I’ve been accused of having a Pollyanna outlook, and that’s okay by me. No one in my circle(s) said he or she actually enjoyed COVID-19, and nor did I. At the same time, since many usual activities were nipped in the bud, I spent more time alone reading and enjoying nature–even watched a few Netflix movies.
The break from the busyness forced an outward perspective, an awareness of others who were having a rougher time than I…and who always had and likely always would. Quick example: we never ran out of apples, bread, or granola bars; we were never lonely (though the ache to see my children and grandchildren was visceral at times); and we were never too cold or too hot. I sensed that even if we got sick, we’d survive. In the meantime, there was no sense to kick against the pricks. Shoulders straight, we thought this too shall pass and used the time to learn about the world around us–nature, people, cultures, music, rodeos, writing, and so forth.
Specifically, I learned about memoir writing–what it is and isn’t–and about the real lives people live. One such memoir was Memorial Drive, a book I highly recommend. Here’s the review I posted on Amazon in the hope of encouraging others to read it.
Memorial Drive, a memoir by Pulitzer Prize winner Natasha Tretheway is one of those books that’s going to live with me for a long, long time. Caught up in an increasingly awareness of social and racial injustice, I immediately became immersed in Trethewey’s book to the exclusion of all other reading.
Beautifully written, the memoir begins with her parents, a white father and black mother, and how they met, and what a happy family they were—for a while. Despite the legality of their marriage, the Tretheweys weren’t protected from the darts and slings and downright malice that prejudice can bring, and ultimately, they divorced. Little Natasha moved with her mother to Atlanta to begin a new life, a life away from her grandmother, Uncle Son, and others of her supportive environment in Gulfport. Her mother eventually remarries, and another chapter of Natasha’s life begins, a sad one leading to tragedy.
While this book is a memoir, its structure isn’t linear in the sense that “this happened and then this and then that.” Rather, it’s organized according to memories of important incidents that carry weighty insight, especially some that seem to foretell the future. I particularly enjoyed her Trethewey’s description of a photograph of her standing between her parents as her mother sat on the arm of a chair her father, Eric Trethewey was sitting. Those were good moments where she felt safe and loved by both parents, moments too good to last that ironically prepared her to endure the difficulties ahead.
Memorial Drive is a about love and the ties that bind that last despite separation, even the separation of death. It’s also about endurance and survival.
As I typed this post, I kept thinking of how all of the major players that affected Trethewey’s life, are probably deceased. And yet, their influence lives on, even in those who never met them–like me and other readers. Read the memoir, and you’ll see what I mean.