Synopses & Reviews
One of the San Francisco Chronicle's 100 Recommended Books of 2016
"It’s Nelson’s articulation of her many selves — the poet who writes prose; the memoirist who considers the truth specious; the essayist whose books amount to a kind of fairy tale, in which the protagonist goes from darkness to light, and then falls in love with a singular knight — that makes her readers feel hopeful." — The New Yorker
First time in paperback, a genre-busting memoir by a major American essayist.
Late in 2004, Maggie Nelson was looking forward to the publication of her book Jane: A Murder, a narrative in verse about the life and death of her aunt, who had been murdered thirty-five years before. The case remained unsolved, but Jane was assumed to have been the victim of an infamous serial killer in Michigan in 1969.
Then, one November afternoon, Nelson received a call from her mother, who announced that the case had been reopened; a new suspect would be arrested and tried on the basis of a DNA match. Over the months that followed, Nelson found herself attending the trial with her mother, and reflecting anew on the aura of dread and fear that hung over her family and childhood — an aura that derived not only from the terrible facts of her aunt’s murder but also from her own complicated journey through sisterhood, daughterhood, and girlhood.
The Red Parts is a memoir, an account of a trial, and a provocative essay that interrogates the American obsession with violence and missing white women, and that scrupulously explores the nature of grief, justice, and empathy.
"The story blossoms into a meditation on memory, the fallibility of forensics, the grieving process, the justice system, and much more.... Nelson's account is both riveting and nuanced. The result is like Making a Murderer as told by Joan Didion — a breathtaking and discomfiting experience that will stay with readers well beyond the latest true crime fad." Bust Magazine
"Is Maggie Nelson a poet, a critic, or a memoirist? No label is quite right, no category quite enough. Works like Bluets and last year’s The Argonauts are full of sentences that move from the personal to the critical, take a dip into quoting another writer, corner hard into comic profanity and then come to an emotional stop you couldn’t never have predicted three lines earlier." Los Angeles Times
"Maggie Nelson is having a moment.... In writing The Red Parts, Nelson has made her own box holding the fragments of many things. It’s not a beautiful object, but a valuable, coolly shimmering one, which captures the raw bewilderment that can affect a family for generations after a violent loss." San Francisco Chronicle
"The Red Parts is meandering and diaristic, plunging us into a story as it happens. We sit beside Nelson and share her bewilderment, and by the end of the book we are forced to recognize that this is one of the greatest gifts an author can provide us: the chance to admit that we do not know what we think." Elle.com
"Her quivering, precise ethical sensitivity is everywhere at work, worrying, probing, discerning.... Nelson's resistance to the easy answer, her willingness to reach a kind of conclusion and then to break it, to probe further and further, to ask about her own complex and not entirely noble intentions instead of facilely condemning others, make The Red Parts an uneasy masterpiece." NPR.org
About the Author
Maggie Nelson is a poet, critic, and nonfiction author of several books, including The Argonauts, The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning, Bluets, and Jane: A Murder. She teaches in the School of Critical Studies at CalArts and lives in Los Angeles, California.