I was first introduced to Leslie Jamison when I heard her speak in Whitefield, New Hampshire and was a member of the small MFA cohort and situation mentioned in her introduction of the Best American Essays 2017. I was excited to read about this new collection of essays (one of which she presented at a reading) when I found it on the shelf. It is a powerful and striking collection that explores the true dynamism of her work and mastery of the written word. Her nonfiction brings her all around the world, and I was enthralled at the pace and beautiful construction of her rhetorical wonder.
The book is divided into three sections, and while every essay is powerful in its own right, I found the final section to have the greatest impact on me. Jamison’s understanding of her place in the world, that is, as a writer in recovery struggling with an innate understanding of the patriarchy she was born into – and while that seems par for the course for many writers, I found her ability to communicate the weight of her life to me (or better, through me and help me live her anxieties and experiences) to feel as though I was experiencing her very pains of loss, her indescribable crushing anorexia, and her life as a remarried stepmother taking on the challenges of her new life and new responsibilities. It is not so much that I expected to feel what I felt, but rather I didn’t expect to feel it so deeply and with such first-person empathy that I am not sure I have experienced in reading about these topics elsewhere. My engagement in these feelings, and the ability to explore them with Jamison at the narrative wheel, is a beautiful testament to her talents and effectiveness in her rhetorical and organizational execution in her essays.
This book is a triumph. Jamison is a master of the form.