cover of book

The Six-Minute Memoir: Fifty-Five Short Essays on Life
by Mary Helen Stefaniak
University of Iowa Press, 2022
Paper: 978-1-60938-851-5 | eISBN: 978-1-60938-852-2
Library of Congress Classification PS3569.T3389
Dewey Decimal Classification 818.54

This collection of short essays delivers more joy than many books twice its size. Culled from two decades’ worth of Mary Helen Stefaniak’s “Alive and Well” column in the Iowa Source, each essay invites readers into the ordinary life of a woman “with a family and friends and a job . . . and a series of cats and a history living in one old house after another at the turn of the twenty-first century in the middle of the Middle West.” One great aunt presides over nineteen acres of pecan grove profitably strewn with junk. A borrowed hammer rings with the sound of immortality. Famous poets pipe up where you least expect them. Living and dying are found to be two sides of the same remarkable coin.

What’s more, writing prompts at the end of the book invite readers to search their own lives for such moments—the kind that could be forgotten but instead are turned, by the gift of perspective and perfectly chosen detail, into treasure. The Six-Minute Memoir encourages people to tell their own stories even if they think they don’t have the kind of story that belongs in a memoir.

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