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  • BN Editors 1:00 pm on 2019/11/21 Permalink
    Tags: , after the flood, , Biography, , , national book award for nonfiction, ,   

    Breaking the Frame: Sarah Broom Unearths Her Family’s Story in Her National Book Award-Winning Memoir The Yellow House 

    Last night, journalist and author Sarah M. Broom took home the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction for her memoir The Yellow House, an emotional and revelatory chronicle of her family home in New Orleans, where her mother raised 12 children before it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2006. In it, their story becomes a sort of biography of the city itself—a place that was flooded with problems, from racial division, to poverty, to government corruption, long before the waters rose.

    Below, we present a profile of the author and her book by Amy Gall, originally published in September 2019.

    For author Sarah Broom, the expression “home is where the heart is” works not just as a truism, but as an understatement. “I was haunted by the house I grew up in from the moment I left it to go to college in 1997. I’m interested in place and what it means to be tethered to place, and through the years, I kept taking notes on the physical house itself without knowing what I was going to say about it. And then in 2006 after Katrina hit and the house was demolished by the city, the story changed for me. Because rather than write about this physical place that I can cast my longing and interrogations on, there was no place. Then I was writing about absence and that process blew open a world for me.”

    That blown-open world would eventually become Broom’s stunning debut memoir The Yellow House. It tells the story of the shotgun home Broom’s mother bought in New Orleans East at the age of 19 and where she raised twelve children, Broom being the youngest, until the house was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

    In order to construct this meticulous narrative, Broom, who had spent much of her adult life running away from the city of her birth, moved back to New Orleans in 2011 and spent the year doing extensive interviews with her family. It was an act that was at times cathartic but also gave rise to its own difficulties when the resulting stories began to get published. “An excerpt from the book ran in The New Yorker in 2015 and the magazine is meticulous about fact checking, so they called my siblings to ask them if what they said was true and my siblings were like, ‘Sigh. Here she goes again.’ It’s very hard to be written about. My family understands, I think, the value of having these stories in a book and I think they know that in a way this will outlast them and be something that the next generations can draw on to understand where they came from. But in the moment, that’s not the thing you’re thinking about when you’re feeling exposed and vulnerable.”

    The true power of The Yellow House emerges in the way Broom takes these highly personal stories and stitches them into a larger narrative about New Orleans itself, a city that has been plagued by racism, capitalist greed, and government corruption since long before Hurricane Katrina brought all of these issues to the nation’s attention. “I spent a lot of time thinking about the dysfunction of New Orleans. In a way, it made me feel closer to the city, like I was claiming it in the way that Joan Didion writes about making a place your own. But then I was also turning it on its back and looking at its soft underbelly and saying, what kind of place is this that made me and noticing that there are some icky things under there. But those icky things were part of what it means to tell a full story. The whole section about the French Quarter, for instance, is a game of taking what people know about New Orleans and saying, ‘How do I exploit that knowledge and push it to the edge of itself? How do I go into the myths of America like: it’s a meritocracy, and, if you buy a house it will lead you to wealth, and then blow them up?’ ”

    Broom got her start in journalism, earning her degree from the University of California, Berkeley, where she worked with Cynthia Gorney, “an old school journalist from the Washington Post.” The investigative rigor Broom honed there fed a project that wound up expanding outside the limits of a typical memoir. “I was trying to make something a little beyond the frame, because it was personal but that was just one layer, and even the personal was a lot of investigative reporting. If my uncle said to me, ‘In 1920 we were living on Saint Joseph Street by the rice mill,’ I wouldn’t just write, ‘Uncle Joe said they lived on Saint Joseph Street.’ I’d find the name of the rice mill, figure out where the train tracks were, figure out from census records how long they were there, and then construct a story from that fact. I used the thing he said to build a kind of world, and that’s an extra layer of journalistic work. I spent a lot of time in public libraries, cemetery libraries, driving to Raceland where my father is from. I basically lived on the fifth floor, which is called the Louisiana Division, of the main library in New Orleans and the University of New Orleans archive. But there needed to be all these layers of investigation because the book for me was like a concentric circle, just expanding and getting broader and broader.”

    Broom took particular pains to illustrate how inadequate healthcare, access to education and employment and “environmental racism” trap black families like hers in cycles of poverty and violence. She uses those broader themes to return powerfully to the memories of childhood shame she carried, growing up in a home that, even before Katrina, had fallen into a state of disrepair. “There was a moment in the book where I say something about how I learned to define myself by the place I’m from and the trick in the work of shame I think, is rather than allow you the clarity of mind to say, what the fuck is wrong with this system? What the fuck is wrong with this world? You take it on as yours. Now, as a thinking, interrogative person, that shame feels ridiculous to me.”

    Sometimes the heaviness of the work would stop Broom in her tracks, but inspiration could also come from unexpected places. “It was very hard, because you’re sucked into this world. For a long time I didn’t talk to my siblings in real life, because I was writing them and I was listening to them and it was just a lot, all their stories and their fears and ideas. At some point I was going so insane with this story and it seemed too unwieldy and I couldn’t gather it together and I remember standing up in my office, and going to the wall where I would do charcoal drawings every morning as a kind of exercise and just writing ‘Show Up’ and underneath that ‘Stay.’ And that became the thing that I did. I didn’t overthink it and say ‘This is so hard.’ I just showed up and stayed.”

    After spending so much time documenting the loss of her childhood house, one might expect that Broom would be hesitant about owning a home, especially in New Orleans. But an unexpected discovery piqued the author’s interest. “When my book went into production, my friend sent me a listing for this little yellow shotgun house. I never wanted a yellow house. I was not a person trying to replace my childhood home. But it was the cutest little house and I became obsessed with it. The house is only about 650 square feet, so I can’t really host big gatherings there. Only about four people can fit in there at once. But buying it was a moment where I was just thinking about myself and my own needs. And when you’re from a large family, that doesn’t happen that often. So, the house is special for me in that way.”

    This new yellow house has a history just as interesting as its predecessor, and may even inspire her next book. “The house is supposedly from 1811 and was originally owned by a free woman of color. I’d like to write about it someday. Who knows? The rest of my life might just be looking up addresses and saying what’s the history of this place?”

    The Yellow House is available now. Explore all the winners of the 2019 National Book Awards here.

    The post Breaking the Frame: Sarah Broom Unearths Her Family’s Story in Her National Book Award-Winning Memoir <i>The Yellow House</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Ross Johnson 2:00 pm on 2019/10/30 Permalink
    Tags: Biography, , edward snowden, , life itself, , permanent record, , ,   

    The Best Biographies & Memoirs of the Season 

    It has been an amazing season for new biographies and memoirs, packed with illuminating and entertaining deep dives into fascinating figures of the past and present. These are our picks for the best of the season, all available now.

    Know My Name, by Chanel Miller
    Within four days of its release, the victim impact statement of a woman only known as Emily Doe had been seen by over eleven million people before being read on the floor of Congress, ultimately inspiring changes to California law. The reaction to her statement, which described her sexual assault by Stanford student Brock Turner, was global. The fact that Turner received only six months in a county jail for his crime shocked and outraged many, but also sparked a movement, as Emily Doe’s statement inspiring others to come forward. Having revealed her real name this summer, Chanel Miller tells her horrific and heartrending story, but also offers a sense of the hope that her decision to speak the truth will do something to help change the systems that so often fail victims. It’s a powerful message for our times.

    Me, by Elton John
    It’s  hard to believe Sir Elton has never produced an autobiography until now. With a career that spans more than a half century, the one-time Reginald Dwight has plenty of stories to tell—some relating to the excesses and pitfalls that have plagued so many rockers, many others having to do with his run-ins with some of the most significant figures of our time, including Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth. The suburban kid from Pinner grew up to be one of the most shocking and outrageous figures in glam rock, and soared to the heights of respectability as an icon, and also a father. This is the story of a living legend, told in his own words.

    Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years, by Julie Andrews with Emma Walton Hamilton
    Her first memoir, Home, chronicled Julie Andrews’ difficult childhood and emergence as a singer and stage performer, while this follow-up discusses her Hollywood career from its earliest days and offers insights into her biggest successes in her own words. Co-writing with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, Andrews not only dives into the stories behind roles in films like Mary PoppinsThe Sound of Music, and Victor/Victoria, but deals with her own transition into worldwide superstardom, and the effect it had on her marriages and children. For an accounting of Andrews’ earlier years, you’ll want to read Home Work alongside her previous book Home: A Memoir of my Early Years.

    Edison, by Edmund Morris
    He was once a defining figure in America’s own self-mythology, but there was certainly much more to prolific inventor Thomas Edison than the lightbulb. With seven years of of research and access to millions of documents, many of them unavailable until now, Edmund Morris confronts Edison in full: the whirlwind of inventor and capitalist whose technology touched every aspect of American life, as well as the autocratic leader and neglectful husband. Morris’ approach is to look for the human beneath the myth; he even spends some time exploring Edison’s notorious, but overstated, competition with Nikola Tesla. Most, if you’ll pardon the pun, enlightening.

    The Beautiful Ones, by Prince
    Another equally significant, but very different musical visionary has a new memoir out this month, this one a bit more poignant. The autobiography begun prior to Prince’s death in 2016 is the first-person account of a Minnesota kid who created some of the most visionary pop and funk ever recorded, cultivating a mystique very different from what his upbringing would have suggested. Prince’s own recollections of his childhood and early growth as an artist make up the first part of the book, while writing and candid photographs fill in the major events from the rest of his storied career. Finally, the Artist’s own handwritten treatment for “Purple Rain” is included in its entirety. Though sadly truncated, this is an essential portrait of The Artist: Prince sought to retell his own story as a mythic and funky adventure, and succeeded. (We’ve curated a soundtrack to accompany your reading here.)

    Permanent Record, by Edward Snowden
    One of the most controversial and, ultimately, consequential figures of our time, Edward Snowden’s life and career speaks to all the ways in which we’re not fully prepared for the surveillance age. In 2013, CIA contractor Snowden leaked word of an NSA surveillance program that he’d helped to build—a program to collect data on every cell phone call, text, and email in a way that would impact almost everyone on the planet. It was one of the most consequential acts of whistleblowing in American history. He’s seen as a hero by some, and a traitor by others, and now, six years later, the exile—complex, revered, vilified—tells his side of the story.

    Acid for the Children, by Flea with Patti Smith
    Red Hot Chili Peppers co-founder and bassist Michael Balzary is a rock icon, but he’s also an actor and a philanthropist with an impressive set of credentials for an Australian kid who weathered a turbulent, sometimes violent upbringing that saw him bouncing from Melbourne, to New York, to Los Angeles before he’d even exited his teens. He idolized classic-era jazz musicians before a high school encounter with Anthony Kiedis set him on a path to rock superstardom. His witty and unpredictable memoir brings to life the LA of the ’70s and ’80s, offering a revealing portrait of a raucous life.

    Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Familyby Mitch Albom
    Returning to nonfiction for the first time this decade, the always inspiring Mitch Albom tells the story of the daughter, Chika, adopted by the author and his wife Janine, and the improbable and sometimes tragic circumstances that brought them all together. Born during the 2010 earthquake that ravaged Haiti and orphaned shortly thereafter when her mother died due to complications of childbirth, Chika was brought to the Port Au Prince orphanage run by Albom, where they found each other. Though in many ways a story forged out of heartbreak, Albom’s book is ultimately a celebration of the ways in which families come together in good times and bad, and the enduring bonds that survive everything life can throw at us.

    Whose story inspires you?

    The post The Best Biographies & Memoirs of the Season appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Ceridwen Christensen 1:30 pm on 2019/10/28 Permalink
    Tags: 1999, Biography, , , parade, piano & a microphone 1983, portrait of the artist, , , ,   

    Your Soundtrack to Prince’s The Beautiful Ones 

    The night that Prince died, I went for a walk through my neighborhood in Minneapolis, the city of his birth. It was late April—a time when, Prince once sang, snow might still surprise—but it was a perfectly beautiful evening. There were people on porches and congregated in alleys, and I could hear Prince’s music coming from everywhere, the soundtrack of my movement through a place suddenly, inexplicably without of one of its fiercest and most vital voices. My neighbors were filling up this unfathomable loss with what he’d left behind: his music.

    Three months before his death, Prince met with publishers about producing his memoir, to be called The Beautiful Ones after one of his complicated love songs. He chose Dan Piepenbring as his co-writer in a project envisioned to surprise, provoke, and motivate. “The book would allow him to seize the narrative of his own life,” Piepenbring wrote. It would center Prince in his own story. The book was to be something new and surprising: an autobiography that pulled lessons from Prince’s lived experience that would illuminate issues in the world—race and class; art and the business of making it—and do so not just in words, but in pictures, the records of conversations, and a catalog of the ephemera of Prince’s life, covering the period from his birth to his iconic Superbowl concert in 2007.

    Prince’s untimely death left the project unfinished, the text limited to several dozen pages now augmented with countless rare images and objects from the Artist’s life and times. These are essential artifacts: consider the scan of a paper bag with the lyrics to “Do Me, Baby” scrawled on it; Prince had a tendency to write on whatever was at hand, a palimpsest of prose against the prosaic. (This is a habit he shares with other American poets: The Gorgeous Nothings records Emily Dickinson’s poems written on envelopes.) The thing missing in this memoir and retrospective, then, is Prince’s music, the very thing we turned to when he died. Here are 10 albums to serve as your soundtrack to The Beautiful Ones.

    Prince (1979)

    Though self-titled, Prince isn’t Prince’s first album; that was For You, released a year earlier, in 1978. Both albums are synthesizer-heavy, sung almost completely in Prince’s signature falsetto. His chunky guitar, which will be so characteristic of the “Minneapolis Sound” when it comes together just a few years later, isn’t really present; this is music worked out on a piano, something which Prince will come back around to only later. “I’m sick of playing the guitar, at least for now. I like the piano, but I hate the thought of picking up the guitar,” he told Piepenbring at their first meeting.

    Notable cover: Chaka Khan recorded a rendition of “I Feel for You” in 1984, the same year Prince’s Purple Rain dropped.

    Dirty Mind (1980)

    For You and Prince are often dreamy and romantic, laced with a gauzy sexuality. The only song to chart from the former was “Soft and Wet,” a funky but courteous seduction; even the album cover is in soft focus. Dirty Mind strikes a drastically different tone. The cover is stark black and white. Prince poses before the springs and structure of a mattress, wearing a studded jacket, a bandana around his neck, black underwear, and nothing else. A pin on the jacket reads “rude boy.” The photo is raunchy and direct, a perfect wrapper on the album. In Dirty Mind, Prince messes with gender, sexuality, culture, and history in weirdly peppy, upbeat three-minute pop songs. One would think that a song titled “Sexuality” would be dirty, but instead its lyrics call out issues of race in America. (“We don’t need no segregation, we don’t need no race/New age revelation, I think we got a case.”) A case could be made that in 1980s America, this stuff was dirtier than sex. Dirty Mind shows Prince beginning to play with both image and music, an effort that will bloom into full flower in Purple Rain.

    Notable cover: Cyndi Lauper retools “When You Were Mine” for her debut album, She’s So Unusual, as pure New Wave.

    Controversy (1981)

    I just can’t believe all the things people say
    Controversy
    Am I black or white, am I straight or gay?
    Controversy
    Do I believe in god, do I believe in me?

    After the success of Dirty Mind, Prince begins to clap back at the speculations about him. He always courted ambiguity, and here he really begins to play it up. He also explores issues in ways more overtly political—not just positioning sex as liberation, your typical dance track hedonism—to mixed results. “Ronnie Talk to Russia” is part of an embarrassing collection of ’80s songs tackling denuclearization (Sting’s cringe-worthy “Russians” being an exemplar of the form). But “Annie Christian” has a strange poetry to it, mixing imagery of the Atlanta Church bombings and John Lennon’s assassination into a story of a woman named Annie Christian. Full advantage is taken of the allusive possibilities of such a moniker, and the track offers no easy interpretations. It almost reminds me of fellow Minnesota native son Bob Dylan’s rambling biographical songs.

    1999 (1982)

    Starting in 1979, Prince began experimenting with a backup band. Over the next few years, the lineup changed often. Some personnel changes were due to religious convictions, as members left to pursue spiritual callings, as well as the usual sort of personal and creative conflicts that are hard to parse from the outside. Though 1999 doesn’t officially count as the first Prince and the Revolution album—that will be Purple Rain—it sits right there on the cusp of becoming. The words “and the Revolution” are even visible on the cover, written backwards and superimposed over the “I” in Prince. Other than the replacement of Dez Dickerson by Wendy Melvoin, the Revolution lineup is intact. Moreover, Prince begins to sound like Prince. Maybe it’s the backing of a group of talented musicians, maybe it’s inevitable evolution; either way, it all begins to come together on 1999. This is the first Prince album I remember really getting into, poring over the lyrics and acknowledgements on the backs of the two slipcases. Though Controversy was the first album incorporating Prince’s signature sensational spelling —U for you, 2 for to—because it didn’t have a lyric sheet, the effect was blunted. 1999 includes complete lyrics, and I was mesmerized.

    Purple Rain (1984)

    Everything comes together in Purple Rain: Prince’s self-mythologizing and eye for the dramatic, all riding on a personal musical style that has synthesized into something unique. The acting and the writing in Purple Rain, the film, is hokey and amateurish, but the concert sequences, which constitute a sizable amount of the running time, are electric. The song that gives his memoir its title, “The Beautiful Ones,” is performed in the movie after Prince has started wooing the fair Apollonia; his rival for her affections is Morris Day. Prince plays the song after Morris makes his pitch. Apollonia’s reaction shots say everything. He swings from seduction to accusations and despair, ending prone on the stage and screaming. She’s not a great actress, but she really hits her marks here. There’s almost too much to say about Purple Rain, the film and soundtrack that launched Prince into superstardom. I saw the movie when I was 10 years old, in a seedy theater in downtown Minneapolis. I was already a fan, so I convinced my indulgent fathr to take me to the R-rated concert film. It is one of my favorite memories, and I am positively vibrating with excitement to listen to the album as I read what Prince had to say about its genesis.

    Ice Cream Castle, The Time (1984)

    This album, released concurrently with Purple Rain and including several songs from the film, stands on this list as more of placeholder for all of the artists Prince worked with over the years, particularly during this especially fertile period in his career. Both tracks from the movie—”The Bird” and “Jungle Love”—are dance numbers that positively slap. (I pledge allegiance to the Time, indeed.) This album and Sheila E’s The Glamorous Life have shown the most staying power of any of the Purple Rain-era Prince disciples, probably because they’re all standout musicians in their own right. Albums from Vanity 6—and the reconstituted Apollonia 6, after Vanity and Prince parted ways—are well out of print these days, which is almost a shame, as they are so charmingly inept.

    In addition to the Purple Rain adjacent albums, Prince penned a variety of songs for other people (or which were performed by others, but which he never recorded himself): The Bangles’ “Manic Monday,” Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” Sheena Easton’s “Sugar Walls,” Stevie Nicks’ “Stand Back,” and many, many others.

    The B-Sides (1993)

    It doesn’t necessarily feel like it was released that long ago, but given the subsequent upheavals in recording technology—tapes to CDs to mp3s to streaming—I should probably explain what a b-side is. Prince released a lot of singles: 45 rpm records highlighting a standout song like “When Doves Cry” or “Let’s Go Crazy.” The other side of the record—the b-side—would feature a previously unreleased track. Maybe it was perversity, maybe it was Easter eggs for the faithful, but many of the songs Prince relegated to the b-side were astonishingly good. “17 Days,” the b-side of “When Doves Cry,” counts the days after the loss of a lover. It’s in the same vein as “Nothing Compares 2 U,” but the music is peppier, an ironic contrast with the sentiment. “Erotic City,” the b-side of “Let’s Go Crazy,” is perfect sexy funk. It has received a fair amount of airplay, despite ambiguity as to whether Prince was saying “funk” or the other f-word.

    Parade (1986)

    Though The Beautiful Ones only covers the period up to Purple Rain, this list strikes past that period; Prince had much more to say before his untimely death. Parade is the soundtrack to Prince’s second movie, Under the Cherry Moon, which is deliriously, perfectly bad. (I have no idea why the album is called Parade, and not Under the Cherry Moon.) Shot in black in white, Under the Cherry Moon tells the story of the doomed romance between high class gigolo Christopher Tracy (played by Prince) and spoiled heiress Mary Sharon (played by Kristin Scott Thomas, in her film debut). It features one of the most self-indulgent death scenes of all time.

    But weirdly, the album is excellent: in particular, “Sometimes It Snows in April” is an achingly lovely ballad, and evokes all the emotions the movie fails to. Which is not to say that I don’t love the film inordinately; I can quote you so much dialogue from myriad viewings in my misspent youth.

    Prince would continue to be drawn to cinema through his career. The less said about Graffiti Bridge—the sequel to Purple Rain, and major fiasco—the better, but his contributions to a couple soundtracks, including Tim Burton’s Batman and Spike Lee’s Girl 6, are both perfectly respectable albums. On the Batman soundtrack especially, the dualities and dialectics suggested by the source material dovetail with prevalent themes in Prince’s work.

    Sign ‘O’ the Times (1987)

    After spending a couple albums deep in the weeds, Prince comes back to it in Sign ‘O’ the Times. This album is his most multi-faceted to date, with everything from slamming dance numbers like “Housequake,” to shattering love songs like “Adore,” to the hard to characterize “Ballad of Dorothy Parker.” (My kids don’t have much patience with their mother’s love of Prince, but they both love “Starfish and Coffee,” which he performed on Sesame Street.) The album also includes his first song recorded at a live show, “It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night.” The liner notes credit the backup singers as members of the band along with “6000 Wonderful Parisians.” Prince’s music had a global impact—a fact that became apparent after his death, as monuments as far flung as the Eiffel Tower in France, the Melbourne Arts Centre in Australia, and Niagara Falls in Canada were bathed in purple light in memoriam.

    Piano & a Microphone 1983 (2018)

    Piano & a Microphone 1983 is the first Prince album released posthumously. It consists of a demo album produced in a single take, found on a cassette in Prince’s Vault, and includes five previously unreleased songs. It gives us a small glimpse into Prince’s creative process; he tries things out, remixes, and samples. Some of the songs wouldn’t find their way onto an album for years. Due to unfortunate circumstance, much of The Beautiful Ones had to be assembled from archival materials, which makes this a fitting choice to end this list. I’m sure we can expect more recordings like Piano & a Microphone 1983, as the voluminous contents of his vault are vetted and remastered. But we’re not going to get anything else like The Beautiful Ones, which includes his most recent thoughts and impressions of some of his most important works. He’ll never write anything new again, and I still can’t quite believe it.

    Prince’s The Beautiful Ones is available on October 29.

    The post Your Soundtrack to Prince’s <i>The Beautiful Ones</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Ross Johnson 1:00 pm on 2019/10/23 Permalink
    Tags: Biography, carly simon, , , face it: a memoir, home work: a memoir of my hollywood years, , , , , songs of life, , touched by sam: my friendship with jackie   

    Your Guide to a Star-Studded Season of Music Memoir and Biography 

    A oft-repeated aphorism, frequently misquoted or mistakenly attributed, tells us that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” the implication being that attempting either is a fruitless endeavor. But if that were truly the case, there would be little use for the nine fascinating books below—first person memoirs and rigorously researched biographies exploring the lives, minds, and, yes, music of some of the most iconic musicians of the past 50 years, all newly arriving in bookstores this fall.

    Me, by Elton John
    It’s  hard to believe Sir Elton has never produced an autobiography until now. With a career that spans more than a half century, the one-time Reginald Dwight has plenty of stories to tell—some relating to the excesses and pitfalls that have plagued so many rockers, many others having to do with his run-ins with some of the most significant figures of our time, including Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth. The suburban kid from Pinner grew up to be one of the most shocking and outrageous figures in glam rock, and soared to the heights of respectability as an icon, and also a father. This is the story of a living legend, told in his own words.

    The Beautiful Ones, by Prince
    Another equally significant, but very different musical visionary has a new memoir out this month, this one a bit more poignant. The autobiography begun prior to Prince’s death in 2016 is the first-person account of a Minnesota kid who created some of the most visionary pop and funk ever recorded, cultivating a mystique very different from what his upbringing would have suggested. Prince’s own recollections of his childhood and early growth as an artist make up the first part of the book, while writing and candid photographs fill in the major events from the rest of his storied career. Finally, the Artist’s own handwritten treatment for “Purple Rain” is included in its entirety. Though sadly truncated, this is an essential portrait of The Artist: Prince sought to retell his own story as a mythic and funky adventure, and succeeded.

    Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years, by Julie Andrews with Emma Walton Hamilton
    Her first memoir, Home, chronicled Julie Andrews’ difficult childhood and emergence as a singer and stage performer, while this follow-up discusses her Hollywood career from its earliest days and offers insights into her biggest successes in her own words. Co-writing with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, Andrews not only dives into the stories behind roles in films like Mary PoppinsThe Sound of Music, and Victor/Victoria, but deals with her own transition into worldwide superstardom, and the effect it had on her marriages and children. For an accounting of Andrews’ earlier years, you’ll want to read Home Work alongside her previous book Home: A Memoir of my Early Years.

    Horror Stories, by Liz Phair
    The title alone reveals that this book to be a musical memoir of a different order: like Liz Phair’s emotionally candid music, her book traces some of the most difficult moments of her life and career, stretching back to the release of her groundbreaking debut album Exile in Guyville, analyzing critical junctures, reconsidering poor choices, and poring over the seemingly mundane moments she’s been unable to leave behind. Her point isn’t to wallow in the dark times; Phair is aiming for something more universal—a confessional work revealing that even a rock star experiences moments of self-delusion and shame. In exploring her own horror stories, Liz Phair explores the ways in which we all cope with regret, and how we might reclaim our power over our darkest moments.

    Rhianna, by Rihanna
    Considering she is one of the biggest musical mega-stars of our time, there’s really no better title for this book than simply Rihanna; the name says it all. This impressive and hefty art book serves as a visual autobiography of the singer, designer, actress, and businesswoman. Taken together, the collection of photos showcase every facet of her extraordinary life and career—1,050 full-color images spread across over 500 pages, many of them never published before, and representing her experiences in stagecraft, design sketches, fashion, and music. The book also includes several fold-out images, as well as a removable poster, making it not only a unique look at Rihanna’s life from her own perspective, but a very impressive package, highly giftable item for fans (and who isn’t?).

    Touched by the Sun: My Friendship with Jackie, by Carly Simon
    Another book from a musical legend, this one less about Carly Simon’s music than about her relationship with another American icon: following a chance encounter at a party in Martha’s Vineyard,  Simon and Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis developed a relationship somewhere between that of best pals and a mother and daughter. When Simon write children’s books in the 1980s and ’90s, it dovetailed with Jackie’s late-career move into the publishing world, and she became Simon’s editor. The friendship lasted right up until Jackie’s death in 1994. Here, Simon shares the intimate story of their unique bond.

    Janis: Her Life and Music, by Holly George-Warren
    Each generation seems fated to rediscover Janis Joplin for itself, with this new (and already acclaimed) biography from George-Warren representing a new opportunity to take a fresh look at the singer-songwriter/queen of rock and roll. Growing up in the 1940s and ’50s in a conservative oil town, Joplin refused to play by the rules of gender and sexuality, and developed the racially progressive views that lead her to approach and appreciate the blues music of black Americans. Though the tragedy of her struggle with addiction and her eventual death color our view of her life and career, the author makes clear that Joplin was a complex person, and worth much more than the sum of her demons: she was sensitive, a perfectionist, and a true romantic, and she changed music forever. Writing with unprecedented access to archives and interview subjects, George-Warren has created a definitive portrait of a legendary figure.

    Sweat the Technique: Revelations on Creativity from the Lyrical Genius, by Rakim
    During rap’s golden age in the 1980s, when the form was just coming into its own in the mainstream, Rakim was at the forefront among MCs proving that there was art to be found in hip hop. His complex lyrics and layered rhymes changed the way things were done—are still being done—earning him a reputation as the Thelonious Monk of rap. Even in this new memoir he breaks with convention: yes, he offers a rare glimpse into his private life, from his childhood on Long Island to his rise to the top of the music scene, but first and foremost it is an exploration of his process—a guide, perhaps, for those looking to be better writers, and an exploration of the craft for everyone else. Rakim’s masterful mingling of words, music, and rhyme to create and tell stories can impart lessons useful for any artist, or anyone who’s ever tried to tell a great story.

    Face It: A Memoir, by Debbie Harry
    It’s obviously a huge season for musical memoirs, and it’s impossible to overstate the importance of each of the talents with books out this fall, but none of them rocks harder than punk icon Debbie Harry, who led the band Blondie, a fusion of rock, punk, disco, and hip-hop incarnate. The deeply private artist’s new memoir revisits the gritty music scene in 1970s New York, an era when some of the greatest bands of all time were on the verge of becoming legends. Through drug addiction, heartbreaks, and breakups, Harry evolved from rock star to activist to icon, busting down barriers and making great music all the while.

    What’s your favorite musical memoir or biography ever?

    The post Your Guide to a Star-Studded Season of Music Memoir and Biography appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Ross Johnson 2:00 pm on 2019/09/30 Permalink
    Tags: Biography, ,   

    The Best Biographies & Memoirs of October 2019 

    Me, by Elton John
    It’s  hard to believe Sir Elton has never produced an autobiography until now. With a career that spans more than a half century, the one-time Reginald Dwight has plenty of stories to tell—some relating to the excesses and pitfalls that have plagued so many rockers, many others having to do with his run-ins with some of the most significant figures of our time, including Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth. The suburban kid from Pinner grew up to be one of the most shocking and outrageous figures in glam rock, and soared to the heights of respectability as an icon, and also a father. This is the story of a living legend, told in his own words.

    The Beautiful Ones, by Prince
    Another equally significant, but very different musical visionary has a new memoir out this month, this one a bit more poignant. The autobiography begun prior to Prince’s death in 2016 is the first-person account of a Minnesota kid who created some of the most visionary pop and funk ever recorded, cultivating a mystique very different from what his upbringing would have suggested. Prince’s own recollections of his childhood and early growth as an artist make up the first part of the book, while writing and candid photographs fill in the major events from the rest of his storied career. Finally, the Artist’s own handwritten treatment for “Purple Rain” is included in its entirety. Though sadly truncated, this is an essential portrait of The Artist: Prince sought to retell his own story as a mythic and funky adventure, and succeeded.

    Edison, by Edmund Morris
    He was once a defining figure in America’s own self-mythology, but there was certainly much more to prolific inventor Thomas Edison than the lightbulb. With seven years of of research and access to millions of documents, many of them unavailable until now, Edmund Morris confronts Edison in full: the whirlwind of inventor and capitalist whose technology touched every aspect of American life, as well as the autocratic leader and neglectful husband. Morris’ approach is to look for the human beneath the myth; he even spends some time exploring Edison’s notorious, but overstated, competition with Nikola Tesla. Most, if you’ll pardon the pun, enlightening.

    The Book of Gutsy Women, by Hillary Rodham and Chelsea Clinton
    Any new book from Hillary Clinton is an event, and this one seemed particularly well timed to capitalize on our current political moment. Joined by daughter Chelsea, the Clintons shares the stories of women who’ve inspired them and who, each in her own way, broke barriers and made progress possible for themselves and future generations. Among the women chronicled are LGBTQ trailblazer Edie Windsor, writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, civil rights activist Dorothy Height, swimmer Diana Nyah, historian Mary Beard, activist Malala Yousafzai, and Harriet Tubman—among many others. They’re all inspiring stories, and they all have things to teach us about the many different ways to chart a better future

    Face It: A Memoir, by Debbie Harry
    It’s obviously a huge month for musical memoirs, and it’s impossible to overstate the importance of each of the talents with books out this month, but none of them rocks harder than punk icon Debbie Harry, who led the band Blondie, a fusion of rock, punk, disco, and hip-hop incarnate. The deeply private artist’s new memoir revisits the gritty music scene in 1970s New York, an era when some of the greatest bands of all time were on the verge of becoming legends. Through drug addiction, heartbreaks, and breakups, Harry evolved from rock star to activist to icon, busting down barriers and making great music all the while.

    Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years, by Julie Andrews with Emma Walton Hamilton
    Her first memoir, Home, chronicled Julie Andrews’ difficult childhood and emergence as a singer and stage performer, while this follow-up discusses her Hollywood career from its earliest days and offers insights into her biggest successes in her own words. Co-writing with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, Andrews not only dives into the stories behind roles in films like Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, and Victor/Victoria, but deals with her own transition into worldwide superstardom, and the effect it had on her marriages and children.

    Where Do I Begin? Stories from a Life Lived Out Loud, by Elvis Duran
    It’s not easy to make it in radio these days, so Duran’s success as the host of New York City’s “Elvis Duran and the Morning Show” is doubly impressive: between local broadcast and syndication, the show is typically heard by around 10 million live listeners. As open (and funny, and engaging) on the page as he is on the air, Duran has plenty of stories to tell about his rise through the ranks—he started as a DJ-for-hire in several markets before moving to NYC in 1996, becoming a favorite among listeners for his interviews with pop music royalty and chats with his fans.

    Touched by the Sun: My Friendship with Jackie, by Carly Simon
    Another book from a musical legend, this one less about Carly Simon’s music than about her relationship with another American icon: following a chance encounter at a party in Martha’s Vineyard,  Simon and Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis developed a relationship somewhere between that of best pals and a mother and daughter. When Simon write children’s books in the 1980s and ’90s, it dovetailed with Jackie’s late-career move into the publishing world, and she became Simon’s editor. The friendship lasted right up until Jackie’s death in 1994. Here, Simon shares the intimate story of their unique bond.

    Whose story inspires you?

    The post The Best Biographies & Memoirs of October 2019 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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