Make New Friends But Keep The Old

My 2017 reading list has been a lot like that old song: “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold. A circle is round, it has no end. That’s how long, I will be your friend.” But of course in this instance, I’m talking about book friends. I relish returning to the books which have moved me in the past.

Two of my new “friends” this year:

NOT A PLACE ON ANY MAP by Alexis Paige.

It’s no secret that I love memoir. I love learning about other people’s journeys, and Alexis doesn’t disappoint with her debut, Not a Place on Any Map. The book is a collection of flash essays, and I personally related to so very much of it. It could be a quick read (I read it one morning while at base camp on Aconcagua!) but I’d recommend instead just one essay at a time. It is to be savored.

 

TILTING AT MOUNTAINS by Edurne Pasaban

What a shocker, another memoir! Edurne became the first woman (and only the 21st person total) to climb all 14 8,00 meter peaks in the world, and this is her story of overcoming depression and seemingly insurmountable odds. I also read the second woman’s account, called Mountains in my Heart by Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, but to be frank, I liked Edurne’s better. She delves into more of the emotions of her journey, and she makes herself far more vulnerable. I think many women would appreciate it, not just those of us who obsess over mountains.

And an old friend:

WITHOUT A MAP by Meredith Hall

Okay, I really do read other books besides memoir! These are just the three that came to mind as moving me the most lately. I read Without a Map years ago, when I was first introduced to her stunning essay, Shunned (which many creative writing students read). The whole book is equally remarkable.

I recently picked up Without a Map again because I was craving a memoir which would match the emotional journey on which I currently find myself. Even though our circumstances are nothing alike, Hall strikes the universal chords of a woman who is searching for something. My favorite chapter is the one in which she is wandering through the Middle East, without money or hardly a possession.

A story about Without A Map:  A few years ago when my agent had my proposal out on submission, I wandered through my local independent bookstore (Boulder Bookstore) and found this book once again. It was notable to me because I thought, If I’m successful, my memoir will go right next to Without A Map. The hope of that thought carried me through the grueling process. And guess what? My memoir ended up with the same publisher!! Beacon Press.

I’ll leave you with these those quote from Hall:

“I have lived this life, and no matter what others may decide about it, I must claim each decision as mine. I have caused harm, failed in the expectations and obligations of love. I have loved well. What I do each day is carried within me until I die. ”

“The world waits for you with all its beauty, but also its frights and its pain.”

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Lynn Hall is a memoirist, activist in the movement to end sexual violence, ultra-runner, and crazy cat lady. Her memoir, CAGED EYES: AN AIR FORCE CADET’S STORY OF RAPE AND RESILIENCE, was published by Beacon Press in February 2017. Her writing has previously appeared in the New York Times, The LA Times, Hippocampus Magazine, The Sexual Assault Report, The Manifest-Station, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, and elsewhere. In the summers, Lynn copes with publication anxiety by spending too many days in the Colorado mountains, and in the winters, with pans of brownies. She lives in Boulder with her partner and their 23 cats. Just kidding…she only has five.

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