreal childhood at the hands of two narcissists who treated her like an afterthought. 50,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A 'touching, heartbreaking, and exceptional' (Town & Country) coming-of-age memoir by the daughter of artistic, bohemian parents'set against a backdrop of 1950s New York, Cape Cod, and Mexico.Hayden Herrera's parents each married five times; following their desires was more important to them than looking after their children. When Herrera was only three years old, her parents separated, and she and her sister moved from Cape Cod to New York City to live with their mother and their new hard-drinking stepfather. They saw their father only during the summers on the Cape, when they and the other neighborhood children would be left to their own devices by parents who were busy painting, writing, or composing music. These adults inhabited a world that Herrera's mother called 'upper bohemia," a milieu of people born to privilege who chose to focus on the life of the mind. Her parents' friends included such literary and artistic heavyweights as artist Max Ernst, writers Edmund Wilson and Mary McCarthy, architect Marcel Breuer, and collector Peggy Guggenheim.On the surface, Herrera's childhood was idyllic and surreal. But underneath, the pain of being a parent's afterthought was acute. Upper Bohemia captures the tension between a child's excitement at every new thing and her sadness at losing the comfort of a reliable family. For her parents, both painters, the thing that mattered most was beauty'and so her childhood was expanded by art and by a reverence for nature. But her early years were also marred by abuse and by absent, irresponsible adults. As a result, Herrera would move from place to place, parent to parent, relative to family friend, and school to school'eventually following her mother to Mexico. The stepparents and stepsiblings kept changing too.Intimate and honest, Upper Bohemia 'captures an enchanted but erratic childhood in a rarefied milieu with the critical but appreciative eye of a seasoned art historian' (The Wall Street Journal). It is a celebration of a wild and pleasure-filled way of living'and a poignant reminder of the toll such narcissism takes on the children raised in its grip.