Helen Epstein on Memoirs That Tell Too Much and Too Little

By Bill Marx


In a recent World Books podcast I talk to author and book critic Helen Epstein about two new memoirs that share intriguing similarities and differences. Both are written in English by émigrés living in North America, but very much planted in other cultural traditions.

Witold Rybcynkski’s memoir, published by Scribners, is called “My Two Polish Grandfathers and other Essays on the Imaginative Life.” It combines family history with a look at the coming of age of an architect.

The second memoir, published by Random House, is entitled “Things I’ve Been Silent About” by Azareh Nafisi, whose book “Reading Lolita in Tehran” became an international bestseller in 2003. Nafisi’s memoir combines an overview of modern Iranian history with her coming-of-age story. Nafisi focuses on her volatile relationship with her parents — her difficult mother, ambitious father, and their unhappy marriage.

Helen Epstein

Helen Epstein is an author and book critic. To learn more about her and her writing go here.


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