In fiction and nonfiction, these authors whose lives have been touched by Alzheimer's Disease bear witness and weave stories about the complexity of memory, identity, and love.
Reverberations: A Daughter's Meditations on Alzheimer's, by Marion Agnew
About the book: Most people think Alzheimer's Disease is the same as memory loss, if they think about it at all. But most people prefer to ignore it, hoping that if they ignore it hard enough, it will go away. That was certainly Marion Agnew's hope, even after she knew her mother's diagnosis. Yet, with her mother's diagnosis, Marion's world changed. Her mother—a Queen's and Harvard/Radcliffe-educated mathematician, a nuclear weapons researcher in Montreal during Word War II, an award-winning professor and researcher for five decades, wife of a history professor, and mother of five—began drifting away from her. To keep hold of her, to remember her, she began paying attention, and began writing what she saw. She wrote as her mother became suspicious on outings, as she lost even the simplest of words, as she hallucinated, as she became frightened and agitated. But after her mother's death, Marion wanted to honour the time of her mother's life in which she had the disease, but she didn't want the illness to domin …
As a years-long devotee of Elaine Lui's world-famous gossip and entertainment blog, Lainey Gossip, I read her debut book, Listen to the Squawking Chicken, the moment I could. The book is aptly described on its jacket as "a mother-daughter memoir that will have readers laughing out loud, gasping in shock, and reconsidering the honesty and guts it takes to be a parent."
The book works on several levels—some serious, some funny, many surprising, and all dauntless—and Lui agreed to answer some of my questions about this.
(Photo credit: Dexter Chew)
KT: Theory: Listen to the Squawking Chicken is at once a love story, a biography, a a Feng Shui 101 course, a drama, a comedy, and a memoir.
Elaine Lui: This is mostly correct, although I’d like to clarify that it’s not so much a Feng Shui 101 than it is a very selective introduction to it. Feng Shui is very complicated, very nuanced, and sometimes very secretive. And I would never want to misrepresent myself as an expert in the practice. Bad things can happen when Feng Shui is used for dark purpose …
Iain Reid has made an early name for himself as a writer who works best when left to the quiet observations of daily life. In One Bird's Choice, Reid's debut, he move backs home for year, onto his family's farm where he learns a thing or two about growing up while conversing with a cranky fowl. In The Truth About Luck, Reid's sophomore title, he finds a more lively conversationalist in his 92-year-old grandmother. We talk to Reid about what he learned that time he took a "staycation" with Grandma.
Enjoy an excerpt from The Truth About Luck (courtesy of House of Anansi Press) after the chat.
Julie Wilson: Your first book, One Bird's Choice (House of Anansi Press, 2010), literally introduced you to readers. From the publisher: "Meet Iain Reid an overeducated, underemployed twenty-something, living in the big city in a bug-filled basement apartment and struggling to make ends meet."
One Bird's Choice was taken under wing by independent booksellers, then became the darling of CBC's as-chosen-by-you-the-reader Bookie Award for Non Fiction (2011), so it makes sense that you would publish again with Anansi. But my first question has to be, how did you get the attention of Anansi as a young as-of-yet unknown writer—with a memoir, no less?
Iain Reid: My agent, Samantha Hay …