This Land: A Novel Memoir

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The narrator of this novel is, like Szabo, a Hungarian author trying to recover from a political retaliations against her work. She takes in a mysterious and Valkyrian housekeeper, Emerence, then struggles to understand her simultaneous need, disgust, and fear towards the woman—and ultimately betrays her.

Leonard Michaels poured much of himself into a clearly fictional vessel, the mathematician Raphael Nachman of the beloved Nachman Stories. But he also wrote this slim novel, expanded from a short memoir, about his early marriage to a woman who committed suicide. In , the often sickly and reclusive Schulz makes his drab Polish town Drohobycz into a mythical land dominated by a family maid who obsesses the boy with erotic longing, and a father who in one story turns into a cockroach, and in another gathers an aviary of exotic birds in the attic.

The character of the story, who works in broadcasting rather than writing, becomes enthralled by a married lover whose forseeable abandonment of her drives her nearly to suicide. The sudden reappearance of her children, home from boarding school, pulls her out of the spell. But to think that every event in the novel happened factually would be a mistake, as Heti has revealed that she used chance procedures to combine scenes. I read it six more times purely to study the technique. Rachel Howard is a writer of fiction, personal essays, memoir, and dance criticism. The Risk of Us is her debut novel.

The author of "In the Dream House" on memory, abuse, and how writing about yourself can be an act of violence.

What food memoirs are missing from this list?

Enjoy strange, diverting work from The Commuter on Mondays, absorbing fiction from Recommended Reading on Wednesdays, and a roundup of our best work of the week on Fridays. Personalize your subscription preferences here. Skip to content. About the Author Rachel Howard Rachel Howard is a writer of fiction, personal essays, memoir, and dance criticism. Whether she could afford a divorce or not, she was leaving town. If there was a car that ran and a bit of gas money, we could just leave.

Like my grandmother and my mother, you and I probably would have done a lot of that sort of rambling together. Having no money looks and feels different in different places. Are your neighbors helpful? Is the landlord raising the rent? Can you walk to work if the car goes out? For a child, are the kids and teachers at school welcoming?

Do you have to walk past a drug house to get there? Among the poor, the potential risks of starting over are more severe for women, people of color, and other disadvantaged groups. But often, by moving, there is little to lose and at least a chance at finding something better. People without money today might be less transient, for a lot of socioeconomic reasons.

But when Betty left Wichita in , she could just about count on finding a job and a cheap apartment wherever she went, so long as she had the will to work for it. And Betty had will in spades. Chicago was the biggest place she had ever seen, but she was unimpressed. They never seen wind. The same place might have cost half as much in Wichita, but there was a lot of work to be found in Chicago.

The next day, she bought a newspaper and answered an ad for a job at a factory that made clock radios and other electronics.


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She got the job and thought it paid well. The factory paid three times as much. Her landlady, a Puerto Rican woman Betty befriended despite their language barrier, babysat Jeannie all day while Betty sat on a stool at work drilling three screws into blocks of wood, over and over, and at night while she worked at the deli down the road. Now Betty was seventeen and alone with a baby. Her entertainment was to push Jeannie in a stroller next to Lake Michigan.

She budgeted some of it for cigarettes and gas. The rest went to groceries from the little store around the corner. The store sold frozen pot pies, five for a dollar. Every day, a candy bar for lunch at work and a frozen pot pie for dinner at home. After winter passed, she left the factory for a filing job at a life insurance company closer to her apartment. She could walk to the office, then from the office to her job at the deli, then from the deli to home.

She even had a stint at a chocolate factory, picking candy off the conveyor belt, just like in the I Love Lucy episode. Once Betty came home from work and saw a skinny kid crawling out her apartment window onto the fire escape. She chased him up the metal ladder and across the roof, where she tripped and blackened the knees of her pedal pushers, which really pissed her off, especially since she had already dropped her cigarette.

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She followed him down a dirty hallway and beat on a door until a big woman with black hair opened it. Betty told her what had happened. The woman dragged the boy to the door and yelled at him in Spanish. He dug in his pockets to hand Betty the costume jewelry he had taken. The woman was giving him a beating before she even closed the door. Betty felt bad for the kid. But she had her jewelry back.

He figured out where Betty lived, most likely from her mom. He showed up in Chicago saying he wanted to start over.


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  4. Betty knew he would be trouble again. But she was scared of him, and she let him in. Ray found a job, played pool for money, and sold drugs on the side, Betty told me. They moved into a bigger apartment.

    Betty sent a letter to her mom and little sister. It was all about money. How much did things cost? Who was working? What were the losses to report? June 24, Sunnyside Chicago, Ill.

    The 50 Best Food Memoirs

    Okay, I hope. We are all okay. But the checks will be good. Oh the car blowed out. But we dont drive it at all. We moved again now we have a three bedroom apartment. And everyone has there own privacy. Were all working now so there wont be any money troubles. Well I guess I better close for now. Jeannie is okay, she is crying so she can write a letter too. Well we miss you all. Will write more often now. Plans changed quickly with a volatile character like Ray around. The beatings got bad again. One night, when Ray left to go out partying, he padlocked the apartment from the outside, in case Betty had a mind to leave.

    She and Jeannie rode a train back to Kansas.

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    And it got lost. I guess we left it on the train. But, like most poor people I know whose lives appear riddled with failure, Betty saw it as her own fault.