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Whether pulled from the folds of memory, channeled through the icons of Greek mythology and Roman Catholicism, or filtered through the lens of pop culture, Sonja Livingston’s Queen of the Fall considers the lives of women. Exploring the legacies of those she has crossed paths with in life and in the larger culture, Livingston weaves together strands of memory with richly imagined vignettes to explore becoming a woman in late 1980s and early 1990s America.
Along the way, the award-winning memoirist brings us face-to-face with herself as an inner-city girl—trying to imagine a horizon beyond poverty, fearful of her fertility and the limiting arc of teenage pregnancy. Livingston looks at the lives of those she’s known: friends who’ve gotten themselves into “trouble” and disappeared never to be heard from again, girls who tell their school counselor small lies out of necessity and pain, and a mother whose fruitfulness seems, at times, biblical. Livingston interacts with figures such as Susan B. Anthony, the Virgin Mary, and Ally McBeal to mine the terrain of her own femininity, fertility, and longing.
Queen of the Fall is a dazzling meditation on loss, possibility, and, ultimately, what it means to be human.
Sonja Livingston is an assistant professor in the MFA Program at the University of Memphis. Her first book, Ghostbread, won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Book Prize for nonfiction.
“Livingston writes with a fierce strength and intelligence that not only makes for compelling reading but an absolutely unforgettable voice.”—Kristen Iversen, author of Full Body Burden
“Queen of the Fall harvests the rich fruits of memory to explore the virtues and vulnerabilities of childhood, of the feminine body, and of lives filled with longing and aspiration. In this simply beautiful collection, Sonja Livingston serves up gorgeous prose and unswerving honesty to map the awakening of an essayist’s heart.”—Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic & Desire
“Much more than a touching portrayal of an American Roman Catholic girlhood of the 1980s. . . . This is a book that sheds light.”—Kathleen Norris, author of Dakota and The Cloister Walk
“Deft, evocative, mysterious, heartfelt, swirling, lyrical, with lines that pop off the page and essays that shimmer in your head for days after you finish reading them—or thought you did.”—Brian Doyle, author of Mink River
Introduction: The Memory of Trees
Land of the Lost
Our Lady of the Lakes
The Lady with the Alligator Purse
World without End
The Last American Virgin
Our Lady of the Carpeted Stairs
A Party, in May
What the Body Wants
Our Lady of the Roses
One for Sorrow
The Lonely Hunters
Something Like Joy
Coda: This River
A Thousand Thanks