Her new book is the memoir, Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life.
A few weeks ago I asked Beasley what she was reading. Her reply:
Usually, when an old friend says “Oh, I know another writer; I have to introduce you!” I groan inwardly. All writers do not get along, any more than all lawyers or all veterinarians. But I agreed to show up at the Big Hunt—a DC bar where he was scheduled to read—reasoning that the skeeball and $4 drafts were reason enough. And in this case, my high school friend’s sister’s new husband turned out to be not only a compelling writer, but a very cool guy: Joseph Riippi.Learn more about Beasley and her work at her website and blog, Chicks Dig Poetry.
The Orange Suitcase is described in terms of “stories,” but many of the sections have the brevity and lyric intensity of prose poems. In a series of snapshots that move back and forth between modern day and a grandparent’s generation, Riippi creates a portrait of young man’s ascent from firing BB guns to exchanging I Dos, interrogating along the way what it means to live and to love in New York. A collage of memories, dreams, and non sequiturs, there is not a boring page in this collection. Even as I write this, I’m thinking Gosh, I need to read it again. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing from this guy for years to come, and that makes me very happy.
An $8 remaindered hardback of Sherman Alexie’s War Dances was an impulse buy as I roamed the tables of Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi. I’ve been a fan of Alexie’s ever since I first encountered his nimble sestina “The Business of Fancydancing,” but I had not sat down with much of his prose. What I found was a rangy, funny, delightfully idiosyncratic hodgepodge anchored by two stunning stories: “War Dances” and “The Ballad of Paul Nonetheless.” Though much of the attention given to Alexie over the years has focused on his Native American identity, he is a master at the hybrid voice with seamlessly integrates tribal references and mainstream culture. A healing song and a paean to Trader Joe’s are equally at home on these pages.
When my mother gave me the pairing of Meghan O’Rourke’s The Long Goodbye and Jill Bialosky’s History of a Suicide as a May birthday gift, she purposefully wrapped the package in paper strewn with flowers and smiley faces. “To counterbalance the mood,” she admitted. And it’s true: Bialosky’s History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life is a devastating read, particularly because I share her 10-year gap with a younger sister. As I turned the last page, I had to fight the impulse for a midnight call to my sister in Beijing, just to tell her I love her.
But to respond to the story’s raw emotional potency would be to shortchange the book’s craft: this is thoughtfully constructed, researched, elegant meditation on the origins of a suicide and the impact it has on a family. Though Bialosky’s identity as a poet and an editor shapes her thoughts—authors ranging from William Shakespeare to Sylvia Plath make cameos—she wears her literary expertise lightly, refusing to over-romanticize or retreat into figurative language. As a reader, I was deeply moved. As a fellow memoirist, I was inspired.
Writers Read: Sandra Beasley (Febraury 2008).