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Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 224 pgs.
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Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey is an emotional roller coaster that I read in a couple of days. I’ve read much of Trethewey’s poetry in the past, so I was aware that her memoir would be well written. Growing up the daughter of a white father and a Black mother in the south was hard for her parents, but for the most part, they tried to shelter her from the darkness of bigotry and the still segregated south (Yes, the laws had changed, but attitudes and operations definitely had not). But this memoir is not about the fight for equality so much as a mystery slowly unraveled by Trethewey herself. She’s avoided parts of her past surrounding the murder of her mother by her stepfather. In many ways, the memoir reads like an intimate look at her own unraveling of the past and a stitching of herself into a whole being after splicing herself into the girl she was before she saw the apartment where her mother was slain and the woman she became afterward.

“‘Do you know what it means to have a wound that never heals?'” (Prologue)

“I chose to mark the calendar year just after my mother and I left Mississippi as ending, and the moment of loss — her death — as beginning.” (pg. 51)

Trethewey will take readers on a very emotional journey, and I rarely cry at memoirs. This was a tough read from beginning to end, as Trethewey came to terms with her biracial heritage, the divorce of her parents, and the fateful entrance of her stepfather. When she and her mother move to Atlanta, founded as “Terminus” or the end of the line, their perspectives on the move are very different. A child missing her close-knit family life in Mississippi and her mother reaching for a new life. When Big Joe comes into their lives, there’s an immediate sense of dread and fear as he takes her on long rides on the 285 as punishment (mostly for things she didn’t do). But Trethewey still blames her silence for what happened to her mother, even if it is less pronounced than it must have been years ago. Silence is a conundrum for her. “…I can’t help asking myself whether her death was the price of my inexplicable silence.” (pg. 83) When she returns to Atlanta after fleeing the place, she avoids the past and takes any roads that are not 285.

“The truth, however, was waiting for me in my body and on the map I consulted to navigate my way around: how the outline of 285 bears the shape of an anatomical heart imprinted on the landscape, a wound where Memorial intersects it.” (pg. 86)

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey is a gripping tale of healing and reconciling the past. Trethewey relies not only on her memory but on her mother’s own writing, testimony, and recorded phone conversations. I was emotionally wrecked by this memoir. The love she had as a child from both her parents provided her with the strong foundation she needed to revisit this tragic part of her past and to heal herself (at least I’m hopeful that she’s healing).

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Natasha Trethewey is an American poet who was appointed United States Poet Laureate in 2012 and again in 2013. She won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her 2006 collection Native Guard, and she is a former Poet Laureate of Mississippi.

Other Reviews:

Mailbox Monday #590

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

You Need a Budget: The Proven System for Breaking the Paycheck-to-Paycheck Cycle, Getting out of Debt, and Living the Life You Want by Jesse Mecham, purchased from Audible.

For most people, budgeting conjures up the same feelings as, say, prison and dieting. But your initial instinct couldn’t be further from the truth. You just haven’t budgeted the right way.

You Need a Budget will teach you four simple rules to completely revolutionize the way you think about managing your money. With a budget, you’ll break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, get out of debt, and save more money. A liberating, enabling, empowering budget will actually make you feel more free, not more restricted. The YNAB philosophy is centered around these four rules:

Give every dollar a job. Take your cash, checking, and saving accounts and assign jobs to that money. Begin now with what you have on hand. Then follow your plan. Pick your priorities, and make sure your dollars are helping you move closer to the things you care about most.
Embrace your true expenses. Look ahead and identify the larger, less frequent expenses that tend to sneak up on you. Break those expenses into manageable monthly amounts. Consider insurance premiums, birthdays, holidays, charitable giving, car repairs, etc. This practice evens out your cash outflows, decreases your stress, and helps you make better decisions.
Roll with the punches. Accept the fact that life always changes and you’ll likely always go over budget somewhere. If an unexpected expense comes up and you need to change your budget, just change it. The YNAB philosophy not only tolerates changing your budget but encourages it.
Age your money. The goal of this rule is to increase the time between the moment you earn money and the moment you spend that money. In other words, if you’re going to break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, you need to learn to live on money you earned a month or two months or even three months ago.

YNAB’s four rules are the pillars of a tried-and-true system that gets you to engage with your money every day. It helps you change your behavior so that you’re proactive and in control of your finances. It’s not about stressing over last month’s statement; instead, you’re looking ahead and actively deciding how you want and need to build a life of meaning, not stress.

When Mary Met the Colonel by Victoria Kincaid, freebie from the author on Audible.

Without the beauty and wit of the older Bennet sisters or the liveliness of the younger, Mary is the Bennet sister most often overlooked.

She has resigned herself to a life of loneliness, alleviated only by music and the occasional book of military history. Colonel Fitzwilliam finds himself envying his friends who are marrying wonderful women while he only attracts empty-headed flirts.

He longs for a caring, well-informed woman who will see the man beneath the uniform. During the wedding breakfast for Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, a chance meeting in Longbourn’s garden kindles an attraction between Mary and the Colonel.

However, the Colonel cannot marry for love since he must wed an heiress. He returns to war, although Mary finds she cannot easily forget him. Is happily ever after possible after Mary meets the Colonel?

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey, which I purchased from a Politics & Prose online event.

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.

What did you receive?