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Memorial Drive: A Daughter's Memoir

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  12,810 ratings  ·  1,903 reviews
At age nineteen, Natasha Trethewey had her world turned upside down when her former stepfather shot and killed her mother. Grieving and still new to adulthood, she confronted the twin pulls of life and death in the aftermath of unimaginable trauma and now explores the way this experience lastingly shaped the artist she became.

Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Natasha Trethewey e
Hardcover, 213 pages
Published July 28th 2020 by Ecco
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Sheila Mulcahy I agree with Robin's take, it seems like Gwen might have been caught off guard getting pregnant, and along with the marriage, both done on the slide. …moreI agree with Robin's take, it seems like Gwen might have been caught off guard getting pregnant, and along with the marriage, both done on the slide. As if this was the beginning of the end, the idea that secrets are kept merely because they're not spoken aloud is the basis of a bad relationship.(less)
Linda Rae I found a link to Big Joe's court appeal from 2001. In that document it indicates he was sent to prison in the 1985 timeframe for life for murder, kid…moreI found a link to Big Joe's court appeal from 2001. In that document it indicates he was sent to prison in the 1985 timeframe for life for murder, kidnapping, terrorist threats, etc. His appeal was denied. I assume he is still in prison for his crimes.(less)

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Nov 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"You are in the fifth grade . . . At home you catch your mother alone, sitting on the bed, her left temple dark and swollen. Standing in front of her, eye level, you shift your weight from one leg to the other, your head down. 'Mommy,' you say quietly, so as to not be overheard. 'Do you know how, when you love someone and you know they are hurting, it hurts you too?'" -- page 103

Author Natasha Trethewey is probably best recognized as a 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry winner and also as the U.S. Po
Apr 14, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Memorial Drive is Natasha Trethewey’s memoir detailing her life with her mother, who was murdered when Natasha was just 19 by her abusive stepfather. This devastating event is revealed at the start of the book, which moves through Natasha’s childhood as a biracial child in Mississippi, describing her family life and her mother-daughter relationship.

When her parents separated, Natasha and her mom moved to Atlanta. Her mom met Big Joe, starting what would become a volatile relationship. Reading s
Natasha Trethewey has twice been appointed poet laureate of the United States. Her beautiful words, her turn of a phrase, her ability to reach inside the reader and herself by turning thoughts into language in Memorial Drive: A Daughter's Memoir, testify that this was a well-deserved appointment.

Ms. Trethewey takes us back to her childhood, growing up as a mixed-race child of an African-American mother and a white Canadian father. She brings forth memories of her relationship with each parent, b
Jan 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
[4+] The strong bond between mother and daughter is the core of this searing memoir. We know from the first pages that Trethewey's mother is murdered. The suspense building up to that terrible event runs through the pages. Along the way, Tretheway poetically reconstructs moments of her girlhood and family life, carrying the reader along so that it is impossible not to feel her love and grief.
(I listened to the audiobook, beautifully read by the author)
Jan 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
In her riveting memoir, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey examines the interplay of grief and memory as she attempted to come to terms with her mother’s brutal murder thirty years ago. Natasha was born in Mississippi in 1966 to an African-American mother and a white Canadian father when miscegenation was still illegal. Although she spent her early years in the warmth of her mother’s loving extended family, both Natasha and her parents were constantly subjected to the Gulfport white c ...more
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
Click here to hear my thoughts on this book and my experience joining Cheryl Strayed's book club on the Literati app over on my Booktube channel, abookolive.

This is a hauntingly beautiful memoir written by the former United States poet laureate in which she discusses her early life and the tragic murder of her mother by her one-time step-father back in 1985. For such a somber topic, there is such light in this book, and you can absolutely tell it was written by a poet (in the best possible way).
Some thirty years after her mother’s death at the hands of her brutal stepfather, Natasha Trethewey is documenting the long, arduous and painful process of reclaiming her memories of her life with her mother, memories she purposely had left dormant for years as a form of self protection, it seems. Here she presents her life with her mother in a style to be expected from such a skilled poet.

This is not the usual memoir as such or the story of her mother; rather it is an exegesis of their relation
Jan 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
Catching up on reviews after finishing a three week stint as a zoom proctor, yet another term to add to the vernacular during these times. Natasha Trethewey is one of my favorite poets and one of the most gifted and respected poets in the United States today, having been appointed poet laureate twice. Her words are luscious and combine traditional poetry with history and primary source documents, so the reader never knows what to expect with her eclectic style. Trethewey is the product of a mixe ...more
Kasa Cotugno
As she says in this, her memorial to her mother, Natasha Trethwey observes "Three decades is a long time to get to know the contours of loss." Her mother, murdered by an abusive stepfather in 1985, had accomplished much in her 40 years, but was unable to unburden herself of a second marriage that never should have been. Augmented with transcripts and pages of evidence, Trethwey attempts to face her grief at this loss she sustained at the age of 19. Now, older than her mother ever was able to be, ...more
Dave Schaafsma
Jan 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
“What matters is the transformative power of metaphor and the stories we tell ourselves about the arc and meaning of our lives.”

Pulitzer-Prize winning poet Natasha Tretheway, former U.S Poet Laureate, is also well known for the fact that her mother was killed by her second husband when Tretheway was nineteen years old. I have read a lot of her poetry, though no whole collection, but am correcting that error now. Monument is one book dedicated to her mother, but that terrible event weaves its way
Traci at The Stacks
Jul 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is incredible. An incredibly well crafted memoir. A story that is devastating. The writer is superb. There were parts that took my breath away. Wrecked me. This is a must read story of the layers of trauma of domestic violence on family and survival. Wow.
Diane Barnes
May 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was a wonderful memoir, and I'm sure quite difficult to write. I was left with a lot of unanswered questions, so it feels unfinished to me. I hope the author was able to exercise some demons, and she owes no one any further explanations, but I hope there's another memoir inside her about her life since the writing of the events in this book. ...more
Susan Rivers
Oct 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Trethewey is a gifted writer, and this deeply personal story unfolds in beautiful prose and with gut-wrenching vividness. And yet, when I came to the end of the slim memoir, I had more questions than when I'd begun reading it. Firstly, why is there no explanation of how or why the author's parents' marriage ended? This event was life-changing for the author, no less than for her mother, Gwen (for whom it precipitated her death, considering who she married next). There's no mention of strained ra ...more
Joshunda Sanders
Content warning: Intimate Partner Violence, Maternal Death
This harrowing & beautiful memoir is also painful to read, particularly if you have experienced the loss of a parent, of a mother, in a way that is fundamentally avoidable. Trethewey recounts mostly her memories of her mother Gwen while she still physically lived, with an abusive husband, Joel, whose abuse was recorded and noted by police, documented by Gwen and still, Joel waited for the right moment to slip past police who were supposed
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was brutal and it was beautiful. It made me think of No Visible Scars (which if you have not read, you should immediately) about that utter banality and commonness of domestic partner murder. The fact that so many men kill their wives or girlfriends does nothing to diminish the fact that each murder is a tragedy. Toward the end of this book, Trethewey publishes the recordings of the last conversations her mom had with her ex and killer and those conversations should be required reading for ...more
Lori Keeton
May 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

I was not familiar with this author before picking up her memoir. I have since learned that she is an award winning poet laureate. I came into her story blind only knowing that her mother was murdered by her step father over 30 years ago. She was brought up in Mississippi in the late 60's and 70's as a biracial daughter whose father was white. She remembers instances during her childhood of racism during this volatile period in history. Her parents seemed very happy together wanting to
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
Not being a great memoir reader, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this particular book. Many times, I feel that the writers of memoirs often embellish their memories and do try for the ultimate shock value in their stories. They often seem to miss the point that readers know these are memories and oftentimes are not as reliable as authors think they are.

However, in Memorial Drive, Ms Trethewey has created a believably understandable journey that she took down a road that was filled w
Apr 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
Transparency, heartbreak, strength, resilience are words that come to mind after finishing this memoir. Audio version read by author was very well done and really the only person who could read this account as it should be.
Connie G
"To survive trauma, one must be able to tell a story about it." (208)

Natasha Tretheway shows us the journey of her mother's life before Gwen was gunned down by her ex-husband in 1985. Natasha was wrapped in the family love of her grandmother and her other black maternal relatives as a young child in Mississippi. She was a child of a biracial marriage, and remembers the KKK burning a cross on their lawn since interracial unions were still illegal in their state. Natasha's white father eventually
Rod Brown
Jan 13, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2021-real-books
I feel bad for Natasha Trethewey and her family for the terrible murder that stole away her mother much too early in her life, but I never fully connected with this book. I knew I was in trouble when the first sentence kicked off a dream sequence. It's one of several throughout the book, and I just could not overcome my knee-jerk negative reaction against that literary device, my biggest pet peeve as a reader.

The book is about half the author describing the circumstances of her mother's murder (
Trethewey grew up in 1960s Mississippi with a Black mother and a white Canadian father, at a time when interracial marriage remained illegal in parts of the South. After her parents’ divorce, she and her mother, Gwen, moved to Georgia to start a new life, but her stepfather Joel was physically and psychologically abusive. Gwen’s murder opens and closes the book. Trethewey only returned to that Atlanta apartment on Memorial Drive after 30 years had passed. The blend of the objective (official tes ...more
Lyn Key
Dec 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This harrowing, haunting account of spousal abuse and murder moves quickly. The transcripts of the recorded phone conversations between the author's mother and her violent, unstable, and jealous ex are chilling. The legal system couldn't protect her adequately. I liked the author's grit and candor. It was a painful book to write. ...more
Jan Rice
Oct 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this memoir, the poet Natasha Trethewey tells the story of her life in light of the 1985 murder of her mother by her stepfather. The murder takes place on Memorial Drive in metro Atlanta, around the corner from where I happened to work between 2001 and 2012, so the locale is a familiar one to me. Although the book centers around domestic abuse, the author sets it in the context of racism, for, as she says, the scene is close to Stone Mountain with its iconic carvings of Confederate generals. ...more
Alicia (PrettyBrownEyeReader)
Jun 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, netgalley
Natasha Trethewey gives an extraordinary look into domestic violence in this memoir. She gives the view point of herself as a child and teenager trying to navigate the mine field her abusive stepfather laid out. She also gives the view point of the victim of her mother and the abuser through court proceedings and evidence.

Trethewey’s poetic style shines though in phrasing and descriptions of places, people and events. In one chapter, she skillfully shifts the narration to second person and gives
Carly Thompson
May 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ebook, 2020, memoir
Short memoir about the author's relationship with her mother, who was tragically murdered by her second husband when the author was 19. Some of the writing was lovely but I wasn't in the right mood for the book. I would have liked to read more about the author's relationship with other family members and her life after her mother's murder. ...more
Katherine Addison
Jan 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 20th-century
I've tried to start this review 3 times and each time come up empty-handed.

So. This is a book by Natasha Trethewey, a former US poet laureate. It is centered on her mother's murder. One strand is talking about family history and about who Gwendolyn Turnbough was. One strand is about domestic abuse and how Trethewey's stepfather went from faintly creepy to abuser to murderer. And one strand is about Trethewey, as an adult, trying to come to grips with a chunk of her life she has tried strenuously
Claudia Putnam
Dec 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I had a chance to speak with Trethewey briefly at a reception when she was beginning to think about this book. I’m so glad she went ahead with what is a painful and dark tale. But any tale well told brings light. I listened to the audio version and loved having her voice narrate this memoir. It must have been wrenching—to write it and then read it aloud. Trethewey, whose other narrative nonfiction I’ve found insightful but perhaps too careful, almost scholarly in its self-consciousness, nails he ...more
I am scraped raw.

Memorial Drive is a memoir about Natasha's mother and how she was murdered by her stepfather. This book alternates from past and present POVs as Natasha recounts her first 18 years of life culminating in her mother's death. This book was emotional and hard to read. I wanted to go back in time to stop the pain that Natasha's family felt (minus the stepdad he deserves nothing).

This short book illustrates a complicated relationship between mother and daughter and several of the i
Tom Mathews
I listened to the audio version over two days of dog walks and exercising. It is a very powerful story, made more so by the author's own voice. I have never been much for poetry so I was initially worried that her poet's passion for metaphor would make the story hard to follow. I needn't have worried. A poet's other skill is to summon emotion from the printed word and this Natasha Trethewey did with all the skill of a master.

I highly recommend this book.

My thanks to Lawyer and all the folks at
Christine (Queen of Books)
Thank you to Ecco Press and NetGalley for a free e-arc of this title for review.

Natasha Trethewey was 19 when her stepfather murdered her mother. That was in 1985.

She writes, in Memorial Drive, of carrying that pain since. Of remembering -- and of jettisoning, "out of a kind of necessity, not knowing there'd be parts (she)'d want desperately to have again."

A Pulitzer-Prize winning poet, Trethewey's writing is visceral. The first half is a slow build, preparing the reader for what is to come. Th
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Natasha Trethewey is an American poet who was appointed United States Poet Laureate in June 2012; she began her official duties in September. She won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her 2006 collection Native Guard, and she is the Poet Laureate of Mississippi.

She is the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University, where she also directs the Creative Writi

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“In Poetry as Survival, Gregory Orr asks the survivor’s questions about violence: How could I have been that close and not been destroyed by it? Why was I spared?—questions that can initiate in a writer the quest for meaning and purpose. “But this quest born out of trauma doesn’t simply lead the survivor forward,” he writes. “First it leads him or her backward, back to the scene of the trauma where the struggle must take place with the demon or angel who incarnates the mystery of violence and the mystery of rebirth and transformation.” He is referring to Lorca’s idea of duende: a demon that drives an artist, causing trouble or pain and an acute awareness of death. Of the demon’s effect on an artist’s work, Lorca wrote: “In trying to heal the wound that never heals lies the strangeness.” 3 likes
“What matters is the transformative power of metaphor and the stories we tell ourselves about the arc and meaning of our lives.” 2 likes
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