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Moms review comics' memoirs

Photograph: Anya Garrett
Kambri Crews and her mother

Lately, a number of local comics and storytellers have written revealing, autobiographical books. Given their sensitive nature, we at TONY felt these books deserved the most nurturing and honest evaluations possible. This is why we passed our publishers’ galleys along to people who know intimately where these authors are coming from—biologically, at least. What follows is five fond and fussy critiques, lovingly provided by each writer’s mom.

Burn Down the Ground by Kambri Crews (Villard, $25) Reviewed by Christy Worth

How did you feel when you first picked up Kambri’s book? 
Nervous! It’s one thing to put the truth out there, but what if the book isn’t any good? 

Which part made you laugh the hardest and why? 
When our horse, Charlie Brown, ate all the marijuana my son had been growing behind our shed. At the time I was horrified, of course, but nothing bad really happened. What’s not funny about a horse getting high? 

Which part do you kind of wish weren’t in there? 

The part where my daughter talked about her days living on Cuervo Nation in the British Virgin Islands, where she got drunk and jumped naked from the top of a “pirate” ship. I asked her to cut that part out. [It is no longer in the book.] 

What’s not in the book that you’d want to scribble in the margins for readers to see? 
If you’re in an abusive relationship—even if you’re afraid of leaving—do not do what I did and stay. No one deserves that. 

Which part made you proudest of Kambri? 
The whole thing! She’s a very good writer, and the fact that she’s been able to make something of herself after all we’ve been through is quite an accomplishment. 

If you could hang the book on the fridge, where would you put it? 
I’d have it on top of the fridge, propped on one of those cookbook stands, open to the page where my daughter describes me as being “a slim strawberry blonde” and “easy on the eyes.”

A Bad Idea I’m About to Do by Chris Gethard (Da Capo Press, $16) Reviewed by Sally Gethard

How did you feel when you first picked up Chris’s book?
My eyes filled with tears when he handed it to me. I felt so happy and proud of him. 

Which part made you laugh hardest and why?
I think the story about his grandfather [tricking Chris by pretending to murder what was actually a] stuffed skunk. I can still picture it so vividly. We all laughed so hard at the expression on Chris’s face!

Which part do you kind of wish weren’t in there?
There were a couple…but I think the one about the six red bumps [which cause a herpes scare] could have stayed private.

What’s not in the book that you’d want to scribble in the margins for readers to see?

How kind and loving Chris is. Don’t get me wrong, he’s not perfect—but if Chris is your friend, he will always be there for you, no matter what.

Which part made you proudest of Chris while you were reading?

It was hard for me to read what he went through concerning being bipolar, but the fact that he spoke openly about it was very meaningful. If it helps even one kid realize that you can get help and come out all right on the other end, then the book is a great success.

Any advice for Chris about writing his next memoir?
Just to keep finding the humor in things that happen—and remember that your parents will be reading the book.

Agorafabulous! by Sara Benincasa (William Morrow, $25) Reviewed by Lillian Benincasa Donnelly

How did you feel when you first picked up Sara’s book?
Having worked as a school librarian for 21 years, the idea that my daughter has a book published was very, very emotional for me.

Which part made you laugh the hardest?
The chapter about Sara teaching in Texas. Teaching is a very rewarding experience, and sometimes innocent experiments can really be quite amusing. Buy the book and read about Billy and his boner.

Which part do you kind of wish weren’t in there?

The suicide of her friend Kevin brought up some very painful memories. I wish that tragedy could have been prevented.

What’s not in the book that you’d want to scribble in the margins for readers to see?
When she turned 16, many of her friends were having gigantic sweet 16 parties at expensive venues, and Sara wanted to have a party at home and asked for donations for the local AIDS clinic rather than gifts. She received $800, and did indeed send it to the clinic instead of using it for a boob job.

Which part made you proudest of Sara while you were reading?

In both my generation and my parents’ generation, mental illness was swept under the rug. Sara is making people aware, not only sweeping mental illness out from under the rug, but shooting it into the atmosphere like a skywriting jet.

Any advice for Sara about writing her next memoir?

I think she needs to put in more vulgarity in the next one; this one was way too innocent!

Girl Walks Into a Bar… by Rachel Dratch (Gotham Books, $26) Reviewed by Elaine Dratch

How did you feel when you first picked up Rachel’s book?
I was so excited to see all of Rachel’s work come to fruition—in hardcover, no less! I sat down and read it all in one gulp.

Which part made you laugh the hardest?
The funniest chapter was the one about the old country photo of her great grandmother—my bubbe—her six sisters and their “nature-made Torpedo Tits.” The truth is, if you lined up me and my three sisters and our respective daughters today, you would find that those “apples” haven’t fallen far from the family tree!

Which part do you kind of wish weren’t in there?

Although probably necessary for the story, I wish the exact non-method [a casual romance] by which her son Eli was conceived hadn’t come up.

What’s not in the book that you’d want to scribble in the margins for readers to see?

On the weekend of Rachel’s big announcement, we got home late at night from a vacation and were surprised to see Rachel. That night, she asked, “Are you going to be home tomorrow morning?” Yes. “Well, is Dad going to be home?” Alarm bells went off in my head. I said to myself, “Either she is engaged, she broke up with John or she is going to tell us she is adopting a Haitian baby.” (The earthquake had recently happened.) So when Rachel told us she was pregnant, it just didn’t seem to register as a reality. We walked around in a daze—Dad worrying about her age and the baby’s health and me worrying that our initial reaction was too tame. It didn’t take too long for the excitement to set in. I wanted to shout it out to everyone I knew, but had to restrain myself until Rachel told them. (Although I told my sisters, and told them to act surprised.)

Which part made you proudest of Rachel?
Despite her ups and downs, Rachel has the ability to be both sensitive and humorous, and she is never mean. So many chapters end with a guffaw, but one that tugs at your heart. (Hmm, should she put that on her cover?)

You’re Not Doing It Right by Michael Ian Black (Gallery Books, $24) Reviewed by Jill Schwartz

How did you feel when you first picked up Michael’s book?
I said, “His hairline’s receding.” Isn’t that horrible? But it’s true!

Which part made you laugh the hardest?
First of all, I don’t know how much is true and how much is not true; I choose to think much of it is not true, or I’d kill him. But I roared at the thought of him trying to smoke a joint, hearing his wife say, “You’re not doing it right!” and then him turning into a kind of sloppy drunk when it hit him.

Which part do you kind of wish weren’t in there?

Well, he pays no attention to what his mother wants. I can’t even play the guilt card anymore. There’s no part I wished he hadn’t shared, but I did feel bad about the part with his father. He died just when he was beginning to have a relationship with my boys.

What’s not in the book that you’d want to scribble in the margins for readers to see?
His kids really were rotten babies. I’ve got five grandchildren, and his kids took the cake because they were colicky. But they’re really nice kids and he really is a good father—and he doesn’t give himself credit for that. 

Which part made you proudest of Michael?

I always knew he was a great writer, and now he’s starting to shine. I did not tell too many of my other friends about his other books. When he colored his dick yellow [in My Custom Van], for instance, I didn’t think that would go over really well with my crowd. This one, I’m saying, “Read it. It’s funny, it’s good.”

Comments

1 comments
Niles
Niles

Great stuff. Btw I can see where Sara Benincasa has her wit from.