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The Territory of Men: A Memoirby Joelle Fraser
Synopses & Reviews
Born into the turmoil of mid-sixties San Francisco, the daughter of a flower child and a surfer, Joelle Fraser grew up with no bedtime, no boundaries, and no father. But “dads” she had in abundance, as her mother worked her way through boyfriends and husbands, caught between the traditional rules of her upbringing and the new freedoms of the “me generation” and women’s lib. Moving every few months, from houseboats and beach shacks to run-down apartments, Joelle came to learn that a woman’s life, free or not, is played out on men’s territory.
Set in northern California, Hawaii, and the small coastal towns of Oregon, Fraser’s engrossing memoir captures this centerless childhood in wonderfully vivid, frank writing, then goes on to show how a legacy like this affects a girl as she grows up. Pretty, blond, precociously aware of her own sexuality, Joelle was drawn to men early, eager to unlock their mysteries. Working in bars, prisons, and firing ranges, she liked to hang out where they congregated. To her the only worlds that counted were men’s worlds. Men held the power; they made life matter.
Fraser’s sharp vignettes of her intense relationships, brief, turbulent marriage, and itinerant life are haunting echoes of her early memories. In The Territory of Men, she brilliantly portrays the way a rootless childhood leads to a restless adulthood, and how a mother’s aimless life serves as a blueprint for her daughter.
"This book doesn't pretend that any individual's life is epic. This book is about the daily revelations, mortifications, and moral quandaries we all endure. Joelle is self-aware, but she's often as puzzled by herself as by others. This book contains many more question marks than exclamation points, and that makes it tender, funny, and true." Sherman Alexie, author of The Toughest Indian in the World
"At times moving, occasionally self-indulgent and ultimately uneven....[Fraser] writes poetically about her earliest years....The typical rites of passage she describes later...are less interesting and the language more cliched....Despite its virtues, Fraser's memoir won't garner favorable comparison to works by writers who have traversed similar territory." Publishers Weekly
"[A] beautifully crafted debut....Ultimately unsatisfying, but a promising introduction to a writer worth keeping an eye on." Kirkus Reviews
Reminiscent of The Liars' Club and Shutterbabe, this honest, engrossing memoir by a woman born in mid-1960s San Francisco describes the rootless, ruleless life that left her in perpetual search for — and retreat from — men.
About the Author
Joelle Fraser has an MFA in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa and is a MacDowell fellow. She has won numerous awards, including the prestigious San Francisco Foundation Award for Nonfiction. The Territory of Men is her first book. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
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