Five Must-Read Memoirs


Hello, New Rivers Press fans, and Happy May!

I hope everyone is staying healthy and sane during these trying times. The weather is blossoming, and summer is soon approaching, so with all the difficulties surrounding us, at least we have warm weather, vibrant surroundings, picnics and reading in the sun, and outdoor activities to look forward to!

Lately, memoirs have become some of my favorite books to read. I love the diverse history and intense life stories of individuals who have been brave enough to share their stories with the public.

Here Are Five Must-Read Memoirs from My Bookshelf:

Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo
Crazy Brave: A Memoir: Harjo, Joy: 9780393345438: Books

Joy Harjo, our Poet Laureate of the year, is brilliant beyond measure. Her beautiful Native American background is so infused within her writing that it was no surprise when she wrote a memoir. Crazy Brave captures Harjo’s journey to becoming the renowned poet she is today. She incorporates authentically visionary traditions, personal abuse, spirituality, family, and branching out to find one’s voice. Harjo is elegant, brave, unique, and transformative.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls The Glass Castle: A Memoir eBook: Walls, Jeannette ...

This striking memoir tells of essentially growing up as a nomad with very eclectic parents and a sensational family bond that is eventually tarnished by Walls’ father’s alcohol addiction. Walls captures her parents’ unique attributes with such vivid imagery and genuine admiration. Overall, she challenges unconditional family love that is strong despite its flaws. She is a brilliant storyteller who includes every detail to put us in her shoes as a child of four struggling to open her parents’ eyes to reality without letting go of her imagination.

Just Kids by Patti Smith
Just Kids - Wikipedia

Patti Smith is one of my all-time favorite artists. I say artist because she is more than a memoirist: she is a photographer, poet, drawer and painter, and musician. Her language is visionary and captivating. If there is one person I could stand by and experience life with, it would be Patti Smith. Just Kids covers Smith’s relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and their mutual and separate roads to success. She also reflects back to her younger years, which is crucial to understand how and why she came so far.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller
Know My Name: A Memoir: Miller, Chanel: 9780735223707: ...

If you want a memoir that will make you cry, make you furious, and make you proud all at the same time, this is the one for you. Chanel Miller was undoubtedly known by the media as Jane Doe in 2015, but it wasn’t until 2019 that she revealed her identity. Sexually assaulted by Brock Turner, Miller’s experience of trauma; injustice and the ultimate fight for not only her safety, but also those around her; healing; and her beautiful release of these events makes for a deeply emotional book. I am a pretty fast reader, but it took me a while to read this just because I would end up getting mad, cry over and over, and could not comprehend why Miller went through what she did. I can’t give this book enough justice, so I just simply recommend that you read it now. Miller is an extraordinarily resilient writer who will leave you breathless and changed.

Wasted by Marya Hornbacher
Wasted: Hornbacher, Marya: 9780060858797: Books

Another powerful and often triggering memoir, Wasted covers Hornbacher’s ten-year plus struggle with anorexia and bulimia, sex, drugs, and mental illness. Published in 1998, Hornbacher wrote her memoir when she was just 21. It is awfully graphic at times, but it is honest and raw. We live in a time in which looks are so concerning, and everyone longs to be “perfect,” and, in my opinion, this book still serves as very eye-opening to this. I had the pleasure of meeting Hornbacher about 11 years ago and had my book signed. She was one of the first authors I met outside those who reside in the Fargo-Moorhead area, and it was an honor to hear her speak so openly about such a vulnerable experience.

Five Book to Movie/Series Adaptations to Binge During Quarantine


All cooped up with nothing to read or watch? Let’s fix that. Here’s a list of five books you can read and then watch/binge the movies or shows made from them. 

Little Women
Little Women (Puffin in Bloom): Alcott, Louisa May: 8601416366470 ...

Here’s a classic for you to enjoy. Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, published in 1868, has held the title of American classic for many years now. This book depicts the lives of four sisters as they journey from adolescence into womanhood, each taking very different paths. Each character’s personality is unique, allowing Alcott to encapsulate the strength of the female spirit within the book.  The film, released in 2019, stars actresses Saoirse Ronan, Laura Dern, Emma Watson, and many more. The movie is available to rent on Amazon for $5.99.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before 
To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

This one’s for the rom-com connoisseurs. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, written by Jenny Han, is a young-adult romance novel that follows the story of two high school lovers as they navigate their way through classes, relationships, and teenage life. The movie took Netflix by storm in 2018 and is still a hit. Bonus: P.S. I Still Love You, a sequel to the book, was also made into a movie and released on Netflix in 2020.

The Haunting of Hill House
The Haunting of Hill House (TV Series 2018– ) - IMDb

Craving a bit of horror? The Haunting of Hill House, written in 1959 by American author Shirley Jackson, tells an eerie ghost story that will completely captivate you. The story contains a haunted mansion nicknamed “Hill House” and all the supernatural events that occur within its walls. From ghost sightings to characters becoming possessed, this story will keep you wanting more and more. The story has been developed into a Netflix original series with a second season being added in 2020.

The Handmaid’s Tale
The Handmaid's Tale: A Novel |

Feminist dystopia, anyone? Originally published in 1985, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale pulls its reader into the patriarchal society of a totalitarian state. In this strict new way of life, women who are fertile, otherwise known as handmaids, are considered to be incredibly valuable and are used to produce children for the wealthy, powerful men who run this new government. The story is told from the point of view of one of these women who faces many struggles in her effort to survive in the oppressive state. Seasons 1-3 are available for binging on Hulu. 

Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland | Disney Movies

Let’s not forget this childhood classic. Escape into the wonderful land of fantasy in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Follow Alice into the rabbit hole and meet many whimsical, eccentric characters along the way. The original, animated movie as well as both live-action movies are available to enjoy on Disney+. 

Three Books for Wallowing in Quarantine Fear and Three Books for Distracting Yourself From the World


It’s no question that we’re living in a crazy time right now. Being quarantined at home means switching back and forth between wallowing in the state of the world and desperately trying to distract yourself from thinking about the COVID-19 situation. So, since now is the perfect time to get some reading in, I thought I’d give you some options for either mood.

Do you want to go full-on pandemic acceptance and really dive headfirst into wallowing in your quarantine sadness? Do you want to take a break from constantly hearing about COVID-19 on the news and switch it up by constantly reading about very similar but fictional pandemic situations? Great! I’ve got three choices for you to really reinforce that fear that we’re about to be living out the plot of a dystopian novel.

  • No Safety in Numbers by Dayna Lorentz: Wouldn’t it be awesome if you were quarantined in a mega mall instead of your sad tiny apartment?? NO. In this book, a bunch of people that happen to be in a mall during a deadly outbreak are quarantined as basically everyone dies around them. This book will freak you out so much that you’ll never want to visit the mall after all this is over. You’re welcome!
  • The Stand by Stephen King: Thinking about how society is going to have to rebuild after this pandemic is over? Great! Make those thoughts horrible by reading a viral outbreak story from one of the most messed-up minds of our generation. Plus, it’s over 800 pages long, so maybe by the time you’re done reading it, quarantine will be over and you can go outside to see how horrible your own world has become.
  • The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan: Can’t think of how this virus could get any worse? Vampires! What if instead of flu-like symptoms, everyone that became infected by this virus turned into blood-hungry monsters? And not the romantic Twilight kind. I’m talking about gory-horror-movie vampires. On the plus side, maybe it’ll remind you that our current situation could be worse?

Want to distract yourself from all this madness and pretend like nothing is happening? Here’s some less-scary choices for you!

  • Rumple Buttercup by Matthew Gray Gubler: This is a charming and uplifting kids book by my favorite Criminal Minds actor. I don’t think it should be limited to kids, however, because the message at its core about self-acceptance should be taught to everyone. Plus the illustrations are super cute. And there’s no mention of a global pandemic in it! Yay!
  • Emma by Jane Austen: I just finished reading this book and guess what—no one dies or gets sick in it!! While there is a teeny-tiny subplot that Emma’s father is overly paranoid that he will catch a cold from drafty windows, he never does. This book is just happy and will surely distract you for a while from COVID-19 fears. 
  • The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: Listen. I know you’ve read them before. I know you’ve read them multiple times. But think back to the last time you read them—how long ago was it? Too long! Being stuck at home for weeks means it’s the perfect time to read them again! Plus, when all of this is over, you’ll be fresh-from-the-page and defeat everyone at Harry Potter trivia night.

For real though, I hope you’re all staying safe and healthy at home and catching up on some of your for-pleasure reading. And washing your hands!

What I Read in March


With spring break and the unexpected arrival of COVID-19, March seemed to last an entire year. This resulted in a work from home status and lots of reading. Thankfully, I had prepared well in advance for this unfortunate and indefinite time of quarantining by checking out several books from the Fargo Public Library. Throughout the month, I could be found cozied under a blanket (plus snuggled with animals) with a mug full of coffee as my brain was fed with a wild variety of poetry and fiction.

Here is a list of what I read in March. All books can be found at the Fargo Public Library.

Bloom in Reverse by Teresa Leo, 5/5 stars

Bloom in Reverse (Pitt Poetry Series): Teresa Leo: 9780822962977 ...

As implied by its title, this collection does life backwards. Starting with death and melancholy and ending with solace and love, Bloom in Reverse follows life after a friend’s suicide, a toxic relationship, and the relatable (and cringey) experiences of dating. All emotions and events tie together in some form or fashion, creating a beautifully mesmerizing book that will leave you thinking: Did I just read about my life? Well, that’s how I felt anyway. Just read this and come back to me with your review. 

Blowout by Denise Duhamel, 4/5 stars

Blowout (Pitt Poetry Series): Duhamel, Denise: 9780822962366 ...

Blowout covers years of love, variations of love, from falling out of love to falling in love, ex relationships, desire, cheating, and healing. This relatable subject matter will be of interest to any reader, and Duhamel’s interesting conversational language will captivate you until the last page. 

Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith, 5/5 stars Don't Call Us Dead: Poems (9781555977856): Smith ...

This celebrated collection sequences violence, the afterlife, queer experiences, racism, and police treatment toward black individuals. Smith’s daring and raw language encompasses the danger and outrage of living as a queer African American man in the modern world. Don’t Call Us Dead will make you cry, give you courage, make you angry, and make you proud of Smith’s strength and vulnerability. 

Earthbound by Dee LeRoy, 3/5 stars

Earthbound: Poems by Dee LeRoy

I was really excited about this book but ended up being let down. Earthbound is a simple tribute to the universe and nature. It is meditative and lovely, but I found myself drifting off and grateful that it was such a short collection. This may be for others, but it’s not the one for me. 

Eye Level by Jenny Xie, 5/5 stars Eye Level: Poems (9781555978020): Xie, Jenny: Books

Wow, this collection was stunning. Focusing on life as an immigrant, Eye Level embodies the fast paced, ever moving travels across the world as the speaker’s observations lead her to ask herself many pressing questions regarding life as an outsider. 

Four Reincarnations by Max Ritvo, 5/5 stars Four Reincarnations: Poems eBook: Max Ritvo: Kindle Store

I received a free copy of this book from Milkweed Editions, and I read it in one sitting as soon as I got it in the mail. Holy, this is one of my top five favorite books I have ever read. Ritvo passed away in 2016 at age twenty five from a long battle with cancer, and this poetry collection was published shortly after his death. Four Reincarnations is an intimate look at death, suffering, love, counting down the days in a hospital, and loneliness while battling a tragic disease.

The Smoke of Horses by Charles Rafferty, 5/5 stars

The Smoke of Horses (American Poets Continuum): Charles Rafferty ...

The Smoke of Horses consists of prose poems covering the mundane with slight twists of pure imagination. If you didn’t think deer, dead mice, a smoke detector, and more can be interesting and full of deeper meaning, then think again. Rafferty’s collection will leave you pondering your surroundings and the wild stories you can create just by looking around you. 

Time of Useful Consciousness by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 5/5 stars

New Directions Publishing | Time of Useful Consciousness

It’s no doubt that Ferlinghetti is an absolute legend. Published when he was 93 years old, Time of Useful Consciousness authentically takes readers back to the 1950s when the Beat Generation was thriving. Lovers of Ginsberg, Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and others will equally admire Ferlinghetti’s electrifying voice. I can’t describe this poetry collection. Just know that if you are a poet or avid and explorative reader, you should be reading work by all the Beats. 


Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle, 5/5 stars

Dear Wife: A Novel: Belle, Kimberly: 9780778308591: Books

I’m a sucker for a great and original mystery novel. Going into this, I thought it was going to be another Gone Girl (which I loved but feel it has been overdone), but man, was I proved wrong. Dear Wife will have your eyes glued to the pages and your mind racing as to what phenomenal twist will finalize this book. Surprised you will be, but disappointed you will not.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus, 4/5 stars One of Us Is Lying (9781524714680): McManus, Karen M ...

This was a little young for me, but an eye-catching read, nonetheless. Think of Pretty Little Liars meets The Breakfast Club and you get One of Us Is Lying. Filled with romance, cliques, mystery, and four suspects of a murder, this novel will have you finishing it in one sitting. 

Something New for Your Literature Needs


The topic of Russian classic short stories might seem not very prominent during the times of panic and crisis around, not only NRP’s home at MSUM’s campus, but the whole world. COVID-19 has dealt effect on our normal daily lives by drastically limiting our social interactions and headlining all the news articles. In this time of self-isolation, we are granted a lot of free time that we should devote to exploration of new horizons within the parameters of our homes. Reading new literature might perform the role of a distractor from the present situation and be used as a relaxation medicine as it allows us to dive into completely different environments.

Having grown up on Eastern European literature, I chose multiple short stories and novels to help us surround ourselves with a different atmosphere. I hope these Russian literature classics will brighten your day with their unique aesthetics full of foreign culture.

  1. “The Chameleon” by Anton Chekhov: Chekhov’s stories consist of comedy, and “The Chameleon” is not an exception. It tells a story of police officer Ochumelov, and presents a deep truth about human nature described by means of satire.
  2. “The Nose” by Nikolai Gogol: Nikolai Gogol is one of my personal favorite authors, due to the orthodox plots that contain unrealistic circumstances and mysticism. “The Nose” is one of his short stories touching such topics as society and class, identity, and somewhat olfactory perception, which focuses on appearance and identity perception.
  3. “Mumu” by Ivan S. Turgenev: This story of a dog named Mumu and its rescuer Gerasim portrays the theme of cruelty of the Russian empire. The brutal serfdom of Gerasim is represented through his friendship with his dog throughout the story. Fun fact! “Mumu” was written while Turgenev was imprisoned for writing an obituary for Nikolai Gogol.
  4. “The Conversation Between the Drunk Man and the Sober Imp” by Anton Chekhov: In this piece Chekhov writes about a conversation between a man and an imp. The imp is worried that people are already spoiled creatures even without the influence of imps.