Synopses & Reviews
In readings that move from personal diaries and personal letters through autobiography and biography that assumes a public readership, and finally to the essay, the reader is led through an ever-widening audience. Starting with pieces that draw entirely on the writer's life to biography requiring research into another person's life, the reader moves from subjective to objective experience and finally to the essay that attempts to put that experience into a larger context. The selections are followed by "Musings" which suggest features of the writing that the reader might imitate and recommendations for writing. "Connections" presents ways in which individual pieces might be paired with others to make interesting comparisons and to generate other writing ideas. A range of familiar and unfamiliar selections are organized from the subjective to the objective and become increasingly difficult. They present a wide range of writing styles to allow readers to become comfortable with many styles. In addition, these selections represent a variety of cultures and historical periods to give readers an appreciation of other cultures and a sense of history. A valuable book for any reader who wishes to improve their writing skills by reading a variety of selections by a range of writers.
Life writing involves an in-depth investigation into the nature of self and others that grows out of self-awareness and identification with others. As writers, we must always begin with what we know best-- our own experience of the world--and attempt through words to make that experience meaningful for others.
Table of Contents
1. Journals and Diaries: Keeping a Daily Record.
On Keeping a Notebook, Joan Didion. A Voyage of Discovery, Christopher Columbus. My House in the Woods, Henry David Thoreau. Diary of a Civil War Soldier, W.P. Winans. The Mormon Migration, Priscilla Merriman Evans. Passing Thoughts,Sherwood Anderson. The Bombing of London, Virginia Woolf. A Visit with Jody, May Sarton. Down the River with Thoreau, Edward Abbey.The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank.
2. Letters: Communicating with Another.
On Inoculation with Smallpox, Voltaire. Letters to His Son, Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield. The Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln. A Trip on Horseback, Elinore Rupert Stewart. Chhatarpur, Central India, E.M. Forster. Letter from Africa, Isak Dinesen. Walden, E.B. White. Letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr. Between Sisters: An E-Mail Exchange, Denise Stodola and Sandy Rubinstein.
3. Autobiography: Composing the Self.
Confessions of an English Opium Eater, Thomas De Quincey. An Early Woman Doctor, Bethenia Owens-Adair. An Indian Woman Looks Back, Sarah Winnemucca. Looking Things Over, Zora Neale Hurston. Books Are My Alma Mater, Malcolm X. Where I Come From Is Like This, Paula Gunn Allen. Back, bell hooks. The Beat in the Jungle, Arthur Ashe.
4. Biography: Writing a Life.
The Butchering at Wounded Knee, John Neihardt. The Delany Sisters: Jim Crow Laws, Sarah and Elizabeth Delany (with Amy Hill Hearth). Richard Hickock: In Cold Blood, Truman Capote. Gloria Steinem: The Transforming Interlude, Carolyn G. Heilbrun. Leonard Bernstein: Beginnings for a Musical Genius, Joan Peyser. No Name Woman: My Aunt, Maxine Hong Kingston. Zora Neale Hurston: Before Her Time, Alice Walker. Daniel Boone: The Rescue, John Mack Faragher. Dian Fossey: Among the Great Apes, Sy Montgomery. Stevie Wonder: Music Is His Life, Giles Smith.
5. The Essay: Reflecting on the World.
Once More to the Lake, E. B. White. A Hanging, George Orwell. The Brown Wasps, Loren Eiseley. Lincoln Up Close, Gore Vidal. A Mask on the Face of Death, Richard Selzer. On Going Home, Joan Didion. The Fixed, Annie Dillard. Straightening Our Hair, bell hooks. Mother Tongue, Amy Tan.