Real Fiction

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From time to time, I read something that feels so realistic, that I have to check to make sure it’s not an autobiography. Many authors write about their lives, but few make it seem so unbearably real. Here, life is depicted in a raw way- often happy, surprising and gut-wrenching. While exploring these titles, I was not surprised to see that some of the authors had in fact written books that told their life stories through their characters.

In What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons, we meet Thandi, an African-American woman who tells her story through vignettes. Thandi loses her mother, and the book shows us the ways in which she processes her grief- it is an unrelenting and vulnerable experience. Thandi’s loss also impacted her own ideas on parenting, race, and love. The author lost her mother in real life, leading me to believe that this is more her story than Thandi’s.

Crapalachia: A Biography of a Place by Scott McClanahan tells us the story of his childhood, disguised as fiction. This book is equal parts memoir and love letter to Appalachia. This often forgotten about region is filled with love and devastation. McClanahan is a quirky storyteller- he shines in uncomfortable topics instead of shying away from them. By not glossing over the more unpleasant facts of life, McClanahan has created something that feels like it is firmly rooted in reality.

Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women tells the tales of different women, dealing with unique troubles in healthy and not-so-healthy ways. Each story was quietly brutal in its own way- these women are often dealing with life changing traumas, and the memories of these incidents. While these are not all autobiographical, I got the sense that Gay knew these women intimately.

What We Lose

In this powerful novel, Clemmons takes us on her emotional journey as she deals with the loss of her mother. Her experiences with race, motherhood and love are impacted in complicated and interesting ways from this loss.

Crapalachia: A Biography of a Place

Appalachia and the people who populate it are the subject of this novel. This book doesn’t flinch in the face of discomfort, and provides a very real look at life in a different place.

Difficult Women

In this novel, we hear the stories of different women from different backgrounds, with different experiences. Past traumas and heartbreaks continue to haunt these women, and we get to see how it affects their lives in the present.