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My Own Devices: Essays From the Road on Music, Science, and Senseless Love

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4.54  ·  Rating details ·  1,200 ratings  ·  229 reviews
Witty and moving, this debut memoir in essays from the dynamic rapper and singer Dessa, is a candid account of her life in the van as a hard-touring musician, her determination to beat long odds to make a name for herself as a performing artist, and her struggle to fall out of love with someone in her band. In a literary, honest style, evoking Amanda Palmer and Miranda Jul ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 8th 2018 by E P Dutton
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4.54  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,200 ratings  ·  229 reviews


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Dave
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Not content with releasing one of the best albums of the year, Dessa's gone ahead and written one of the best books too.
Alison
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book had me hooked by the first sentence, texting quotes to friends after ten pages, and fighting tears (and losing) after thirty-one because I felt so seen. I have read a fair amount of narrative nonfiction, and this is probably the best I’ve ever seen it done. If you’re a fan of Dessa’s music, this book is full of Easter-egg moments where you get to see the genesis of lyrics. If not, it doesn’t matter at all; the writing is gorgeous, full of whip-smart observations, and more than stands o ...more
Paul
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
An Interesting presentation of many particular instances or illustrations of portions of Dessa's life.
She has an undeniable street smart philosophy that is very intelligent. She appears to continue a rigorous pining over her "X". Which I presume is the impetus for this book. I particularly enjoyed it because in a lot of ways it parallels my road in the acting business. With time spent in a lot of the same places (I wouldn't be surprised if our paths had crossed at some point).
Katie
May 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I love Dessa. I love her mind. She does math to keep herself busy when the train she's on runs over a human being. She is stuck on a past relationship, so she consults neuroscientists to scan her brain and figure out what heartbrokenness and love look like in waves. Her twitter account is philosophy, retweets of tattoos people get of her lyrics, and the most strange and wondrous hive-mind requests you could hope to find. ('I'm in Omaha for one day and am looking for an expert in electromagnetic ...more
Pete
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm not a rapper, I just read a lot about it. I’ve learned there are some things about which you don’t think twice. Pre-ordering this book was one of those things because anything Dessa does is well worth checking out. Dessa and her brain will always impress. I really enjoyed this beautifully candid memoir / essay collection. As usual, her work is smart, funny, and affecting. I couldn’t put this book down. Give it a go, buy her albums, and see her in concert.
Mari
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, 2019

I loved this. It’s a great collection of essays that are well written and come from such an open and vulnerable place. It was about grief and love and family and music and science all in one, so like, just for me.
Kristin Boldon
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: new, memoir, 2018
Like hanging out with a whip smart, hypercurious, funny friend. Dessa's prose take us through the long arc of a doomed relationship in this series of connected essays. It's a wild, fun, bittersweet ride.
Chelsea Hetherington
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
In “My Own Devices”, Dessa (rapper/singer/writer/philosopher - a true multi-hyphenate) explores issues of love, family, ambition, and (naturally) music.

This essay collection beautifully weaves together stories on music, finding one’s purpose, science, and what makes us human. I think with any other author, an exploration of these topics could be super heavy, but Dessa does it in a way that’s masterfully both insightful, entertaining, and (really, really) funny - it’s not an exaggeration at all
...more
Halley Sutton
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In a better world, Dessa would be as rich and famous as Beyonce.

Smart, funny, a zippy way with words (a few times her turn of phrase is so on point it made me stop and mouth the words out loud) and a fascinating person. Memoirs, to me, often run the risk of sounding like, "Yes, here is my life and here is how I've made sense of everything that's ever happened. You are welcome for the lesson." But this one felt more like presenting small slices of a very interesting, very smart and articulate pe
...more
Allison
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
These essays are just gorgeous. Each one hums with humor and tragedy and honesty, and I have learned so much about everything from gliders to the power structures of zebras to how we live with the ones we love. The writing is like crystal: sharp, clear, and shining with unexpected colors from different angles. I'll be thinking about the structure of "The Mirror Test" for a good long while (hooooow do you get a piece to hold together like that, I cannot), but I inhaled this entire collection.
RH Walters
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book makes you feel like you're best friends with a rap star and I finished it in no time. Fearless art is all love and no secrets.
Incidentally if anyone is worried about memory decline I read that cooking onions in turmeric makes dementia and Alzheimers almost unheard of in India.
Jeff
I heard Dessa interviewed on 89.3 The Current Twin Cities last fall. She talked about her new album and shared some anecdotes from this book. I knew her only as the member of the Minneapolis rap group Doomtree and was familiar with her solo work which is played on The Current. It was a great interview. Dessa was charming and eloquent. I was surprised when she started talking science and was not surprised when I saw that science was included in the book’s title.

In My Own Devices: True Stories fr
...more
John
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Endearing and fascinating. I felt like a bit of a voyeur, looking into a life I have seem snippets of from stage and social media. I knew the outline of Dessa's life, and now I was getting some glossy colored photos.

I laughed a lot. There are many little wonderful moments and witty lines. I cried once, and got teary a few other times. My favorite parts were the ones that revolved around music. And the X stuff (which intersects), althoughI had heard her talk about it at her orchestra show last y
...more
Kdawg91
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Every so often, you have a "click" in your head, something you see, or hear, or taste or etc and so on, occurs and all this time, whatever the heck it is that you didn't like or know about makes TOTAL sense.

That being said, I always have been a big music fan but never a hiphop fan, then one day surfing I ran across "Bolt Cutter" by Doomtree...then it was that loud resounding CLICK.

I was drawn to Dessa that day, her words, her presence is full in effect in this collection of essays, You will feel
...more
Jay Gabler
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There's never been a music memoir quite like Dessa's. My Own Devices is at once a behind-the-scenes look at a professional musician's life, a meditation on the tumultuous love affair that has inspired much of her music, an affectionate account of her family life, and a scientifically-oriented consideration of What It All Means. In short, it's pretty much everything any fan has ever hoped for from a music memoir. I reviewed My Own Devices for The Current.
Emily
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a delight. I am not at all surprised by that fact, but I am very sorry I waited over 6 months to read it.
Kit
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Dessa is lovely and means so much to me.

When I read about her interests and thought process, I feel like someone sees the world like I do.
Tony Wirt
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you’ve ever listened to Dessa’s music, you know she can write. Her trip through love and heartbreak and the road and more heartbreak will fascinate everyone from longtime Doomtree fans to people who have never heard her rap. And why haven’t you heard her rap? Jeez.
Maggie
Dec 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
I would give it 4.5. This collection of essays made me feel a lot of things and it was as poetic as anything else she's done.
Kate
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"X and I were only good at the feeling of love, not the behavior. Which is like knowing how to dive, but not how to swim."

Dessa is a brilliant artist and human, and this book was everything I hope it would be. I am grateful for it.
Aaron Arnold
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dessa's songs are often the most lyrically interesting on each Doomtree album, and the direct connections between her life and her music means that it's not really surprising that this book is so good. The way she picks big topics (what does it mean to be in love with someone? if you could get rid of that love, would you?), neatly expresses them in poetic apothegms, and then wraps them in compelling narratives is right in line with her songwriting style, so if you're a big fan of her on the stag ...more
Jacob Hoefer
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Written in a clear and sparking voice, Dessa's essays on love and art combine nicely with her thoughts on philosophy and science. Equally as interesting as the content is the structure which she has built into each piece. All of the essays in My Own Devices feel interconnected and have a lovely way of meandering into tangents that can come back in well crafted final paragraphs.
I am curious to see how this book reads to someone unfamiliar with Dessa or Doomtree. I found myself having to shut off
...more
Paul Swanson
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
A six year old asked me what the cover said. "My Own Devices," I replied.
"What's that mean?"
Hesitating..."It means what... things... make the author...uh... unique."
Not satisfied with my answer, I had to look up the word "devices" to get a true sense of the word rather than the contextual understanding of it that I had grown up with. It was then that I really started to appreciate Dessa's use of words. The title is a perfect reflection of the layers Dessa puts into her writing:

de·vice
/dəˈvīs/
no
...more
Robin
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dessa, a hip-hop artist who commands language like a general, has written a powerful memoir about love, family, and life on the road. Anyone familiar with her lyrics will not be surprised by the book's philosophical insights and clever metaphors. I found her essay topics interesting, and especially enjoyed The Mirror Test and the essays about her family.

My Own Devices prefers to be read carefully. I slowed down my usual skimming pace to catch every crafted sentence.

It was a special treat to see
...more
Tony
Nov 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
MY OWN DEVICES. (2018). Dessa. ***.
Dessa is the stage name of a Minneapolis-based rapper. This book of essays represents the thoughts she managed to put down between stops on her band’s tour bus. They are selections from her life that she has chosen to look at a little more closely. I was surprised to learn that she was in her late thirties, so that there is some impetus to reach any goals she has set for herself. She manages to talk about her family, her hobbies, her wide varieties of jobs, an
...more
Jeanette
Nov 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This essay collection is a mixed bag of mostly good essays, some excellent, some a bit repetitive, with a lot ending in cheesy final lines, but I love Dessa so I want into it. I particularly enjoyed the first few essays, “Up on Two Wheels” & “Glossary” (which I had the absolute delight of listened to her perform at her book tour stop in Boston) & “Milk” & the essay about her brother, but a lot of the math and science-y stuff she dorks out about (which I respect) wasn’t very gripping ...more
Johari
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I came across this book listening to the Nerdette podcast. I had never heard of Dessa, but the interview with her was fascinating and I wanted more from her brain. Enter this beautiful book of memoir-style essays. I enjoyed every moment of it and highly recommend the audio book, read by the author. While the theme that runs throughout is her ten-year effort to get over her ex, it also explores family, the uncertainty of the future, the artistic process, touring as a hip-hop artist, and a million ...more
Sibo
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I think it's impossible to read/listen to this without falling a little bit (or, in my case, a lot) in love with Dessa. Dessa narrates the audiobook herself, and I know it's cliché, but I could listen to her read the dictionary and not get bored. I'm mad that I wasn't introduced to her music until after I left Minnesota; I think she would have been a revelation to college-aged me. Her prose writing is no less moving; at times funny, poetic, heart-wrenching, beautiful, smart, or all of the above. ...more
Rachel
I'm a big fan of Dessa. I've lost track of how many times I've seen her perform. I even answered an open call to be in one of her videos. So, it's an understatement to say I expected to like this book.

Guys. I LOVED this book. Dessa bills herself (accurately) as a multi-hyphenate, but most of all? She's a deep-thinker and a word smith. And, as a skilled performer, listening to her read her book added even more depth to the experience.

Seriously, my words can't do her justice, so let's just say t
...more
Ren Olive
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In less than 24 hours, I gobbled up Dessa’s words; I couldn’t stop reading. I’ll be honest, I was already a pretty solid Dessa fan (after seeing a show 89.3 put on in Rochester MN that featured Dessa back in 2011, I continued to see her shows around the state- including her jaw dropping performance with the MN Orchestra back in 2017).... but this book has got me absolutely hooked.

You won’t regret reading through this window into a talented, genuine artist’s soul.

I’ll be first in line at her ne
...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Cover update 3 20 Apr 12, 2018 12:15AM  

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211 followers
Dessa is a rapper, singer, and essayist who earns her living on the road. She’s performed around the world at opera houses, rock clubs, and sometimes standing on barroom tables. Her imaginative writing and ferocious stage presence have been praised by NPR, Forbes, Billboard, the Chicago Tribune, and the LA Times. As a musician, she’s landed on the Billboard Top 200 as a solo artist; a member of th ...more
“I don't believe in fate or destiny or that everything turns out for the best. I'll concede that everything happens for a reason but only as a very general statement of causation. Some lousy things happen for really lousy reasons.” 3 likes
“It’s impossible to know which moments are crucial to your narrative until the story is over.” 2 likes
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