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How to Sit: A Memoir in Stories and Essays

4.72  ·  Rating details ·  137 ratings  ·  31 reviews
“How do you pick your mom up from jail? How do you mourn the death of your grandmother, who was both a powerfully seductive and vital force in your life, but at the same time, awful and tragic? How do you wait three months for your premature twin babies to get out of the NICU without going mad from fear and guilt? With a strong voice that is at times sparse and direct, at ...more
Paperback, 120 pages
Published September 2018 by Mason Jar Press
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 ·  137 ratings  ·  31 reviews

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Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
This collection of short stories about the author’s life work together to create a loose memoir. While I did not like the way the stories jumped back and forth between childhood and adult life (I would have rather it be more chronological), there is some pretty stunning prose in this book. Most of the stories deal with her relationship with the women in her family, particularly her mother, grandmother, and a great aunt.
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"How to Sit" by Tyrese Coleman is a memoir of uncommon candor and emotional resonance. Given to us in stories and essays, her words burn indelibly into the heart and mind of the intelligent, empathetic reader. Reading this collection, I hardly moved, hardly even breathed. Such is the power of the truths spoken here in Coleman's precise and beautiful, startling prose. A must read.
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this in one gulp on a flight because—brace yourself for a cliche—I couldn’t put it down. I loved that Coleman teased with the possibility that what I felt was fact could have been fiction. I haven’t read a more eloquent, thought-provoking, soul-touching narrative about family, grief, and Black womanhood in a long time, maybe ever. Coleman’s prose is approachable, but definitely leaves you saying, “Damn, how did she do that?” Maybe even out loud.
Gayle Pritchard
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this interesting and well-written book. Interesting because of the way she tells her story through a series of essays. Her writing is real and compelling, honest and sometimes brutally honest. Each essay can stand on its own, but together, How to Sit is a breakthrough in memoir. I especially admire the various literary devices Coleman uses to get her words on the page. I really appreciate her "take no prisoners" style, as well. She tells is like it is in a beautiful way, and makes ...more
Julia Tagliere
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I read the author's note at the beginning of this book (with its deceptively simple title) explaining that her collection is somewhat of a hybrid--including nonfiction and some "not-quite-nonfiction" alike, I wasn't sure what to expect. But as I worked my way through each individual piece, the question of whether what I was reading was fiction or nonfiction became increasingly irrelevant; each of her pieces speaks wholly and with great fidelity to a deeper Truth, the capital 'T' kind. Throu ...more
So good. I love these blurred-line story/essays so much. Voice, perfect control, understated, powerful emotion. Being a woman, being a black woman, the terrors of girlhood and motherhood. The ineffable contradictions of family. How you save yourself. I think when we hear lauded "an important new voice," what's being hinted at is the clarity and power and singularity with which the prose conveys a humanity at once very specific and encompassing many in its generosity. Tyrese Coleman's voice is ju ...more
Sonora Taylor
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful memoir of grief, guilt, and coming-of-age. Coleman beautifully weaves “nonfiction and not-nonfiction” in a quick read that will linger in your mind. Give it a read.
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Impeccable writing, gutting stories, symbiotic experiences. Coleman is a force to be reckoned with in prose and I cannot wait to see what comes next. Her stories are singularly unique and wonderfully crafted.
Maya F
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How to Sit is a thought-provoking narrative mixed with fact and fiction that recounts the author's experiences with death, Black identity, and family in a series of simple-titled chapters. I laughed sometimes at the author's bluntness and other times felt the gravity of her complicated relationship with her mother and grandmother. It's the type of book that entrances you, makes you reflect. An eloquent, powerful read. ...more
Ramsey Hootman
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I don't remember when or why I started following Tyrese Coleman on Twitter, but every time she tweets about her life as a writer and a mother I find myself nodding amen. So I thought, I should read her book! I devoured this slim--but emotionally weighty--volume in one sitting. And damn, this is some good writing. The last memoir I remember reading that was this incisive and self-aware was Gary Presley's Seven Wheelchairs. I'm truly awed by anyone who can see themselves and their relationships to ...more
Dorothy Bendel
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I rarely read a book in one sitting—but I was so taken in by Coleman's voice & her characters that I read this in one go. I'm thrilled to see this book getting the attention it deserves. ...more
Apr 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Coleman’s work is on the cusp of a new and controversial “genre,” which mixes memoir and fiction in order to tell story.

The narrative arc of this novella centers around “T’s” childhood and adulthood, and largely three women who shaped it: her grandmother, great-aunt and mother. There are other fiction/essays as well (and frankly I couldn’t always tell the difference between the two.)

I can’t say for sure, not being the author, why Coleman chose to write in this style. I do think it leant a viscer
Cara Shachter
Jun 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I don't remember how I came across this collection, but I am so happy that I did. It is this little hidden gem I wish more people could get in their hands, especially those who are interested in writing about their owns life.

I love memoirs, but being someone who has done research on memory and cognition, I often think about how the typical memoir format is rarely representative of how the human memory works.

Tyrese Coleman successfully wrote a story about her life that mimics what the real memo
Lily Blackburn
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In the intro, Coleman writes that she didn't want the pieces in the book to be distinguished by genre. (hence: "A Memoir in Stories and Essays.") I honestly never questioned "is this a fiction piece? is this memoir?" The stories echo and enhance one another to overall tend towards something memoir: the truth of an "I" from different angles, at different stages in her life. Coleman's relationship to her mother and grandmother are a big part of the book, as well as writing about her experiences as ...more
Louise Julig
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Don’t let this slim volume fool you; in fewer than 120 pages Coleman manages to pack plenty of punch. “How to Sit,” which the author describes as “a collection of nonfiction and not-quite-nonfiction,” brings us face-to-face with an unflinching narrator with a voice both vulnerable and defiant. Coleman loops in and around themes of family, class, race, grief, and what it means to be loyal to people you love while carving out your own sense of self. In essays with titles such as, “Why I Let Him To ...more
Suzanne Farrell
Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incredible book. Original and beautiful and relatable and wonderful. A friend taught me to read through mirrors and windows, and I thought a lot about that trick while reading How to Sit. So many mirrors reflecting similar (sometimes eerily similar) events in my own life, and so many windows showing me events, experiences, realities unknown to me. Insights for both I will carry with me. I highly recommend.
Richard Noggle
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it

A potent fusion of fact and fiction exploring Southern black female sexuality and ancestry. It's occasionally experimental (an essay centered around the results of an ancestry test; a sort of meta final essay about how to write about death), but largely reads like a memoir that puts the emphasis squarely on "memory," not concerning itself with a strict reliance on "truth."
Karen Strother
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oh my goodness... This book is...woooo it is just so good! The essays stuck right into that space between my heart and frontal lobe and have been following me for days. The humor and the pain are conveyed with a feeling that Tyrese Coleman is winking at you from across a table, wine glass in one hand and cigarette in the other, telling stories until three am.
Carole Duff
Sep 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I heard Ms. Coleman read at a recent conference and picked up her book. What an experience, both separate from mine and head-noddingly identifiable. What is fact and what is fiction? Does it matter when observations about others and self are unflinchingly true?
Davon Loeb
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
'How to Sit' is a special glimpse into the presumptions, expectations, and rules that family, society, and individuals have when trying to govern our bodes. Such alive storytelling that is alike to Jamaica Kincaid and Toni Morrison. A truly amazing book. ...more
Shannon McLeod
Jul 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is a must read. Coleman writes such powerful flash pieces, and the ones in this collection build on one another in a way that is really spectacular. Beautiful, poetic writing. Highly recommend.
Dwaine Rieves
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tyrese teaches us how to sit and sooo much more!
Apr 14, 2019 rated it liked it
I picked this book up at a cool little bookshop in Baltimore (Greedy Reads). Tyrese Coleman had been to the store and signed some copies. It looked interesting and it was.
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Fiction never get real life right, though. It's always the parts of real life written in fiction no one seems to believe." ...more
Rachel McKenny
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Read this book read this book. So excellent. Short, punchy story-memoir pieces that have me thinking about them days later.
Kristen Ploetz
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Review coming soon!
Rae Theodore
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A slim book that packs a punch. Tyrese Coleman unabashedly explores race, guilt, sex, privilege and family. Her stories stay with the reader well after the last page has been read.
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So much to love about this book. The voice is assured and smart and fresh. The material feels urgent. The portrayals are funny and sad and compassionate and searing. This is an author to watch.
NobodysNobody NobodysNo
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book read like parts of my own life. Beautifully written non-fiction/memoir.
Aqsa R
Nov 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Soo good, I loved the blurred lines between fiction and reality in her short essays. I met her in person and she speaks like she writes. Very bluntly. But I believe the topics she writes about needs a blunt voice so it works well. I really liked the essay on her going into labor. It packed a lot. Her writing is honest and curt, but still emotional.
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