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If you’re like me, Valentine’s Day becomes been there, done that. I see it as a day for young love, not really a day for those who have been together for years and years. I mean at that point, I don’t really need a dozen roses to see that I’m loved. Save the money instead! If you really need to buy me something, buy me a book, am I right?

I also am not a fan of the traditional love story. I much prefer the stories of unrequited love or tragic love (think The English Patient or The End of the Affair).

So if you’re looking for something a little more “real” or tragic to read over Valentine’s Day weekend, I recommend these memoirs:

  • Fun Home. Alison Bechdel’s home was not a happy one. Her father was not willing to come out of the closet, and the resulting tension clouded the family. At the surface the Bechdels looked happy and functioning, but I love this memoir because it reveals the truth often kept hidden by closed doors.
  • Just Kids. Actually, this memoir by Patti Smith about her deep friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe is sweet and platonically romantic. But as we all know, the story has a sad ending.
  • I’m Sorry You Feel That Way. It’s been a while since I’ve read these essays by my colleague at MSU-Mankato, Diana Joseph, but I loved the rawness and honesty. This is a woman who flaunts traditional wifehood and motherhood. She’s the mom in the bleachers at Little League off by herself, smoking up a storm, looking all dark and brooding while the other chipper moms gather together like the suburban woman of Mad Men.
  • Thirty Rooms to Hide In. This memoir by Luke Longstreet Sullivan is in the vein of Fun Home. He grew up with his parents and five siblings in a rambling giant house in Rochester, Minnesota, where his dad was a doctor at the world-famous Mayo Clinic. But the dad struggled with alcoholism, creating a suffocating and sad atmosphere within the house.
  • The Narrow Door. My current reading project. I’m not too far into it, but I already love the beauty of the language and what is setting up to be a sad story. I can see the parallels between this book and Just Kids: the story of a gay-straight relationship cut short by death. In addition, running throughout is the story of the gay relationship cut short by the growing apart that often marks relationships.

What memoir would you recommend for anti-Valentine’s Day reading?

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