Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Recollections of My Life as a Woman: The New York Years” as Want to Read:
Recollections of My Life as a Woman: The New York Years
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Recollections of My Life as a Woman: The New York Years

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  434 ratings  ·  48 reviews
In Recollections of My Life as a Woman, Diane di Prima explores the first three decades of her extraordinary life. Born into a conservative Italian American family, di Prima grew up in Brooklyn but broke away from her roots to follow through on a lifelong commitment to become a poet, first made when she was in high school. Immersing herself in Manhattan's early 1950s Bohem ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published March 26th 2002 by Penguin Books (first published March 26th 2001)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Recollections of My Life as a Woman, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Recollections of My Life as a Woman

On the Road by Jack KerouacHowl and Other Poems by Allen GinsbergThe Dharma Bums by Jack KerouacNaked Lunch by William S. BurroughsJunky by William S. Burroughs
Beat Lit
201 books — 159 voters
Minor Characters by Joyce JohnsonRecollections of My Life as a Woman by Diane di PrimaOff the Road by Carolyn CassadyHow I Became Hettie Jones by Hettie JonesMemoirs of a Beatnik by Diane di Prima
Women Beats
17 books — 7 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
Sep 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an exhausting chronicle of an iconoclastic woman who has made a life in art. Diane di Prima, born in the thirties in New York, writes poetry and plays; directs and acts in avant garde theater productions; lives in "pad"; does drugs; has babies; cavorts with jazz musicians and has written it all down. This all began in the 1950's in New York. She was, what I think they used to call a "beatnik" and her depiction of the life is sort of what I imagined it would be when I wanted to be a "beat ...more
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
It's difficult to enjoy a memoir when you can't get over your increasing dislike for the author (who you knew nothing about prior to reading - and sort of wish you still knew nothing about). I liked the bits with descriptions of projects and the intricacies of the Beat movement and living in New York in the early '60s. Unfortunately, to get these I had to struggle through passages full of improbable crystal clear 'memories' of being an adult in a three-year-old's body, not to mention paragraph a ...more
Aug 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, memoir
"Certain times, certain epochs, live on in the imagination as more than what they 'actually' were, and there is always a price to pay for them. They are, if you look close, times when the boundary between mythology and everyday life is blurred. The archetypes break out of prison, as it were, and by some collective consent we or many of us, simply choose a myth and live it, heedless of the restrictions of the so-called 'real world.' Or we are somehow chosen by the myth we were born to live. Somet ...more
Oct 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic memoir! It reminded me of Patti Smith's Just Kids but a couple decades earlier and less concise. I picked up Recollections after reading DiPrima's Memoirs of a Beatnik, which confused and kind of offended me. It turns out Memoirs isn't a true memoir but one DiPrima was pressured to make exaggeratedly salacious by her publisher. Many of the same stories are told in Recollections, but they're told more humanely.

DiPrima says, "I write this book to try to understand what message
Anna Rose
Dec 13, 2013 rated it liked it
My dad saw I was reading this book and he asked, "Diane di Prima, wasn't she somebody's girlfriend?" She may have had an affair with LeRoi Jones, but no way was she just "somebody's girlfriend." The book details her life and struggles as an independent woman and writer. The Beat Generation was mostly a boy's club, but di Prima was definitely a part, and not just somebody's chick.

The book is long, but she fully conveys what it was like to be a woman/writer/iconoclast in the decades she writes abo
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Craig Werner
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Compelling memoir of di Prima's experience growing up in Italian New York City and as a crucial figure in the downtown "beat"/"avant grade" art scene of the late 50s and early-mid 60s. Her fierce commitment to independence--psychological, social, political, aesthetic--and to her artistic vocation are inspirational. Her life was complicated and she's clear about the fact that she made some mistakes--witness her relationships with Leroi Jones and Alan Matlow--but that was the price of the ticket. ...more
Jul 14, 2008 rated it it was ok
I thought she was pretty annoying, but what do I know.
Apr 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved the hell out of this book when I was 15, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was still awesome when it came back from a years-long loan to a friend.
Jul 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Have had this book on my "to read" list for a number of years since purchasing it in CityLights books in San Francisco several years ago. Diane DiPrima was part of the Beat movement and ahead of her time, but reading her memoir now also makes one realize how time has changed women. Her desire to be a poet and a mother was unheard of in the late 50's and early 60's, but much of her desire to be a mother and eventually marry a gay man whom she doesn't even like is disturbing from a modern perspect ...more
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A magical memoir full of gorgeous detail, badass queer womanhood, femininity (often essentialist, ugh), and poetry poetry poetry. The perfect culmination, to me, of spirituality and poetry. Very inspiring for anyone seeking a change in life.
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cult
Back when I was reading all the big name boy Beats, people smarter and more well-read than me told me to read Diane di Prima and now some thirty years later I have. So I kind of feel like this book found me, because it was a bit further down on the "to read" list when I stumbled on it in Vienna's feminist bookstore ChickLit.

Di Prima grew up in a working class Italian family in Brooklyn surrounded by the stereotypical domestic violence but there are some rays of light in her childhood, namely her
Oct 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Diane di Prima, in addition to being the principal female writer recognized on her own merits as part of the Beat Era, is the unofficial godmother of countercultural single mothers. Her memoir, like here poetry (which I generally like a great deal) vacillates between the gritty and the mythic and romanticized, and that's not an unfit metaphor for di Prima's life. di Prima made her mistakes, as a lover, an artist, and a parent, and despite her attachment to what she has elsewhere called the "tire ...more
Jan 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was a strange reading experience for me. I am not actually familiar with di Prima's work. I've known her name for a while (I went through my requisite Beat phase as a teenager) and read a poem or two here or there, but I wasn't driven to read this out of any real commitment to the life and work of Diane di Prima. However I found myself quite taken with her artistic vision and energy. She manifested a deep, engaged life as an artist despite the struggles inherent in being an unorthodox woman ...more
Pilar Gizzi
Oct 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic book by an amazing woman and poet. Diane Di Prima is known as the most significant beatnik writer. This is the memoir of her life growing up in NY in an Italian family and discovering the Greenwhich Village scene in the 60's and then becoming her own woman and the many people that come in and out of her life along the way. She is deeply connected to NY and falls madly in love when she finds love and she later has babies and identifies enormously with motherhood but through al ...more
Jul 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This was excellent. I absolutely recommend it. As a woman, an artist, a writer I found this to very inspiring. DiPrima has led such an amazing life, lived through challenging and artistic times. I think this was a very honest portrait of her life and how she became the woman, writer, friend, artist, mother, editor, lover that she was. Throughout the book she gives equal time to her growth as a writer as she does to her growth as a woman due to her life long relationships with family, friends, lo ...more
Apr 16, 2008 rated it it was ok
I loved her descriptions and enthusiasm for life during her teen years in NYC during the mid to late 1950s. She lost me when she married a sadistic gay man and had his child, adding to the two children she already had. I just kept wondering: what about the kids? Especially during the parts when she would be doing some gnarly psychedelic or would stay up all night totally immersed in plays and poetry. Also, I'm dying to know since all of her kids are adults now, are they happy? Does she have a go ...more
Jul 05, 2010 rated it liked it
There's a lot of very interesting stuff about New York in the 1950s and the early beatnik action before the scene became commodified, and, in diPrima's words, "awful poetry proliferated like crabgrass on Long Island lawns."

When she gets into the 60s and marries a mostly gay man she hates, who treats her like shit, and gets into acid and speed, she kind of loses me as I couldn't help but wonder how tough all that must have been for her kids. Call me a square if you must.

"We were pushing the envel
Andrea Riley
Feb 03, 2008 rated it liked it
I loved this book. DiPrima is not my favorite writer, I don't like her poetry, and her style in this book wasn't anything special, but she provides an important perspective of being a Beat, a woman, and a poet during this time frame. Her voice and experiences are important to include when praising the Beats. Unfortunately, she apologizes for so much of the sexist behavior of the Beat poets that it gets frustrating. Her justification is interesting to take in to consideration when discussing gen ...more
Apr 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Excellent,impressionistic account of (one particular)Italian-American family dynamic in the New York of the '30's and '40's...less interesting on the Beatnik years of the author since the emphasis is mainly on her liberation from bourgeois standards and the constant reiteration of drugs,sex and general bohemian attitudes becomes a bit wearing...still,worthwhile as the perspective of a woman in the almost exclusively male domain of the Beats...
Ann M
Jun 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Unlike her other memoir, Memoirs of a Beatnik, this book is not all about sex. It's a more in-depth look at what her circle of friends and acquaintainces were doing, and how they lived, in cold East Village apartments, smoking "dope" and having affairs while running printing presses and organizing political protests. It is bleak in spots, but that can't be helped when you live that close to the bone, and with sadistic, repressive parents as well.
Debbie Hoskins
Very wise book. Diane is an interesting artist and this book was so helpful in teaching me how to be an artist. She's still alive. I'm not an expert on the Beats, but certainly one of the few still standing.
I love when poets write prose. They are just so thoughtful with word choice and sometimes I'm not smart enough to understand their poetry, but I can understand their prose.
I love this book, but I don't own it. I'm happy with the signed copy of _Memoirs of a Beatnik_.
Aug 04, 2010 rated it did not like it
I really like memoirs. I've lived in NYC. All things that made me think I would like this book, but I didn't. I tried to get through it for months, and made it about 2/3 of the way through the book before I finally gave up. I just couldn't do it. I can't put my finger on why it didn't click for me ... maybe it was too NYC bohemian artsy feminist for me ...
Katje Richstatter
Mar 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Memoir from a writer/poet/mother who was in the thick of the New York beat movement in the sixties. Interesting both politically (blacklisting) and personally. DiPrima was a feminist before there was a movement, true to herself and her desires, a good lesson on the ways to skirt convention (even at a time when it was much more oppressive than today).
Feb 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: not just for women! and Beat era fans
Recommended to Elena by: E Bomb
The reason to read this book is the very strong writing, but if you need a hipster teaser here's my paraphrase:
'So I dropped off my children including the one I deliberately conceived by Leroi Jones (now Amiri Baraka) without his knowing at my parent's farm in Connecticut (?) so I could do peyote for three weeks with Timothy Leary...'
Karen Ann
May 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and this woman, who has lived without regret and with great passion for art. Her life became another art form that complimented her writing. It is a shame that young women today don't know di Prima. She is my hero.
Jackie Shea
Mar 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I love Diane diprima. " was so beautiful. For us, who had replaced religion, family, society, ethics with Beauty, who saw ourselves as in the service of beauty, no warnings were understood, no traps anticipated. To go down in the service of That- that was the ultimate grace."
Christine Cody
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
I love this book. It was my introduction to the Beat era and after reading it, I spent the following year reading as much from the Beats as I could. I was sick in bed for most of the time and my bed became a comfortable salon for the entire time.
Mar 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
fabulous, simply fabulous.
Jul 22, 2008 is currently reading it
Just found this book tucked away in an awesome used book store. It must have been waiting for me. Can't wait to read it.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • How I Became Hettie Jones
  • Lap Dancing for Mommy: Tender Stories of Disgust, Blame and Inspiration
  • Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir
  • Baby Driver: A Story About Myself
  • Mastering Creative Anxiety: 24 Lessons for Writers, Painters, Musicians, and Actors from America's Foremost Creativity Coach
  • Women of the Beat Generation: The Writers, Artists and Muses at the Heart of a Revolution
  • Scribbling in the Sand
  • Door Wide Open: A Beat Love Affair in Letters, 1957-1958
  • You'll Be Okay: My Life with Jack Kerouac
  • Off the Road: My Years with Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg
  • Spontaneous Mind: Selected Interviews 1958-1996
  • The Beat Book
  • What We Ache For: Creativity and the Unfolding of Your Soul
  • Buddha
  • I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg
  • Earth House Hold
  • A Child's Calendar
  • Big Sky Mind: Buddhism and the Beat Generation
Diane Di Prima is an American poet.