Elevate Difference

Reviews of Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses

I’ve always wondered what prompts people to write memoirs. It’s one thing to be a celebrity riding the wave of success, but quite another to be a regular Jane baring it all for the judgment of strangers. As a critic for publications as prestigious as The New York Times, Claire Dederer is no stranger to criticism; nor does she seem to fear it.

Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters

Everyone knows about the tragic life of bombshell Marilyn Monroe, whose nickname “Miss Golden Dreams” would indicate nothing of how brief her existence would be. At thirty-six, the “orphan” with a mentally damaged mother and no father to call her own was found naked and dead in her Los Angeles home, apparently from suicide. With three divorces, several miscarriages, and plenty of roles depicting her as a dumb blonde, not even Monroe’s celebrated curves, sapphire blue eyes, or perfectly heart-shaped face were enough to keep her smiling. No fame or money could save the starlet with the little girl voice from the many demons that haunted her.

Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics

Herding Donkeys is a tense 223-page documentation of the last eight years in American politics. In it, Ari Berman doesn’t argue that the Democratic Party needs to change its ways so much as tell how it’s been done. Finally.


Brittany: I’m one of those lit geeks who has long loved Jonathan Franzen. I read How To Be Alone on a solo trip to Japan when I was twenty, and it particularly spoke to me as an introverted writer. The better part of a decade later, I’m still so infatuated with that particular collection—though I’ve also read Franzen’s three previous novels, memoir, numerous pieces in The New Yorker, and his longtime partner Kathryn Chetkovich’s Granta essay “Envy” before it was so publicly associated with Franzen—that it was no stretch to know I’d like Freedom. I’ve also read a lot about Franzen’s process as a writer, and frankly, it seems few people have the commitment to churn out the type of work he produces. That doesn’t mean I think it’s above critique; it’s just that I admire his work ethic and generally, the end result.

Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses

In Poser, Claire Dederer takes on two of the most en vogue trends for young women in the early twenty-first century: yoga and attachment parenting. After a liberated childhood, having been raised in Seattle in the 1970s and 1980s by parents who embraced many of the hippie ideals of the 1960s, Dederer took those lessons of freedom to heart.

Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade

Who was Sam Steward? Influential professor, ballet enthusiast, S/M practitioner, author of paperback pornos and serious novels, and tattoo artist are just a few of the roles he played in his life. Among his friends were many important cultural and literary figures of the time including Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Thorton Wilder, Ed Hardy, and Alfred Kinsey, yet he remains virtually unknown today.

Role Models

When you decide to read a memoir, do you do so to commune with the author–to get to know his inner secrets, what makes him tick? If that’s the reason you usually shop the autobiography and memoir section of the bookstore, steer clear of controversial filmmaker (Hairspray, [Cecil B.

The Bradshaw Variations

In earlier times, a set of variations on a theme in classic art music was a chance for a composer to play around with a melody, try it on in various guises, and allow the audience to hear possibilities. Each variation was minute, an aural petit four to be savored briefly while one contemplated on the sweet yet temporal nature of life.

Ether: Seven Stories and a Novella

While opening Evgenia Citkowitz’ collection of short stories, the spine creaked in an eerie way far too appropriate for the haunting words among the pages between.

A Great Unrecorded History: A New Life of E.M. Forster

Placing E.M. Forster’s homosexuality at the core of his identity, Wendy Moffat's A Great Unrecorded History masterfully unlocks the rich history of the author’s life. She gives readers extensive insight about Forster’s sexual identity and the impact it had on his work.


Miguel Syjuco’s Ilustrado is the novel made for re-reading. There are continual twists and turns and questions about the nature of fiction writing that immediately attune one to the constructed nature of the textual landscape.

The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America

If you assume, as I did, that yoga came to the United States via the Maharishi in the 1970s, you’ll be surprised again and again as you read Stefanie Syman’s The Subtle Body.

Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future (10th Anniversary Edition)

Ten years ago, my concept of feminism consisted of white lesbians with unshaven legs and armpits who hated men. Fast forward ten years later–past many existential crises, a couple of college degrees, and a hard drop from blissful ignorance–and my feminist tendencies have even leaked into my chivalrous desire to open the door for men.

Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness

This short but meaningful book is a smart combination of self-help, memoir, and academic study. Gore does not surmise a remedy for the blues, she does not use her life as an anecdote to overcome defeat or as a guiding light toward beatitude, nor does she use statistics and theory to expose her education.

Cooking Dirty: A Story of Life, Sex, Love and Death in the Kitchen

My initial reaction after reading this book was to hurl it across the room and never see it again. Dramatic? A bit, yet justifiable. In an autobiographical narration, Jason Sheehan attempts to merge his experience as a cook with being a writer, but fails miserably. Cooking Dirty is not your average tale of a typical award-winning chef. There’s no culinary school or classical training involved, just the lessons he learned from the School of Hard Knocks.

It's Beginning to Hurt

As the title of It’s Beginning to Hurt suggests, one may expect this book to be a compilation of short stories filled with love, despair, loss, and anguish that reach into the profound depths of unimaginable hurt—and it is.

Yes, My Darling Daughter

“Such a pretty girl. Four years old; well loved by her young mother, Grace. But there’s something...'off ' about the child.” The above excerpt sets the scene for Margaret Leroy’s Yes, My Darling Daughter. Margaret Leroy offers a novel that is so original and suspenseful it pulls you in from the first page. The story involves Grace, a single mother who works full-time at a London flower shop, and Sylvie, her four-year-old daughter.

Been Here a Thousand Years

Been Here a Thousand Years, Mariolina Venezia’s novel that sweeps across Italy’s history from 1861 to 1989, with certain ideas and images already floating in the periphery: Berlusconi’s wife explaining the reasons for their divorce, my own memories of whistles and blatant gazes from men during a visit to Florence, high fashion seemingly making women into glorified clothes hangers.

Skunk Girl

Skunk Girl is Sheba Karim’s first novel. It is told from the point of view of sixteen-year-old Nina Khan, self-described as “a Pakistani Muslim girl” and from a small white town in upstate New York. Although published in 2009, the story is set in approximately 1993. In a fast-paced, entertaining read, Nina narrates her life and drama as the only Pakistani and Muslim girl in her high school.


Epic in its proportions, 2666 is a modern day mystery novel more akin to James Joyce than anything on the shelves by John Grisham. The five sections that comprise the book are set around the world, yet the heart of the narratives remains bound to the fictional Mexican border town of Santa Teresa.

Letters From Black America

While it would help to appreciate and admire the historical importance of preserved letters, you don’t have to be history buff or correspondence enthusiast to delight in Letters From Black America. In a time of quickly typed emails and SMS, tangible letters hold weight for many who value thoughtful, deliberate communication.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

What molding and stretching is required of a woman who chooses to better the quality of life of others over her own? Perhaps this type of self-sacrifice cannot be fathomed from the outside in. To be the devoted wife, the doting mother, the gracious hostess, the caring friend—where and when does she find the time to find herself? Within in her sharply defined world, Pippa Lee is everything to everyone who matters to her—to Herb, her husband thirty years her senior and a prominent publisher; to her grown children, twins; and to a small circle of friends, New York writers and artists.

To Love What Is: A Marriage Transformed

Two a.m. When you are young, this is the time that bars close, new love springs unbidden in doorways, and entire dramas are played out in the time it takes a traffic light to change. When you are older, with marriage and children under your belt, it is the hour at which a ringing phone wakes you in terror, not annoyance; when a voice in the darkness signals illness, not invitation; when awakening in a strangely empty bed, one will know that something has gone awfully wrong with the person whose warmth still lingers in the covers.

Sophie’s World: A Novel about the History of Philosophy

An international bestseller when it was first published over a decade ago, Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World has recently been re-released with a new appendix consisting of a short set of thematic and plot-related questions. Gaarder’s novel, brilliant in its philosophical scope and concision, narrates the intellectual maturation of its protagonist, Sophie Amundsen, a fourteen-year-old girl living in Norway. The novel is comprised of brief synopses of major philosophical theories and figures, from classical myth to twentieth century existentialism, from Socrates to Beauvoir.

Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics

In Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics, Jennifer Baumgardner, co-author of third wave bestsellers Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future and _[Grassroots: A Field Guide for Feminist Activism](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0374528659?ie=UTF8&tag=feminrevie-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=03745286

The Year of Endless Sorrows

I loved this book. And that is all the more impressive because I wasn't expecting to. Adam Rapp is an accomplished playwright with a growing reputation. But playwrights do not always make good novelists. However, The Year of Endless Sorrows demonstrates that he is just as formidable as a novelist as he is a playwright. This is a novel that should be read. A thinly disguised autobiography, The Year of Endless Sorrows tells the tale of a young man who comes to New York City in the early 1990s to become a writer.

Fierce Attachments: A Memoir

Few books are so gripping that they change your perception of the world around you. Even fewer books make you see your intimate relationships in a whole new light. Because of its bold, honest insights about mothers, daughters and the growing up/growing away process, _Fierce Attachments _made me re-examine my relationship with my own mother.