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Atlas of the Human Heart

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  596 ratings  ·  68 reviews
Like Jack Kerouac’s intrepid little sister, Ariel Gore spins the spirited story of a vulnerable drifter who takes refuge in the recesses of the human heart. With just a few pennies and her I Ching, a change of clothes and a one-way ticket to Hong Kong, a perceptive, searching Gore makes her way through the labyrinthine customs of Cold-War China, wanders bustling, electric ...more
Paperback, 333 pages
Published April 29th 2003 by Seal Press (first published April 2003)
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Average rating 4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  596 ratings  ·  68 reviews

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Dec 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone with any amount of wanderlust, women of all ages, anyone who appreciates incredible writing
Shelves: myfaves, travel, memoir
Ok, so I JUST finished this book. JUST. Perhaps I should wait a day or 2 to post a review? But I can't stop thinking about it. This book has haunted me since I picked it up less than 2 weeks ago. I had to put it down for a little while last week - it was dragging me down a bit. But it's like a drug - I HAD to have more.

A lot of Ariel's story pissed me off. I couldn't understand her motives (or lack thereof), I couldn't understand the incessant use of drugs and alcohol. The detached way she move
Aug 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
"The last introvert in a world of extroverts. Silence: my response to both emptiness and saturation. But silence frightens people. I had to learn how to talk. Out of politeness."

"When you leave a place, it's best if it's raining. Not pouring, but not just drizzling either. You want fat drops that fall on your cheeks like tears. IT's best if it's early, too, the tail lights and porch lights and streetlights and station lights all begging you to stay just one more day.

When you leave a place, it's
Jun 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Wanderers
I just decided this is my all-time favorite book. I wonder if there is a pseudo-non-fiction category for magical realism memior? Ariel Gore recounts her misspent youth travelling through Asia and Europe and eventually returns home with her infant daughter. People who know me a bit might recognize why I identify with the narrative thread. The countries are different, and the adventures are about 10 times what I had in my wildest dreams, but when I read this book, I kind of wonder if she stole the ...more
Sep 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
This is one of those books where Goodreads review stars don't work- on one hand this was a great book. The writing wasn't spectacular, it definitely needed some serious editing, etc- but it kind of sticks with you. So, in a way, it was a great book.

Things I liked: The actual stories about her Asian adventures. I found myself yearning to know more about many of the people she so causally met and then left. Those crazy punk rockers in China? All hands in on that story- but there wasn't anything m
May 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Funny, sad, poignant, maddening. Ariel Gore at sixteen ran off to China with a backpack and a few hundred dollars. She managed to get from Hong Kong to Beijing, Beijing to Tibet and Nepal, then to Amsterdam and London and Tuscany. She came home at nineteen or twenty with a daughter she delivered herself. I have to admire her courage and resourcefulness, but her memoir does have its scarier side--- a fair number of Very Bad Things happen to Gore. And it's easy to be frustrated with her--- her pas ...more
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think I would never have survived a fraction of the turbulence Ms Gore has lived through. And to tell it with poetry and patience makes it an impressive work.
Hollie Rose
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: diary, memoir, best-loved
(Review written in 2003)
I loved this memoir! This book was everything I most enjoy in a memoir. It was well written, told the story of a young traveling (lost) girl, and in amongst the stories of what happened are interspersed excerpts from books she's reading or things she's learned, that apply to how she is seeing and living her days. Another brilliant touch was to quote different sources both ancient and modern, about the workings of the human heart - those quotes juxtaposed against her exper
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ariel Gore is one of my favorite writers ever ever, so I of course loved this book, but if you haven't read We Were Witches or The End of Eve, I highly recommend reading them both before you read this one. The writing is still very good, but it doesn't have *quite* the same lyrical magic that the other two do. I enjoyed this book as background for the other two. That said, the story is still fascinating, and kind of unbelievable- at turns brash, poignant, devastating, enraging, hilarious, touchi ...more
Bookish Jen
Sep 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Bored with life in 1980s Palo Alto, California, a teenage Ariel Gore (founder of the alternative parenting magazine Hip Mama) decides to run away. Carrying only a change of clothes, a little money, an I Ching guide book and a one-way ticket to Hong Kong, Gore departs on an adventure that doesn’t quite end up the way she imagines.

She chronicles her travels through Asia and Europe in the candid memoir Atlas of the Human Heart.

Gore’s parents, two laid-back hippies left over from the 1960s, believe
Aug 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
"I had a choice: I could stay home and die young - keep on dying - or I could fly away to someplace completely foreign where I knew no one and where maybe I could figure out what was me and what was geography, what was me and what was circumstance."

Traveling to find oneself isn't a new idea, but Ariel Gore's story is more unique than most. When she was 16, she left California with a one-way ticket to Hong Kong, and then spent the next three years living throughout Asia and Europe. She tells some
Jan 02, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, travel
I almost gave up on this book, but I am glad I stayed with it. The beginning of the book, where Ariel Gore describes her high school angst, was cringe-inducing. Her prose was melodramatic, pretentious, and overwrought. It was like reading page after page of bad teenage poetry.

After she leaves high school and Palo Alto and chooses to spend the remainder of adolescence on the road in Asia and Europe, the book takes a huge turn for the better. The occasional annoying prose pops up periodically, but
Allison Floyd
GUTGed at page 26, which yes, I realize, is grossly unfair, but what can I say? I didn't make that initial connection with the material, and experience has taught me that when this is the case right off the bat, it tends not to change when I slog all the way through something.

It's a shame—having just read and thoroughly enjoyed Gore's self-help book for writers, which was my introduction to her, I was looking forward to this one. Maybe it's the glut of memoirs in the same vein that I've already
Sabrina Rutter
Jun 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I admire Ariel Gore's bravery. Yes I said bravery. I don't know to many people, myslef included that would be willing to truelly embrace their freedom the way Ariel does. I like my comfy little apartment and knowing where all the roads in my little city will take me. This place is my home, for Ariel her body is her home and I do admire that!This is now one of my favorite memoirs! I really had no idea the adventure I was going to take when I picked this book up. My only problem with this book is ...more
Antonia Crane
Dec 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Ariel Gore twists and curves into tunnels as a nice girl from Palo Alto. The book begins slowly and cautiously. At first, I wasn't sure why she had such itchy feet, but her map of the heart kept her lurching onto planes, destination unknown. Just as in love. She is stateless and ungrounded and raging with innocence and hunger as she crosses borders, smuggles drugs to feed her pregnant friend and collects lovers and spirits like patches sewn on a ratty denim vest. Her prose swings wildly from gor ...more
Nov 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
i wish i could just keep reading this book - living in it. reading it feels like traveling, the writing is so alive. the book is officially in 5 parts but it feels to me like 3 eras with clear turning points and finishes off on a fourth big change (i won't give away the twists and turns). i still love this book in my third reading of it, but my favorite chapters are while gore is in asia (china, hong kong, tibet and nepal). maybe i'm so enthralled because i've never been to these countries; but ...more
Feb 12, 2008 rated it liked it
It took me a few days to decide if I liked this book. Often those kinds of books end up being my favorite. The story line wasn't my top pick but I ended up enjoying the read. It was one of the most quotable books I have read in awhile:
"The brain, the skin, the lungs and the heart make up our vital organs. We are made to think and feel and breathe and love. The rest is optional."

"For every person there is a unique tragedy. Mine is no more grievous than yours or anyone elses."

I could go on and on.
Dec 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs
Crazy memoir about a teenager who drops out of high school and moves to communist China in the 1980's. She ends up going to Tibet, Kathmandu, Holland, and Italy, too. Sad and sweet travel stories with insight on adolescence are combined to create the mood. I wasn't too crazy about her "unassigned readings" and frequent definition of words and their roots, and the editing wasn't great. However, it was an engaging and quick read. Reminded me of Ayun Halliday's "No Touch Monkey", but less hippy-dip ...more
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book.. if I ever have a daughter and she likes to read, this book will be encouraged. It was tough for me in the beginning to get past her "high school days".. of just floating, but I can also relate with memories of my own. Overall... I loved this book because I too long to travel and live in different worlds.. often believing this will truly make me happy and my life complete. Perhaps my own happiness starts with me wherever I may be instead. I loved her remark about home possibly b ...more
Christine Way
Nov 01, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-like
I bought this book for 25 cents at the Mckinleyville Friends of the Library book sale, so that I found it mediocre isn't too much of a loss. I was initially intrigued because the memior is based on her travels to China and other exotic destinations. I enjoy travel memiors, just not this one. It read more like a teenage diary with lots a bad poetry and choppy writing. I always thought it was extremely difficult to get a book published if you weren't an already established author, but maybe the in ...more
Nov 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rad-ladies
There were points where Gore's character really frustrated me. But then I would remember she was only 16 or 17 and it became much more understandable. It's basically the story of a girl who leaves California in her late teens to travel the world. She makes her way through Asia in Europe, sleeping in hostels or the street, making friends in bars and squats. The text is beautiful, it made me want to drop everything and have the road be my home for awhile.
Oct 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs, i-own
3.5 Really did like it but travel memoirs aren't my thing. Read it because Gore seems like the type of radical person who might make a travel memoir a bearable thing and that she did. Definitely a five star book for anyone with a love of broke-arse travel, squatting, and being lost, naive but tough as shit.

Can't wait to read her new one, The End of Eve: A Memoir.
Aug 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: memoir readers
Shelves: memoir
A Gen-Xer from Palo Alto, the narrator departs Palo Alto, heading for China at the age of 16, having lied to her parents about her acceptance to the Beijing Language Institute. Pulled along by something in her pumping heart, she bounces through the east and into Europe with her I Ching, passport and little else.
she is amazing, based right here in Portland, creator of Hip Mama mag and the step-daughter of the ex-communicated priest (and co-worker of mine at one point) John Duryea. R.I.P.

amazing to see what palo Alto was like just a few years before I lived (got stuck really....) there. no wonder she did what she did....
Jan 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Lauren by: I
Inspiring memoir from local Portland writer/editor magnifique Ariel Gore. The book begins in 1980s Palo Alto, where the teen-aged Gore is beginning to feel lost and out of touch with her own life and body. She embarks on solo trip, beginning in pre-Tiannamen Square China and travels to Nepal, England and then finally Italy. A stirring and very truthful book, and I couldn't put it down!
Libby T
Jun 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone with longings for youthful carelessness
Shelves: dyke-dom

I took a memoir class with Ariel, who happened to live down the street from me in PDX at the time. She is very much the revolutionary mama her fans claim her to be. This book is a beautifully written story of her young sloppy and dangerous heart-breaking adventures around the globe. When I was this age I thought of myself like this character, only less gutsy. Well, maybe just a little less.
Sian Jones
Nov 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
The arbitrary title doesn't apply, and the attempts to wedge in material related to the arbitrary title are, for the most part, awkward and unnecessary because this memoir is striking, human, heartbreaking, and deeply honest, and it needs no arbitrary frame. It's the genuine article, a lived life being described with precision and compassion.
May 10, 2009 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this memoir. Although she's very young in the story, her manner of traveling and her experiences with meeting people for fleeting moments resonated with me. I thought her storytelling was excellent and found myself wanting to know more of her life after she returned to the States.
Nov 25, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
the writing is pretty horrendous. but. this book does the one thing i like most about books. it makes you realize how different people are in motives, tastes, comfort zones, reactions, coping mechanisms, decisions... i mean, there's no way i could have ever ran away to communist china at 16, but ariel did. wow. non-stop action and a heck of a ride.
Jul 26, 2011 added it
I absolutely loved this travel memoir. It was am easy read with a lot of indepth philosophical and biological pieces about the heart, from anatomy books and the I Ching. What I enjoyed most is that Ariel always began a human relationship with trust no matter who betrayed her before. That is a hard concept to engage in and I found that inspiring for my own life.
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ARIEL GORE is the author of We Were Witches (The Feminist Press, 2017), The End of Eve (Hawthorne Books, 2014), and numerous other books on parenting, the novel The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show, the memoir Atlas of the Human Heart, and the writer’s guide How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead. Farrar, Straus and Giroux will publish Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happi ...more

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