Thanks for the memoir-ies: Memoirs of September

From grief to revelations, from sexuality to environmentalism, September is a month full of personal and introspective stories, which we are excited to shout about! Check out the below list and remember to get in touch with your local sales rep to get these in stock.

Ruskin Park: Sylvia, Me and the BBC by Rory Cellan-Jones
September Publishing, 9781914613432, HB, £18.99, 7/9/2023

Our parents’ stories often hold surprises… A compelling, emotive journey of discovery, from broadcaster and social media favourite Rory Cellan-Jones.

Rory Cellan-Jones knew he was the child of a brief love affair between two unmarried BBC employees. But until his mother died and he found a previously unknown file labelled ‘For Rory’ he had no idea of their beginnings or ending, and why his peculiarly isolated childhood had so tested the bond between him and his mother.

‘For Rory,’ his mother had written on the file ‘in the hope that it will help him understand how it really was …’

This is a tender account of what Rory uncovered in the papers, letters and diaries; a relationship between two colleagues (two romantics) and the restrictive forces of post-war respectability and prejudice that ended it. It is also an evocation of the progressive, centrifugal force at the centre of all their lives — the BBC itself.

Both compelling and moving, the drama moves from wartime radio broadcasts, to the glamour of 1950s television studios, to the golden era of BBC drama. His father may have directed The Forsythe Saga and Rory may have watched him from the corridors, but he would never actually meet him until much later in adulthood. Until then Rory’s life was bound to the one bedroom flat he shared with his mother in Ruskin Park…

A Seed Takes Root: A True Story by Michele Oka Doner
TRA, 9798986640648, HB, £23.99, 12/9/2023

This beautifully crafted book is an inspiring exploration of the relationship between humans and nature. A Seed Takes Root: A True Story, by acclaimed artist Michele Oka Doner, is an homage to the natural world and to one very special banyan tree in particular.

The lyrical text is paired with evocative original artwork by Oka Doner inspired by (and at times incorporating elements of) a much-loved banyan tree in Miami Beach that has been a presence in her life since childhood. A book and work of art that defies classification, A Seed Takes Root is simultaneously an art book, a poetic meditation, a memoir, a fable, and a tale suitable for children and for readers of all ages.

A Seed Takes Root describes a decades-long relationship between the author and a banyan tree that begins when the author is a young girl. For her, the tree is a place for play, for refuge, and also a source of inspiration.

While this is a true story of one tree and one girl/woman/artist that celebrates a particular banyan tree, it is also a testament to the quiet power shared by all trees. Further, this beautifully told story is not only of the relationship between an artist and a tree, but is a strong environmental statement made more effective by being non-polemical.

The banyan tree featured in the book is in the process of being designated a City of Miami Beach heritage tree. In 2021, Michele Oka Doner was officially proclaimed guardian of the ninety-five-year-old banyan tree by the City of Miami Beach. As the proclamation aptly stated, ‘Oka Doner calls on all of us to be lovers of the environment, not its masters.’

Julian by Fleur Pierets, translated by Elizabeth Kahn
3TimesRebel Press, 9781739452841, PB, £12.99, 14/9/2023

Belgian artist Fleur Pierets wanted to marry her partner Julian in all countries where two women are allowed to marry. The aim was to raise awareness of equal marriage rights in a positive way. But the ‘world tour of love’ was interrupted: after her fourth marriage, in Paris, Julian was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour. She died two months later. Pierets had only one thing left to do: write.

Fleur Pierets and Julian P. Boom worked as an artist duo under the name JF. Pierets and created, among other things, the magazine Et Alors? On 20 September 2017, they launched their performance Project 22 in New York. Julian died on 22 January 2018.

This book is divided into three sections: Before, During and After. The first part tells the story of how Julian and Fleur Pierets met, delves into their careers before they fell in love and gives context to their intense relationship and collaboration. The second part is literally the heart of the memoir. It’s a celebration of love, freedom, progress and, above all, the power of their commitment. It is about their magazine Et Alors? and their famous Project 22: to get married in every country where same-sex marriage was legal. They got married in New York, Paris, Amsterdam and Antwerp, while raising awareness of same-sex relationships. The third and final part is about Julian’s illness and eventual death. Fleur writes about her grief and how she coped with the loss of her soulmate. The author describes her life with Julian with clarity and insight, making it easy for the reader to empathise with her feelings. Although this is not a sad book, tears are guaranteed. There’s also lightness, hope and, above all, the realisation that true love does exist. Her love for Julian is so palpable in every sentence that it’s like a force of nature.

Julian explores themes of love, commitment, activism, loss and grief. It is so tactile, you can feel its energy. It’s a testament to the power of love in the face of illness and hatred. Pieret’s writing is deceptively simple, very essay-like, yet full of heart. It is a lesbian version of Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking. Translated from Flemish by Elizabeth Kahn.

Daddy Boy by Emerson Whitney
Cipher Press, 9781739220747, PB, £10.99, 21/9/2023

Mixing essay, queer theory, and memoir, a smart, big-hearted and electrifying exploration of masculinity, inherited trauma, queerness, love… and tornadoes.

After a decade-long relationship with a dominatrix he called Daddy, Emerson Whitney began to crave something besides submission. It came as a full surprise: submission had been so central to his early adulthood. Now what?

Dizzied by new questions of transness and aging, living in a tent while his relationship ends, Emerson stumbles upon an advertisement for a storm chasing tour. ‘For thrill seekers,’ it says. Unsure what else to do, he signs up.

Daddy Boy follows Emerson as he packs into a van with a group of strangers and drives up and down America — staying in Days Inns and eating bags of carrots from Walmart and hunting down storms like so many white whales.

Steeped in the prairie landscape of his childhood, Emerson recalls his adoptive dad, Hank, unflinching and extremely Texan; and his biological dad who, with his cowboy hats and puppies, always seemed so sweet and absent. From the van’s trash-strewn backseat, and in the face of these looming figures, Emerson begins to wonder: Did he want to be Daddy now?

Perfect for readers of Maggie Nelson, Paul B. Preciado, Carmen Maria Machado, and Harry Dodge.

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