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Golden Hour Books

Directions to Myself: A Memoir of Four Years by Heidi Julavits (6/27/23)

Directions to Myself: A Memoir of Four Years by Heidi Julavits (6/27/23)

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A sharply observed memoir of motherhood and the self, and a love letter to Maine, by a writer Eula Biss calls "witty, sly, critical, inventive" and whose mind Leslie Jamison calls "electric."

That night, in his bed, I spread my son's palm wide and tried to read it. If the hand was a map that led to a future person, was there any changing the destination?

One day Heidi Julavits sees her son silhouetted by the sun and notices he is at the threshold of what she calls "the end times of childhood." When did this happen, she asks herself. Who is my son becoming—and what qualifies me to be his guide?

What follows starts to feel like uncharted waters. Rape allegations rock the university campus where she teaches, unleashing questions of justice and accountability. Julavits begins to wonder how to prepare her son to be the best possible citizen of the world he's about to enter. And what must she learn about herself in order to responsibly steer him.

Looking back to her own childhood in Maine, where she often navigated the coastline in a small boat relying on a decades-old sailing guide, Julavits takes us on an intellectual navigation of the self. Throughout, she intertwines her internal investigation with a wide-ranging exploration of what it means to raise a child in a time full of contradictions and moral complexity. Using the past and present as points of orientation, Directions to Myself examines the messy minutiae of contemporary family life alongside knottier philosophical questions of politics and gender. Through it all, Julavits discovers the beauty and the danger of telling stories as a way to locate ourselves, and help others find us.

Intimate, rigorous, and refreshingly unsentimental about motherhood and parenting, Directions to Myself is a love letter to Maine and a reckoning with the disappearance of childhood—her children's and her own—that cements Julavits’ reputation as one of the most engaged and innovative nonfiction writers today whose work has been called "fascinating" (Washington Post), "scathingly funny" (Los Angeles Times), and "exquisite" (New York Times).

Heidi Julavits is the author of The Folded Clock: A Diary and four novels, including the PEN Award-winning The Vanishers. The founding editor of The Believer, she is an associate professor at Columbia University and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. She lives in New York City and Maine.

“An absolute stunner: frank, funny, self-aware, constantly surprising . . . one of the most insightful representations I’ve read of what it feels like to be alive these days . . . Heidi Julavits’s work keeps growing in scope and ambition, asking the biggest questions, about love and fear and how best to make life meaningful, and answering with an inspiring level of courage, humor, and stylistic bravado.”—George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo

“Directions to Myself is the product of an awe-inspiring mind, whose “inner Maine,” captured here, was a place I did not want to leave. The writing is a miracle of precision and spirit, and Heidi Julavits is as darkly funny as John Cheever, my other favorite Yankee subversive.”—Rachel Kushner, author of The Mars Room

“Inside these pages is a sanctuary of unwordable grief, exactly because of its proximity to our purpose and joy, our mothering, our try, our children. We have tried our best. Now, to the world they go. Please meet them where we mothers are. This book is the purest expression of this hope I have read—the immense particular incarnate. It’s also wicked funny, as the greatest heartbreaks must be for their ebb.”—Dede Gardner, Oscar winning producer of 12 Years a Slave and Moonlight

“Honest, blazing, and generous, Directions to Myself manages to be an essay about everything by focusing intently on the basic human need of giving care to other people. Something as simple as the fact that we teach our friends, children, and partners how to be in the world through the way that we care for them feels totally new in Julavits’s elegant and energetic voice. Truly astounding.”—Catherine Lacey, author of Biography of X

“A touching meditation on time, motherhood, and memory . . . Affecting reflections on life’s transitions.”Kirkus Reviews

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