memoir | WAMC

memoir

The opioid crisis is nightly news in America, responsible for over 47,000 deaths every year – nearly two-thirds of all drug related deaths in this country. The question on everyone’s mind is: why? Why do so many people turn to drugs? When her twelve-year-old son, Atticus, asked her this question, essayist and Ravishly columnist, Erin Khar, needed to look inward before answering.

The result was "Strung Out: One Last Hit and Other Lies That Nearly Killed Me," a raw and often shocking meditation on Khar’s fifteen-year opioid addiction and her long, difficult road to recovery.

Khar will be part of the Volume Reading series at Spotty Dog Books and Ale in Hudson, New York with Douglas Stuart, Valerie Hsiung and Briallen Hopper on Saturday, March 14 at 7 p.m.

Michael Korda is the best-selling author of “Hero,” “Clouds of Glory,” and “Charmed Lives” and is the former editor-in-chief of Simon and Schuster.

In his new memoir, “Passing,” he tells the story of his beloved wife’s brain cancer diagnosis and death. The heartfelt and open prose shares the details of Michael and Margaret’s journey to the end of her life. 

Karen Auvinen is a poet, mountain woman, lifelong westerner, writer, and the author of the memoir "Rough Beauty: Forty Seasons of Mountain Living."

Determined to live an independent life on her own terms, Karen Auvinen flees to a primitive cabin in the Rockies to live in solitude as a writer and to embrace all the beauty and brutality nature has to offer. When a fire incinerates every word she has ever written and all of her possessions - except for her beloved dog Elvis, her truck, and a few singed artifacts - Karen embarks on a heroic journey to reconcile her desire to be alone with her need for community.

"Wholly Unraveled" is Keele Burgin’s memoir of self-discovery and finding her voice.

Burgin was raised in a Catholic cult, under the unforgiving eye of her abusive father. She watched her mother disappear before her eyes. Once on her own in the world, Burgin found herself in a damaging spiral of self-destruction. Then, she spent a year in almost complete silence at a remote community in rural Canada. She is now a successful entrepreneur, activist, author, and filmmaker.

Jessica Laurel Kane joins us to talk about her new book, “The Girl Who Was Born with Glue in Her Brain.” It is a picture book/memoir about a girl with a handful of thoughts that keep her from being able to enjoy life as much as she would like to, and tells the story of what she eventually decides to do about it.

Jessica Kane is the author-illustrator of four books for children: "The Butterfly Who Was Afraid to Fly and Other Stories," "Feed It to the Worms," "A Book of Hearts."

Our tech-guru Jesse Feiler is an author and developer who focuses on small business and nonprofits along with iOS technologies. He has recently added book publisher to his roles: his Champlain Arts business has published apps for a number of years, and has recently added books. Uta Hagen’s memoir "Sources" is back in print through ChamplainArts.com.

Tech aside this morning, Jesse is here to tell us about a two night event next week at SUNY Plattsburgh entitled: "The Artistry and Politics of Uta Hagen - A Centennial Celebration of Her Life."

Uta Hagen was a renowned American actress and teacher. Her Broadway career began in 1938 and spanned more than six decades, garnering her three Tony Awards. In 1947, she began teaching acting at HB Studio in Greenwich Village. She established herself as one of the most influential acting teachers of the 20th century. Her acting books, "Respect for Acting" (1973) and "A Challenge for the Actor" (1991), are considered two of the most important acting books of the 20th century.

Jesse joins us along with Ted Brunetti - producer, director, acting coach, teacher, and actor. Ted created the role of “Frankie Coffee Cake” in the Broadway Production of “A Bronx Tale: The Musical.” He was a long-time colleague and protégé of Uta Hagen.

Eugenia Zukerman
Photo courtesy Leaf Peeper Concert Series

In addition to being a famous soloist and outstanding chamber musician, Eugenia Zukerman was for thirteen years the Artistic Director of the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival. Prior that, Ms. Zukerman interviewed and created more than three hundred portraits as the Arts Correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning, for which she received an Emmy nomination for broadcast journalism. Eugenia has performed as soloist with many of the world's finest orchestras. She is currently the artistic director of Clarion concerts in Hudson, New York and Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

The Clarion Concerts' Leaf Peeper series takes place September 15 and 21; and October 12 and 26.

Eugenia Zukerman is also the author of the forthcoming book, "Like Falling Through a Cloud," about her experience of the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. The book will be available November 5.

Eugenia Zuckerman joins us along with President of Clarion’s Board of Directors Dave Hall.

Iliana Regan is a self-taught chef. She is the founder and owner of the Michelin-starred “new gatherer” restaurant Elizabeth and the Japanese-inspired pub Kitsune, both located in Chicago.

She was a little girl who longed to be a boy, gay in an intolerant community, an alcoholic before she turned twenty, and a woman in an industry dominated by men. She often felt she “wasn’t made for this world,” and as far as she could tell, the world tended to agree.

Through meditations on race, culture, and family, "One Day on the Gold Line" tells the story of a lesbian Jewish single mother raising a black son in Los Angeles.

A memoir-in-essays, it examines life’s surprising changes that come through choice or circumstance, often seemingly out of nowhere, and sometimes darkly humorous even as the situations are dire.

You may know him as Mango, Mr. Peepers, the gibberish-spouting Suel Forrester, or one half of the head-bopping brothers in "A Night at the Roxbury." Not long after Chris was labeled one of the improv group Groundlings’ “must-see” performers in the company, he was cast on SNL and within the first six weeks, Chris’s film career also took off.

In his memoir "Baby Don't Hurt Me: Stories and Scars from Saturday Night Live," Kattan opens up about eight seasons on SNL, performing alongside friends and future legends including Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, and Tina Fey, and guest hosts from Charlize Theron to Tom Hanks to David Bowie.

Book cover for River of Fire and author photo of Sister Helen Prejean
Author photo by Michael Lionstar

Sister Helen Prejean is considered one of the nation’s foremost leaders in efforts to abolish the death penalty.

In her new book, "River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey," she shares the story of her growth as a spiritual leader, speaks out about the challenges of the Catholic Church, and shows that joy and religion are not mutually exclusive.

Raised by powerful women in a restrictive, sheltered Christian community in New England, Ryan Dostie never imagined herself on the front lines of a war halfway around the world. But then a conversation with an Army recruiter in her high-school cafeteria changed the course of her life. Hired as a linguist, she quickly had to find a space for herself in the testosterone-filled world of the Army barracks, and had been holding her own until the unthinkable happened: she was raped by a fellow soldier.

Struggling with PTSD and commanders who didn’t trust her story, Dostie found herself fighting through the isolation of trauma amid the challenges of an unexpected war. Dostie tells her story in the new book, Formation: A Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line.

“I Loved Lucy” is an autobiographical play by Lee Tannen about his friendship with entertainment icon Lucille Ball during the final years of the comedy legend’s life.

After receiving a warm reception in London, the play will have its New York premiere performances in the Hudson Valley this month presented by Gary DiMauro at Helsinki Hudson in Hudson, New York on August 24, and at The Woodstock Playhouse in Woodstock, New York on August 31.

In this production, Lee Tannen will play himself opposite Sandra Dickinson as Lucy.

Accomplished stage and screen actor, Sandra Dickinson is best known for her work in Birds Eye Beefburger TV advertisements directed by Alan Parker in the early 1970s, and as Trillian in the 1981 television adaptation of “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.” She’s often works as a voice-actor for animated series.

Farming has been in John Connell's family for generations, but he never intended to follow in his father's footsteps. Until, one winter, after more than a decade away, he finds himself back on the farm.

Connell records the hypnotic rhythm of the farming day—cleaning the barns, caring for the herd, tending to sickly lambs, helping the cows give birth. Alongside the routine events, there are the unforeseen moments when things go wrong: when a calf fails to thrive, when a sheep goes missing, when illness breaks out, when an argument between father and son erupts and things are said that cannot be unsaid.

"The Farmer’s Son" is the story of a calving season, and the story of a man who emerges from depression to find hope in the place he least expected to find it.

"Hope and History" is a memoir and a call-to-action for the renewal of faith in democracy and America.

US Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel presents his most important public speeches and writings, compiled and presented over eight decades of adventure and public service, woven together with anecdotes of his colorful life as a second-generation American, a soldier, a lawyer, a political activist, and a diplomat.

Ruth Reichl is an award-winning journalist, honored with six James Beard Awards for her journalism, magazine feature writing, and criticism. Her latest book, “Save Me the Plums,” chronicles her groundbreaking tenure as editor in chief of Gourmet Magazine. The book is also a commentary on the revolutionary world of food from 1999 to 2009.

From awkward schoolgirl to Caterer to the Stars, Mary Giuliani has gathered together a collection of hilarious memories, from professional growing pains to her long journey to motherhood, never losing her sense of humor and her love for everyone's favorite party food, pigs in a blanket.

Her new book is “Tiny Hot Dogs: A Memoir in Small Bites.”

Ani DiFranco is a Grammy-winning musical artist and feminist icon recognized for her poetry and songwriting which pierces social convention and challenges the status quo, as well as for her social activism and political engagement. Her new book is No Walls and the Recurring Dream.

DiFranco’s coming of age story is defined by her ethos of fierce independence: from being an emancipated minor sleeping in a Buffalo bus station, to unwaveringly building a career through appearances at small clubs and festivals, to releasing her first album at the age of 18, to consciously rejecting the mainstream recording industry and creating her own label, Righteous Babe Records.

Anna Quindlen became a go-to writer on the joys and challenges of family, motherhood, and modern life, in her nationally syndicated column.

In her new book, "Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting," she offers observations about her new role, no longer mother and decision-maker, but secondary character and support to the parents of her grandchildren.

According to author Mark Berger, Woodstock was the sixties condensed into seventy-two hours, and proof that peace and love could turn a potential disaster into a mythic celebration of life. Berger tells of that time in his memoir, "Something's Happening Here: A Sixties Odyssey from Brooklyn to Woodstock."

Arriving four days early, he helped set up kitchens and paths. During the festival, he worked to calm kids tripping out on bad acid, maneuvered a water truck through a sea of spectators, and fell in love, twice. After the festival, it’s decision time: Does he Berger drop out and move to a commune in New Mexico or return to Brooklyn and become a teacher? For Berger, at Woodstock it all comes together ― who he is, what he believes, and which path he has to take.

Berger will be reading from his book at The Book House in Albany, New York on May 16.

When Lois Letchford learns her son has been diagnosed with a low IQ at the end of grade one, she refuses to give up on his future. After thorough testing, Nicholas proves to have no spatial awareness, limited concentration, and can only read ten words.

Nicholas is labeled "learning disabled," a designation considered more derogatory than "dyslexia," the world of education is quick to cast him aside. Determined to prove them all wrong, Lois temporarily removes her son from the school system and begins working with him one-on-one.

What happens next is a journey: spanning three continents, unique teaching experiments, never-ending battles with the school system, a mother’s discovery of her own learning blocks, and a bond fueled by the desire to rid Nicholas of the “disabled” label.

Lois Letchford's book is "Reversed: A Memoir."

Meredith May recalls the first time a honeybee crawled on her arm. She was five years old, her parents had recently split and suddenly she found herself in the care of her grandfather, an eccentric beekeeper who made honey in a rusty old military bus in the yard. That first close encounter was at once terrifying and exhilarating for May, and in that moment she discovered that everything she needed to know about life and family was right before her eyes, in the secret world of bees.

The bees became a guiding force in May’s life, teaching her about family and community, loyalty and survival and the unequivocal relationship between a mother and her child. Part memoir, part beekeeping odyssey, "The Honey Bus" is a story about finding home in the most unusual of places, and how a tiny, little-understood insect could save a life.

Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review, was in Albany, New York in April for an event with the New York State Writers Institute.

Paul has been a contributor to Time magazine and a columnist for Worth. She also originated and wrote the Studied column in The New York Times Sunday Styles section. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Economist, Vogue, Slate and more.

Her memoir, "My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues," tells the story of "Bob," Paul's book of books, a journal she started when she was 17 years old exchange student living in France, recording every book she has read since the summer of 1988. She first wrote about Bob in a 2012 essay in The New York Times.

photo of Nora Burns performing "David's Friend"
Eric McNatt (the projected image is by Patrick McMullan)

On Saturday, April 27 Hudson Hall in Hudson, New York will present Nora Burns in a performance of her one-woman show "David's Friend," written and performed by Nora Burns with direction by Adrienne Truscott, dramaturgy by Lucy Sexton, and visual collaboration by Len Whitney, and featuring Billy Hough.

The show is about a crazy friendship in 1980s New York City. The one-woman show is a comic odyssey about cruising, disco, drag queens, strippers, sex, love, loss, and AIDS, told with music, videos, costumes, characters, tall tales and torrid truths.

Author Aatish Taseer was born in the UK, the son of prominent Indian journalist Tavleen Singh and Pakistani politician, Salmaan Taseer. For his new book, "The Twice Born: Life and Death on the Ganges," Taseer traveled to Benares, the spiritual home of Hinduism for an up-close look at what the caste system means in India today.

Taseer says caste, the social and religious hierarchy of Hinduism, can have profound impacts on the trajectory of a person's life and governs any number of social interactions. It remains resilient in modern India, and Taseer considers its link to the rise of the Hindu nationalism.

Mining the dual losses of both her young marriage and her beloved mother, debut author Sarah McColl confronts her identity as a woman, walking lightly in the footsteps of the woman who came before her and clinging fast to the joy she left behind. Her new book is: “Joy Enough: A Memoir.”

Book cover - Inheritance

In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history crumbled beneath her.

Inheritance is a book about secrets: secrets within families, kept out of shame or self-protectiveness; secrets we keep from one another in the name of love. It is the story of a woman's urgent quest to unlock the story of her own identity, a story that has been scrupulously hidden from her for more than fifty years, years she had spent writing brilliantly, and compulsively, on themes of identity and family history.

Dani Shapiro is the author of the memoirs "Hourglass," "Still Writing," "Devotion," and "Slow Motion" and five novels including "Black & White" and "Family History." She will be part of Oblong Books and Music White Hart Speaker Series on March 19 at 6 p.m.

Award-winning author Mitchell Jackson takes us inside the drug-ravaged neighborhood and struggling family of his youth, while examining the cultural forces that led him and his family to today.

Jackson candidly explores his tumultuous youth in the other America. His book, "Survival Math," takes its name from the calculations Mitchell and his family made to keep safe—to stay alive—in their community, a small black neighborhood in Portland, Oregon blighted by drugs, violence, poverty, and governmental neglect.

Mitchell explores the Portland of his childhood, tracing the ways in which his family managed their lives in and around drugs, prostitution, gangs, and imprisonment as members of a tiny black population in one of the country’s whitest cities. He discusses sex work and serial killers, gangs and guns, near-death experiences, composite fathers, the concept of “hustle,” and the destructive power of drugs and addiction on family.

In his new memoir, "Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service," Gary Sinise chronicles his never-before-told journey, from aimless teen to an actor/director with a purpose: a mission to support and raise awareness for the men and women who selflessly put themselves in harm’s way in service to our country.

"Grateful American" sets the stage for his passion for veterans, as the reader learns Sinise comes from a long line of servicemen and the military ties don’t end with Sinise’s family. After he got married in 1975, he got to know the many U.S. Army veterans in his wife’s family as well. However, serving one’s country wasn’t in Sinise’s mind as a wild kid growing up in the suburbs of Chicago in the 60s and 70s. He was more interested in having fun and getting into trouble than studying and doing schoolwork.

He stumbled into acting by way of a school production of “West Side Story,” and found he was drawn into this creative and exciting vocation. Within a few years, in a church basement in Chicago, Sinise and some friends put together a ground-breaking new theater company, the Steppenwolf Theatre, which launched his acting career along with those of John Malkovich, Joan Allen, Laurie Metcalf and several other well-known acting personalities. Soon after, TV and film parts regularly came Sinise’s way before his life would forever be changed during and after portraying Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump. Since Forrest Gump, his life has evolved and encompasses so much more than what he’s done on the stage and screen.

Sinise has witnessed firsthand the extraordinary skill and dedication of our service members and his mission and passion are to shine a light on those who serve and defend, volunteering to lay down their lives so we can have the freedom to make something real and good of our own lives. In 2011, he established the Gary Sinise Foundation, whose mission is to serve, honor and raise funds for America’s defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need.

Esmeralda Santiago, a founding mother of Nuyorican literature, was part of the University at Albany’s: The Creative Life: Conversation Series in the Fall of last year.

The eldest in a family of 11 children, Santiago came to the States from Puerto Rico at the age of 13. After eight years of part-time study in community colleges, she transferred to Harvard where she graduated magna cum laude. Santiago’s bestselling 1993 memoir, "When I Was Puerto Rican," was named one of the “Best Memoirs of a Generation” by Oprah’s Book Club. Her second memoir, "Almost a Woman" was adapted for Masterpiece Theatre on PBS. Her epic 2011 novel, "Conquistadora," set in 19th century Puerto Rico, was hailed as a “triumph” in The Washington Post.

The Creative Life series is a major arts initiative of the New York State Writers Institute, UAlbany Performing Arts Center and University Art Museum in conjunction with WAMC produced with major support from the University at Albany Foundation.

This conversation was recorded on November 8th, 2018 at the University at Albany Campus Center Ballroom.

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