The Recovering will be published by Little, Brown in April 2018.
With its deeply personal and seamless blend of memoir, cultural history, literary criticism, and reportage, The Recovering turns our understanding of the traditional addiction narrative on its head, demonstrating that the story of recovery can be every bit as electrifying as the train wreck itself. Leslie Jamison deftly excavates the stories we tell about addiction—both her own and others’—and examines what we want these stories to do and what happens when they fail us. All the while, she offers a fascinating look at the larger history of the recovery movement, and at the complicated bearing that race and class have on our understanding of who is criminal and who is ill.
At the heart of the book is Jamison’s ongoing conversation with literary and artistic geniuses whose lives and works were shaped by alcoholism and substance dependence, including John Berryman, Jean Rhys, Billie Holiday, and David Foster Wallace, as well as lesser-known figures such as George Cain, lost to obscurity but newly illuminated here. Through its unvarnished relation of Jamison’s own ordeals, The Recovering also becomes about a different kind of dependency: the way our desires can make us all, as she puts it, “broken spigots of need.” It’s about the particular loneliness of the human experience—the craving for love that both devours us and shapes who we are.
For her striking language and piercing observations, Jamison has been compared to such iconic writers as Joan Didion and Susan Sontag. Yet her utterly singular voice also offers something new. With enormous empathy and wisdom, Jamison has given us nothing less than the story of addiction and recovery in America writ large, a definitive and revelatory account that will resonate for years to come.
The Recovering will be published in Britain (Granta UK), Brazil (Editora Globo), Germany (Hanser Berlin), The Netherlands (Hollands Diep); Italy (Mondadori); France (Fayard); Spain (Anagrama), and Sweden (Weyler Forlag).
Some other projects from the past few years:
I was honored to be the guest editor for the 2017 edition of Best American Essays. It's full of work that astonished me, about everything from rape culture to heroin to lost brothers to the Wizard of Oz.
I wrote an introduction for the Melville House re-issue of Walt Whitman's gorgeous Specimen Days. Read more at Slate.
"What is Specimen Days? It doesn’t sit easily in any genre. It’s restless in its recounting. Structurally, it’s a collection of prose fragments written across two decades of Walt Whitman’s life: his hospital visits during the Civil War, his recovery from a paralyzing stroke, his jaunts through the broad western states of America, his delight at trees and moths and glowworms, his disappointment at the posturing of prairie women. In his own words, it’s a “mélange of loafing, looking, hobbling, sitting, traveling—a little thinking thrown in for salt, but very little— ... wild and free and somewhat acrid—indeed more like cedar-plums than you might guess at first glance.”"
You can see even more work here.