Memory's Wake

Spuyten Duyvil, 2011

Memory's Wake is a work of experimental nonfiction. It's by turns memoir, family biography, regional history, and photo essay. This account revolves around my mother's childhood and the abuse she experienced at the hands of her family (her mom mostly) during the 1930s and 40s in the Finger Lakes of New York—how that history hibernated in her mind until sprouting forty years later as "recovered memories."

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"Memory’s Wake is a brilliant, haunting masterpiece. Owens uncovers a tale of devastating brutality and intimate struggle with prose so inspired, so precisely, languidly beautiful it leaves you breathless. This story of one mother’s unfathomable hatred and one mother’s transcendent love is more than a personal history. Through revealing his mother’s trials and trauma Owens delivers us into the arms of our best and strangest self. The self capable of more than survival, capable of grace. Not since David Wojnarowicz’s Close to the Knives has an American writer excavated the landscape of familial, spiritual and historical wreckage with such intelligence and honesty. Memory’s Wake is a profound and deeply moving memoir, apocalyptic in the truest sense of the word."
     -- Cara Hoffman, author of So Much Pretty

"Derek Owens’ Memory’s Wake is a solitary son’s journey into the forgotten burrows of New York State’s “Burnt Over District.” He uncovers an ancient American Furnace ready still, even in its twilights, to spread the upheavals of trance, hallucination, and the showers of whispers that seem to rain down out of this so often overlooked geography. He lets himself be bitten deeply by the ghost-footed noises he uncovers and the unsheltered wonders of our claimed and unclaimed ancestral broods who ignited the firestorms of prophesies, dooms, raptures, and locks of talking hair spilling their secrets into the beginning of our twenty-first century lives."      
     -- David Matlin, author of It Might Do Well with Strawberries  and Prisons inside the New America.