Monday, April 20, 2015

The Light of the World: A Memoir

Title: The Light of the World: A Memoir
Author: Elizabeth Alexander
Expected Publication: April 21st 2015 by Grand Central Publishing
Format: Hardcover, 224 pages
Genre: Memoir
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Grand Central Publishing for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.

They lived a lifetime in their sixteen years together.

Elizabeth Alexander a poet, essayist, playwright and teacher best known for her “Praise Song for the Day” delivered during the inauguration of President Barack Obama was married to Ficre Ghebreyesus of Asmara, Eritrea. An artist and photographer that put the best and the worst on canvas, a chef that walked across the killing fields at age sixteen and landed at the Caffe Adulis in New Haven, Connecticut. A man that loved hearth above all else. A man that at the age of fifty left this world too soon.

Light of the World is an ode to their life and love. A final embrace with a man that was loved and had loved deeply. At its core, Light of the World is a love story. A way to work through the insurmountable grief that a woman holds. An expression of a man so the world will not forget. A man that she was supposed to share the next 100 years with but only spent sixteen.

The strongest parts of them were united in their children. The days are long but the years are short goes a saying quoted by many. Two children a little less than 18 months apart that were the center of their world. Two children that were taught their familial rituals and blessings, and always felt the unwavering love of their father.

I do not want to admit my ignorance, but I will confess that I had to read this book with a dictionary on my lap. Ms. Alexander’s vocabulary usage is a step or twelve above my usual casual reading level but I did not find this to be a detriment, I actually enjoyed it.

There are parts that are rambling and repetitive. I will forgive the author for this since it is quite obvious that this memoir is cathartic. She is the holder of the stories and needs to remember the feelings. She needs to have Ficre in her life again. She needs to stay put and move on at the same time. She needs to create a place for herself and her sons again. A place that might have tattered edges, but they are shared edges.

I am not sure if this book will resonate with everyone. There are some parts that seem never ending. You can tell that Ms. Alexander does not want to let go. She was blessed, by love, by family, by community but mostly blessed with a heart that could take it all in and share it with others.

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