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Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir Paperback – August 6, 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

National Book Award finalist Kephart, who has written several memoirs and teaches a college course on the subject, offers an exploration of the genre that is informative and enjoyable. Drawing on the work of dozens of great authors (Annie Dillard, Mary Karr, Jeanette Winterson) as well as student comments, Kephart dives deeply into all that memoir can offer writers while acknowledging the pitfalls of oversharing and naming high-profile memoir abusers. Her insights are thoughtful and erudite. Real writers, she says, do not write to trump or abolish. They write . . . to rumble or howl, or because language is salvation or because they’ve been alive or because they have survived. As instructive as Kephart’s book is, it is not a how-to but rather a careful argument for the value of memoir, a form that allows writers to know themselves and readers to join them in the journey. Intense, provocative, endearing, and kind, Handling the Truth recalls Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (1995). The appendix alone is a reading course not to be missed. Delightful. --Colleen Mondor

Review

“Beth Kephart's A Slant of Sun offers a most original and moving examination of what it means to be a parent. The book also offers a thought-provoking way of looking at children and their differences....Kephart is a very gifted and insightful writer.” — USA Today

“In page after page of intimate, searching prose. . .this brave book serves as a parenting guide stripped to its essentials, a testament to the open heart of one mother and solid proof that. . .parents do matter.” — Salon.com

“[Kephart] writes eloquently in A Slant of Sun...of her panic before his diagnosis and his first rounds of speech therapy....A Slant of Sun is a memoir--a personal and not a prescriptive book--but one of its strengths is that it makes us think...not just for Jeremy but for other idiosyncratic children too.” — The New York Times Book Review

"There are lessons here for everyone about, quite simply, what it means to be fully alive." — Salon Magazine

“A mother's bittersweet account of raising a son to whom experts had given the ungainly label… Her efforts… for Jeremy are a story of determination, frustration, ingenuity, partial successes, tireless efforts, and most of all, a mother's love. While Kephart does not claim to have cured her [son], parents who have received a similar diagnosis will find her revealing story immensely encouraging.” — Kirkus Reviews

“[Beth] Kephart conveys her frantic reaction to the original diagnosis, her furious desire to change conditions for Jeremy at once and her ultimate realization that a tangible, positive outcome was possible, given great patience. Kephart tells an affecting story of parental dedication." — Publishers Weekly

“Her affecting story will make a welcome addition to any collection.” — Library Journal

"Beth Kephart . . . is a gifted, even poetic writer." — The New York Times

Praise for Into The Tangle of Friendship:

“Kephart is nothing short of a virtuoso when it comes to dissecting the many friendships people experience.”

Orlando Sentinel

“With grace and quiet wisdom, with lyrical prose and astonishing insight, Beth Kephart...embarks on a journey." — Baltimore Sun

“Kephart in a single voice, lyrically and poignantly explores the dimensions of friendship.”

Library Journal

“Her lyrical yet conversational prose neatly evokes friendship's delicate balancing act.” — The New York Times Book Review

“Invigorating...earnest and endearing. Kephart succeeds at drawing a stirring picture of our humanity through the prism of her... relationships.” — Salon

"With infectious passion and hard-won wisdom, Beth Kephart eloquently celebrates the rigors and rewards of the creative process and – equally necessary – the art of crafting a meaningful life.  Part memoir and part memoirist’s manifesto, this small, urgent book inspires on many levels.  Read it and learn how to tell your story.  Better yet, read it and begin to understand why your story matters." — Katrina Kenison, author of MAGICAL JOURNEY: An Apprenticeship in Contentment

 “Generous, intelligent and genuinely insightful.”
Kirkus Review, Starred Review
 
 “Kephart…has composed a gorgeous meditation on memoir. . . . she has created a work of art simply by reflecting on her own art—the writing and teaching of memoir. . . . She writes with the same lyricism found in her own works and offers here passionate encouragement for would-be memoir writers to embrace truth and empathy, mystery and exploration. . . . Highly recommended for anyone interested in the anatomy of a successful memoir and for all writers of literary nonfiction.”
Library Journal, Starred Review
 
“Not a memoir proper, this book fits nicely with the others on this list because it’s about writing memoir. Kephart has penned five.... She’s also mastered the fiction and essay forms and currently teaches memoir writing at the University of Pennsylvania, so she’s got the skills to explain every facet of the writing process, including that crucial issue for memoirists: where does imaginative shaping stop and disregard for truth begin.”
Library Journal, Prepub Alert

"A marvelous primer for anyone who would dare to face the furies and write about his or her life. Beth Kephart has read the genre closely, put her own feet to the fire, and distilled the form with all the passion of a great teacher." 
—Marie Arana, author of the National Book Award finalist American Chica.
 
“With infectious passion and hard-won wisdom, Beth Kephart eloquently celebrates the rigors and rewards of the creative process and – equally necessary – the art of crafting a meaningful life.  Part memoir and part memoirist’s manifesto, this small, urgent book inspires on many levels.  Read it and learn how to tell your story.  Better yet, read it and begin to understand why your story matters.” 
—Katrina Kenison, author of Magical Journey:  An Apprenticeship in Contentment 
 
“Beth Kephart has done something extraordinary with this huge and messy thing called memoir—roping it into submission with her typically beautifully writing. There is authority here, scholarship, challenge. In this well-organized book, every example is a precious stone to turn over and to learn from, particularly in terms of crafting a voice and finding one's way in. Too many students think memoir just happens. Nothing ever just happens. Memoir is an academic field. This should become the seminal text.”
—Buzz Bissinger, author of Father's Day, A Prayer for the City, and Friday Night Lights

“Not a memoir proper, this book fits nicely with the others on this list because it’s about writing memoir. Kephart has penned five.... She’s also mastered the fiction and essay forms and currently teaches memoir writing at the University of Pennsylvania, so she’s got the skills to explain every facet of the writing process, including that crucial issue for memoirists: where does imaginative shaping stop and disregard for truth begin.”
 —Library Journal, Nonfiction Previews for August 2013
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Avery (August 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159240815X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592408153
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
When“Handling the Truth” was finally downloaded onto my kindle, I knew immediately what a mistake that was. Beth Kephart's book to meant to be highlighted, dog-eared, cluttered with margin notes and enjoyed as a dining companion when no one else will do. I see a hard copy in my future. Inspiring and beautifully written.
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I really loved this book. It doesn't read like a textbook - if you ever thought about writing a memoir this is the book for you. Reading this book has encouraged me to get out my pile of writings/ideas, etc. I felt like I was in Beth's class with every page I turned. Coincidentally, from reading her book I found we had a lot in common - my father worked for a refinery in Philadelphia - I have piles of ideas - half finished children's stories and human interest articles - we grew up in the same area - my love for sculpting and especially photography. If you have ever thought about writing a memoir, or anything worth writing - read this little book. It looks small, but as I learned from my sculpture teacher - "Less is More".
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I did not particularly like this book. Most of it is her bragging about how much of a good, qualified writer she is, while the rest of the book is her citing her knowledge with passages from other people's work. I was bored reading this and gave it away as soon as I was done. The author's condescending tone bothered me, and it bothered me more that she did not even use her own work as examples in this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have been working on writing memoirs for 28 years and no college creative writing class taught me the importance of beauty, poetry, landscape, or empathy that I have learned from this book. I recommend for anyone who attempts to write a memoir.
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Format: Paperback
The best teachers are those that give of themselves freely to their students and their craft, and with reference books available on various ways to write, what to write, and when to write, many will glance at yet another writing reference and dismiss it out of hand. What does that mean? That those people are fools -- for Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart, released today, is not a reference, it is a memoir about writing memoir (marking a 6th memoir from her). It is a reference guide written from the perspective of a teacher and writer on how to approach a genre riddled with scandal and debunked by naysayers. Not only does she peel back the layers that can and should be part of memoir creation, but she also peels back her own experiences and perspective to shed light on the hard work memoirists should expect of themselves.

Read the full review: [...]
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had finished my first draft of my memoir when I picked this up. I really wish I'd read it sooner. It has given me some new energy to dive back into it, and wonderful insights as to what makes a good memoir.
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Kephart is a memoirist of the highest order. The writing comes first; the market comes second. She is author of a number of memoirs so she knows what she's talking about. She has a wonderful appendix of other memoirs to read to help you along your way. I don't agree with all of her choices, but I do agree with her approach, and I recommend this book to all of my students writing memoir.
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Handling the Truth is a suitably effective introduction to reading and writing memoirs. Despite being fairly short, it often feels repetitive and the insights are rudimentary. It would be an ideal book for someone who was totally new to memoirs but anyone who has read memoirs before will enjoy Handling the Truth but not get much out of it.

The book is at it's best when Kephart is discussing important memoirs.
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