Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Three memoir accounts of poverty

Leslie Jamison grew up in Los Angeles. Educated at Harvard College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she has also worked as an innkeeper in California, a schoolteacher in Nicaragua, and an office temp in Manhattan. She is currently a PhD candidate at Yale University, where she is writing a dissertation on poverty and degradation in twentieth-century American writing.

The Gin Closet, her debut novel, was published by Free Press last month.

For NPR, she named "three memoirs whose accounts of poverty do justice to both the integrity of their subjects and the extremity of their suffering."

One of the memoirs:
Salvador, by Joan Didion

Joan Didion's Salvador is a slim volume that documents her 1982 visit to a country deeply enmeshed in a devastating civil war. The daily terror of life in El Salvador, and the brutal poverty at the roots of this unrest, become something palpable and close in Didion's sharp prose: a fear marked by suffocated anger in the streets and heart palpitations in the night. Didion's merciless matter-of-fact descriptions of body dumps and daily violence refuse to console readers with the sentimental delusion that awareness is sufficient. Instead, she implicates everyone — herself and readers alike — in the devastation she finds.
Read about the other books on Jamison's list.

The Page 69 Test: The Gin Closet by Leslie Jamison.

--Marshal Zeringue