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Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Manic Depression
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Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Manic Depression

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  685 ratings  ·  119 reviews
The stunning and long-awaited memoir from the beloved founder of the James Beard Award-winning website Leite’s Culinaria—a candid, courageous, and at times laugh-out-loud funny story of family, food, mental illness, and sexual identity.

Born into a family of Azorean immigrants, David Leite grew up in the 1960s in a devoutly Catholic, blue-collar, food-crazed Portuguese home
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 11th 2017 by Dey Street Books
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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 ·  685 ratings  ·  119 reviews

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Disclaimer per my own rule and to maintain everyone's integrity:
I have an acquaintance with the author. Also, I received a advance copy of this book with mutual understanding that I am a contumacious, opinionated old harpy and was under no obligation how or even if to post remarks.

I stumbled upon David Leite during a minor crisis (mine) involving Portuguese sweet bread and my spouse's childhood memory of a sainted great aunt. (Every Azorean family has a sainted great aunt, trust me on this.) D
David Leite’s parents emigrated from the Azores to Massachusetts, where he grew up in a tenement crowded with relatives. Processed American snack foods, which appealed more than the traditional Portuguese fare his grandmother cooked, were a guilty pleasure shared with his mother. “Banana” was her nickname for him, and she left daily messages of encouragement written in marker on the peel of his breakfast banana. Food was a comfort in the years that followed, but as an adolescent and young man Le ...more
Book Riot Community
I’ve been raving about this book since I read it for my book group and I make no apologies for it. This memoir encompasses so many struggles and obstacles, but does so in a way that is both self-deprecating and hilarious. Leite’s use of language is even more interesting than his anecdotes about growing up Portuguese, bipolar, and gay. The way he orchestrates the rhythm of his writing is nothing short of masterful. When he’s writing about his manic episodes, clipped sentences lend a sense of urge ...more
I read this book for a new book group I am going to join soon. They read books about food, not necessarily cookbooks. This is their selection for July.

So my first critique here may not be about the book at all, or even fair as regards the book. This book has very little to do with cooking. This book is primarily about living with a bipolar disorder and struggling with being gay and coming out. I did enjoy this book but I kept wondering, since it is a book club pick dealing with food books, where
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In a beautifully written memoir of self-discovery, David Leite takes us on a journey of finding the true balance in his heritage, his sexual orientation, his bi-polar disorder and his deep and abiding love of food. With the anchor of strong family and culture, the author mines the depths of mental illness and the aching journey of diagnosis to find balance and, ultimately, happiness. From the author of the James Beard Award-winning website Leite’s Culinaria, David Leite has given us a feast of a ...more
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
One of the most funny, touching memoirs that I have read in a very long while. David writes humorously about growing up in a Portuguese household, including their rich history of cooking, family feasts and yes, dysfunction. More importantly, he writes about the first signs of his mental illness and the ways he tried to cope and hide it. He writes in a way where readers will be able to identify with his battle with mental illness, which will demystify mental illness and reduce the guilt/shame tha ...more
Glenn Dettwiler
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I laughed, I cried, I smiled and I felt the emotional roller coaster of Davids life, love and mental health challenges.. David shares his love of those that provide a foundation to his development both in balance and relationships. From Barry to Paul, from Bridget to Ronnie, from Becca to Alan... David shares the emotional peaks and valleys that helped form his love of life, family and food.
Roy Trimble
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Pre-read. Looking forward to the final! Well I read the final version and it's even better. What a wonderful and powerful story. I expected a story about food. Instead I got a powerful story about a young man coming to grips with the things that haunted and shaped him. It's a very powerful story that makes you think about what all the people around you are going through every day. Food does play a big role. A simple banana can be so full of love. And the memories of it can last a lifetime.
Georgie Fear
Couldn't finish it

The writing itself is good, funny at times and descriptive. But halfway through the book I was just not enjoying it. I felt sorry for the author in his times of despair and suffering, yet his feelings of being superior to everyone else during other periods left me not really liking him. I found myself thinking I hope he gets help in the second half of the book but I wasn't enjoying it enough to want to bother reading it.
Jamie Brenner
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful book! Funny and and family. What more can we ask for in a book?
Sandra Guerfi
Jun 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
David Leite's touching autobiography takes a look at himself from a small boy growing up to his present life as the creator of the James Beard Award winning website Leite's Culinaria. Leite introduces us to the happy memories and tribulations that have assailed him. His genuine and candid look at what he would later come to realize as a maelstrom of mental illness and the confusion of sexual identity that began to afflict him from a very young age.

David's family is the perfect example of an imm
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Soooo gooood. I’m a memoir freak, and this just hits so many of my buttons that it was inevitable I’d love it. I have loved @davidleite since I first heard him on The Splendid Table years ago. He is a delight on social media and his website, Leite’s Culinaria, is incredible. (If you are into food, you must follow him. He was the first food writer to win a James Beard award for a website!) This memoir tells of his Portuguese immigrant childhood in Massachusetts, his struggle to come to terms with ...more
Courtney Judy
The title (and cover) of the book drew my attention first, and of course...the thought of reading a memoir that included food, love and manic could one say no to that. I enjoyed the background and mini-intro to Portuguese culture that the author provided, and my heart ached for David when he shared all the manic moments he endured his entire life. It was such a relief that he never gave up...not on himself, not on his therapist, not on his dream of getting a degree, and not on h ...more
Kelley Frengle
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this memoir that is well-written, witty, comical, and entertaining. I enjoyed learning about his Portuguese family, food, and culture. Also enjoyed about reading about his journey to love and to his successful career. Most importantly, I appreciate that David brings the audience into how manic depression has impacted his life, helping to share understanding and appreciation for mental illness.
Feb 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs
If you're looking for a book that shares real, raw experiences about growing up, working, dating, coping and thriving as a gay person with a bipolar disorder, then you'll probably really like this one. I picked this book up totally at random from the bookstore because I love reading memoirs, and I'm very glad I got to read about someone's experiences that are different from my own.
Rachel Riot
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Entertaining, funny, and so true to life about living with bipolar. I would give this more than five stars if I could.
Kitt O'Malley
May 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved Leite's Self-Deprecating Memoir

As a mental health advocate and bipolar blogger, I've read A LOT of writing by those of us living with mental illness -- with bipolar disorder in particular. What makes Leite's different and enjoyable is his incredible self-deprecating sense of humor. Humor can literally save your life. Don't underestimate it as a coping mechanism. Check out Chapter 33 for the psychiatric interview in which Leite was diagnosed bipolar II. I even published a blog post quoting
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This audio was not quite what I expected, but by the end, I was sad it was over.
Benjamin Bookman
Mar 08, 2017 rated it liked it
After the first 50 pages, I was starting to compose my review - "I love this book. The descriptions are so vivid, the situations so funny yet deep, and the situations so personal that it could only be a real story" and fully intending to give 5 stars. But, then David grew up and moved away from home and any/all other interesting or fully described people (outside of Alan). I fully admit that I am a sucker for childhood and generally more bored by the realities of adulthood in ANY story. But the ...more
Emily Hampton Haynes
I think this is the best book I've read all year. It was especially powerful for me to read how long it took for Leite to get the diagnosis that fit him -- over 30 years. I'm so impressed by his will even as a child to fight for his life, for his brain. It's also a very sweet memoir about love, family, food, and acceptance. A fantastic read.
Jan 26, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a good memoir, but I was expecting more based on the subtitle. I felt that the manic depression part of the memoir--which I was most interested in--is almost an afterthought . I would have described it as mental illness.
May 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
I was really enjoying this memoir, especially the depiction of an immigrant Portuguese family and neighbourhood. However, I lost interest once I found it too pretentious.
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Listened on audio (hoopla) while walking in the mornings. I enjoyed all of this honest memoir, but especially loved the epilogue, which gave me chills.
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just finished reading Notes on a Banana by David Leite. I have known David through several foods groups for many years. I have a copy of his cookbook , The New Portuguese Table (which I also love) and have seen glimpses of his personal life that he has shared on his Facebook page and on his Leite's Culinary page. David has always shared "The One", on a limited level with his readers. This book gave us the ability to really get to see and know David on a completely different level. The book is ...more
Janet Elsbach
Jul 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
Two things I rarely do: read two books at once, and read a lot of memoir. So just recently I read two memoirs at once, not by design but just by accident of them coming from the library at the same time and my having to race (unsuccessfully, as it happened) their due dates, like two cartons of milk in the fridge. They are very different books but here they are together in one thought. Notes On A Banana is a big meal, lots of things eaten together, sauce spilling on the table cloth and kids runni ...more
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
I absolutely loved Notes on a Banana. I sensed a kindred spirit in David Leite - James Beard-award winning founder of the popular website, Leite's Culinaria - with every page. I didn't grow up Portuguese, but I had grandmothers who were incredible cooks and loved assembling family around the table to share in the delicious meals they created. That desire to immerse myself in good food and share it with the ones I love is what inspired me to become a baker.

I, too, like David, loved acting as a ki
Judith Klinger
May 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
DISCLAIMER: I'm a straight woman. I don't have any medically recognized mental illnesses; other than a strong streak of Polish veneta.
Yet, this book pierced my heart in ways that were totally unexpected.
I'm writing this review on Mother's Day, so I'm thinking about being a mother. I cannot even begin to imagine the trembling heart and hands when David Leite handed this book to his mother.
A mother's job is to protect her child, to make life a better place. And maybe David was afraid his mothe
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was an engaging, informative book and a fast read. It was well-written. I liked it because:
1) I have never personally known a gay man, that I’m aware of. David tells us about his life in a way that we understand that his homosexuality was inborn. He felt “different” from a young age. The other boys sensed he was different, too, but at such a young age, none of them knew what it was. As he grew, his feelings became more and more defined. He tried to be heterosexual, but it never felt right.
Jul 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Having grown up in southeastern Massachusetts with many Azorean (Portuguese) classmates, I was drawn to this new memoir written by food writer David Leite. The early chapters of the book richly capture growing up in a multi-generational Portuguese family, first in Fall River, Massachusetts and then in Swansea, a small town nearby. Like many of us, he tries to move away from his ethnic roots, ultimately realizing the beauty of his heritage and finding a way to meld it with his urbane lifestyle. T ...more
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a terrific book!!! I plunged into Notes on a Banana on a long plane ride and, by the time I landed state-side, I felt like I was the authors best friend! I laughed out loud at certain points and was moved to tears at the end. The authors voice comes through with great power, authenticity, and clarity, so much so that I felt like I was following him in person through the story. He is clearly very charismatic and he possesses a terrific sense of humor. Yet I was deeply touched by his struggle ...more
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David Leite is a cookbook author, food writer, and memoirist. His newest book, Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Manic Depression, was published by Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.

He's also the publisher of the website Leite's Culinaria, which has won two James Beard awards, as well as the writer of The David Blahg. He's the author of The New Portuguese Table: Exciting F

Articles featuring this book

The food writer turned memoirist in Notes on a Banana names his favorite books that helped him understand his mental illness.
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