By Leslie Lindsay
Two celebrated authors write autobiographies about home and writing.
Always with a Book| Memoir Monday
A HOUSE OF MY OWN: Stories from My Life by Sandra Cisneros
Leslie Lindsay Spotlight
REAL ESTATE: A Living Autobiography by Deborah Levy
The author of two widely acclaimed novels (THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET), a story collection, and two books of poetry, Sandra Cisneros is the recipient of numerous awards, including The National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, The Lannan Literary Awards, The American Book Award, a MacArthur Fellowship, Cisneros was born in Chicago but resides in Mexico.
Deborah Levy is of the great thinkers and writers of our time, and here is the highly anticipated final installment in critically acclaimed “living autobiography” series. She is the author of seven novels: Beautiful Mutants, Swallowing Geography, The Unloved, Billy and Girl, Swimming Home, Hot Milk, and The Man Who Saw Everything.. Her work is widely translated.
ABOUT REAL ESTATE (Levy, 2021):
“I began to wonder what myself and all unwritten and unseen women would possess in their property portfolios at the end of their lives. Literally, her physical property and possessions, and then everything else she valued, though it might not be valued by society. What might she claim, own, discard and bequeath? Or is she the real estate, owned by patriarchy? In this sense, Real Estate is a tricky business. We rent it and buy it, sell and inherit it–but we must also knock it down.”
Following the international critical acclaim of The Cost of Living, this final volume of Deborah Levy’s “living autobiography” is an exhilarating, thought-provoking, and boldly intimate meditation on home and the spectres that haunt it.
I was captivated and awed by Deborah Levy’s autobiography, which is a tapestry of literature study–featuring many greats who have inspired her work–and Levy’s own thoughts and experiences, influences, from Leonora Carrington’s “The Hearing Trumpet,” in which this gorgeous quote is pulled:
“Houses are really bodies. We connect ourselves with walls, roofs, and objects, just as we hang on to our livers, our skeletons, flesh, and bloodstream. I am no beauty.”
But there’s also this notion of the past and present existing simultaneously as expanded on in this Gertrude Stein (1940, Paris) quote:
“After all, everybody that is everybody who writes, is interested in living inside themselves in order to tell what is inside themselves. That is why writers have two countries: the one where they belong and the one in which they really live.”
Seriously, there are so many great quotes in this book, from Levy’s own observations and experiences to those of Gaston Bachelard from THE POETICS OF SPACE, Pail Eluard, Maria Rainer Rilke, and Marguerite Dumas.
Here’s another, I can’t help myself:
“All writing is about seeing new things and investigating them. Sometimes it’s about seeing new in old [….] language is the building site. It is always being constructed and repaired. It can fall apart and be remade again.”
ABOUT A HOUSE OF MY OWN (Cisneros, 2015):
From the Chicago neighborhoods where she grew up and set her groundbreaking The House on Mango Street to her abode in Mexico where “my ancestors have lived for centuries,” the places Sandra Cisneros has lived have provided inspiration for her now-classic works of fiction and poetry. But a house of her own, where she could truly take root, has eluded her. With this collection of true stories and nonfiction pieces—spanning three decades, and including never-before-published work and an intimate album of personal photos—Cisneros has come home at last.
My memory knows more about me than I do. It doesn’t lose what deserves to be saved.
Here, Cisneros contemplates the structures that define us, from her Hydra, Greece island cottage to the neighborhoods in Chicago where she grew up, and everything in between, Cisneros takes us on a virtual, bookish tour into old haunts, homes, streets, and more as she remembers writing the books that are now considered classics. In these homes, she states, she can truly take root, find the inspiration she needs, and reveal intellectual and artistic influences. For me, it’s fascinating to get a glimpse into these museum-like spaces that shaped and supported an artist.
We tell a story to survive a memory in much the same way an oyster survives an invading grain of sand. The pearl is the story of our lives, even if most wouldn’t admit it.
And maybe it’s a little how art is the magic and not so much the foundational construct.
A house. A writing machine. These two go hand in hand for me. A home makes me feel like writing. I feel like writing when I am at home. Nowadays I would add one more thing to make me want to write: my animals. When they are with me, I am at home.
Again, this book is loaded with fabulous quotes.
- You might enjoy this NPR piece about Deborah Levy’s REAL ESTATE
- This Washington Post article speaks to Deborah Levy’s REAL ESTATE
- For more about Sandra Cisneros’s A HOME OF MY OWN, this NPR piece about boundaries and borders is what inspired my reading of this book.
- Support your local in-person bookstore or order through Bookshop.org.
- These titles may also be available through other online sellers.
A PERFECT PAIRING:
I was reminded, in part, of the memoir, TENEMENTAL by Vikki Warner meets Erica Bauermeister’s HOUSE LESSONS, but also Deborah Levy’s REAL ESTATE: A Living Autobiography and Anne Elizabeth Moore’s GENTRIFIER.
Browse all books featured on Always with a Book since 2018 on Bookshop.org
Browse all books featured on Always with a Book in October 2021 HERE.
November titles were are about home and mothers and memoir with featured #MemoirMonday titles from Michelle Orange (PURE FLAME), Violaine Husimann’s THE BOOK OF MOTHER (fiction), but also GENTRIFIER (Anne Elizabeth Moore), Deborah Levy’s REAL ESTATE and Naomi Kupitsky’s highly anticipated novel, THE FAMILY.
To Browse all books/authors featured in NOVEMBER 2021, click HERE.
Looks for a spotlight of Victoria Chang’s memoir in fragments and snapshots, DEAR MEMORY and also a recently re-released memoir, MY FIRST THIRTY YEARS. December titles will be few and sparse as I wind down some of my own writing while gearing up for the new year.
In the meantime, you can catch me on:
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ABOUT YOUR HOST:
Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series,“Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warm, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Shari Lapena to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in various print journals and online. She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, an audiobook narrated by Leslie from Penguin Random House. A former psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic, Leslie’s memoir, MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness, & Memory, is currently on submission with Catalyst Literary Management. Leslie resides in the Chicago area with her family.