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The Territory of Men: A Memoir Hardcover – July 16, 2002

4.7 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As a child growing up in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest in the late 1960s and '70s, the author watched her mother move between relationships, leaving men before they could leave her, a pattern she acknowledges she later emulated. In her debut book, Fraser, a University of Iowa MFA graduate, looks at her personal history through a periscope, examining her life in terms of her relationships with men, starting and ending with her often absent, alcoholic father. At times moving, occasionally self-indulgent and ultimately uneven, Fraser's narrative covers some 30 years in chronological, vignette-like chapters. She writes poetically about her earliest years, successfully evoking a child's sense of wonder and curiosity about her world. The typical rites of passage she describes later envying other girls' clothing, trying to attract a boyfriend are less interesting and the language more cliched ("I thought of Hawaii, picturing the envy on my classmates' and teachers' faces when I told them the news. I'd leave the wet gloom of Portland, take off on a shiny white plane, and learn to surf and hula dance..."). Not surprisingly, Fraser's substitute fathers her mother's male companions, her own romantic and sexual partners, fellow grad students, men she teaches in prison don't fill the void left by her father. Toward the end, she turns more reflective and offers some fine passages about reconciling her idealized notion of her father (gentle) with the real man ("elusive" and self-destructive). Despite its virtues, Fraser's memoir won't garner favorable comparison to works by writers who have traversed similar territory.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Fraser's childhood was marked both by multiple moves around the West Coast and Hawaii and by the various men who came in and out of her mother's life and, therefore, her own. Her parents separated when she was very young, and although Fraser stayed with her mother, her father remained an important part of her life. Both parents drifted from partner to partner, and both battled alcoholism. Fraser learned to either fit in or disappear when she needed to, both in school and at home. While one of her "fathers" treated her with love and calm affection, another was sexually abusive. And then there were the men Fraser chose, from her respectful high-school boyfriend to the husband she couldn't connect with. Fraser gradually began to see what she had in common with her distant mother and her writer father, even as she recognized their failings. A thoughtful, reflective memoir of a young woman coming of age and navigating the examples her parents have set for her. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Villard; 1 edition (July 16, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375504370
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375504372
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,796,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Allen M. Fish on October 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As a Sausalito native who just missed the 60's, I was eager to read Fraser's take on this little coastal tourist town full of folks a little too offbeat to stay put in nearby San Francisco. From the first page, I was stuck. Fraser's powers of pacing, description, and presence make the vignettes of 30-plus years fly on by. She seems appropriately confident in her ability to craft narrative-based scenarios that deliver years of significance. The best part? No vindictiveness. No self-righteousness. No exhausting self-analysis. Fraser hands us the gift of her paragraphs: forward-moving, heartfelt, and the product of a powerful wordsmith. I am already waiting for her next title.
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Format: Hardcover
Joelle Fraser does what few memoir writers do -- share her experiences without too much introspection and "telling" the reader. It is, above all, an excellent read. I found myself in the range of emotion -- laughter, tears, sorrow, anger, healing -- as I read and nodded in agreement. This book will appeal not only to the women (now in our 30s) who grew up through the 60s and early 70s, but also to their mothers and fathers, their husbands and boyfriends (after all, it's important to know what makes these women tick -- they/we're from a generation unlike any other, and shaped by such powerful forces that stereotypes do not apply).
Fraser's detail of scene makes this somewhat voyeuristic book come to vivid life. She's lived in places people dream about -- Northern California, Hawaii, the mist-shrouded Oregon Coast. She's lived a life that many of us lived in various forms; it's dangerous and exciting, yet unpredictable and lacking any dependable structure. It's anything but safe. Yet she comes to a point at the end where the reader understands that she's near a kind of peace with -- of understanding -- of the forces that shaped her mother's and father's lives, and then her own. It is "coming of age" but not in a hokey or too-sentimental fashion.
Many of Territory's professional reviews have dealt with the heavier topics of the book: alcoholism, abuse, a scattered and often neglectful upbringing. Those are the hard truths and provide ample opportunity for discussion (my mother also read Territory of Men and loved it, cried for the little girl Joelle was and the little girl I was, and relived her own past through it), and we had several discussions as she completed some of the essays (notably "Robin's Story"). It's a book that I wish I had a larger group to discuss with -- a book club would be the ideal setting for further exploration of this book's themes. I've recommended it to several friends, male and female, older and younger.
It's a truly excellent read.
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Format: Hardcover
For any of us who experienced coming of age in the '60's and '70's, Joelle's Fraser's Territory of Men is likely to trigger the kind of nostalgic jolt usually reserved for reunion concerts and rediscovering love letters from an old flame. If you want to read something bland and factual, go to the dictionary. But for the unflinching revelation of even part of our own lives, not just the author's, read Fraser's book. Fraser's vignettes are NOT the self-absorbed rantings of a life unfulfilled, for this writer satisfies: she fleshes out the characters, colors the scenery, and energizes the moment...I swear I could hear the Mamas & the Papas singing California Dreamin'. I could see the trusting little blonde girl being lowered to her Aunt Kathy's Sausalito houseboat in a basket, feeling hopeful and loved.
Ultimately, this is a book about a life well-lived and the capacity of the human spirit for forgiveness (I won't tell you how or I'll spoil the final chapters).
If you are brave enough to take a look at your own experience of growing up as viewed through the eyes of a gifted writer, you must read Territory of Men.
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By A Customer on August 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Joelle Fraser has written an honest, poignant account of growing up on the fringes of adult counter-culture in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Though her childhood was different than most, it was still one of exploration and education, of conquering difficulties and facing emotions. Fraser writes well, with a strong sense of people and place as she drifts from northern California to the Oregon coast to Hawaii. Her book will strike a cord in a lot of people: It's a cultural story from a child's point of view, but also spans a life from childhood to adulthood. A great read!!
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Format: Hardcover
I can start by saying that i enjoyed The Territory of Men...but that i had to fight my way through the first couple of chapters before the book began blooming like the plumeria flowers Fraser adores.
This flower child memoir started slow for me, a forty something Bay Area born and bred Chicano, who could i identify with? In fact, my gut response in the first few pages was to stop reading about these self absorbed parents that, by choice, adopted a lifestyle guaranteed to take them to destruction. My resentment grew in those first pages - my only feeling was "how dare these people screw up their opportunities to lead successful lives with their artificial vow of poverty as a societal badge of courage."
At the time Fraser was being born in San Francisco to these alternative lifestyle hippies in the 60's i was a ten year old kid living across the bay in east Oakland. My dad was a Mexican immigrant with no English skills at the time, trying to make ends meet for the family. Hell, he was functionally illiterate in his mother tongue. I remember him talking about "hippies" working on a landscaping crew with him - and how lazy they were. So as i read the first pages i felt anger and resentment to these people for treating their opportunities so cavalierly - and a book not worth my reading time.
At least my dad had an excuse for the alcoholism that engulfed him - no education, his isolation away from the extended family, racism. He was at the mercy of "others." Those "others" being these same bohemians that surrounded Fraser in her early life - but these fiolks could change their spots and soon would collect on their inheritance and treat this stage of their lives as "just a phase" - rather than the permanent condition our family faced.
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