Literature: "If All of Rochester..." 2016 selection


If you're looking for an engaging read to officially kick off your summer reading list, consider getting a head-start on the work chosen for the 2016 edition of the "If All of Rocheser Read the Same Book..." city-wide book club. Writers & Books has chosen "Queen of the Fall: A Memoir of Girls & Goddesses," by Sonja Livingston.

This slim and poetic work considers the female life through anecdotes of women who Livingston has known personally, through her observations of cultural and mythic icons, and through her own memories of fumbling toward womanhood from an impoverished and often confusing childhood.

We're immersed in Livingston's memory-mapping of the landscape and limitations of her youth through vignettes that float the reader from richly-described reveries of bliss derived from nature to meditations on the bewildering gift and curse of fertility.

No stranger to plumbing the depths for memoir, Livingston's first book, "Ghostbread," a work in the same tricky vein, won an AWP Book Prize for Nonfiction and has been adopted for use by classrooms around the nation.

"This is what the mind can do," she writes in "Queen of the Fall," "if you allow it to rise from its thick beams and dirt-packed basements, if you invite it to wander without tether, unnailed by the hammer of logic."

Her spyglass sweeps around restlessly, settling momentarily on recalled fragments from before she gained an awareness of the world's uglier sides -- though each innocent scene is overlaid with filters forged in experience. Both of Livingston's voices are honest and earnest and so highly relatable.

At the culmination of this season's program, Livingston -- who is an assistant professor in the MFA Program at the University of Memphis, and splits her time between Tennessee and New York State -- will visit Rochester for readings, book signings, and appearances at local libraries, colleges, and senior centers from March 15 to March 19, 2016.

Copies of the book are available for purchase now at the Writers & Books bookstore. For more information on the "If All of Rochester Reads the Same Book..." program, contact the program coordinator, Karen VanMeenen, at [email protected]. For more information on the author, visit