Essays, Memoir/Autobiography, Nonfiction

Make It Scream, Make It Burn by Leslie Jamison

Of all the ARCs on our shelves at work, I’m not sure what made this one jump out. Maybe the cover, maybe the fact that I was craving essays, maybe it was sent to me specifically, I don’t remember. But however it got in my hands, I’m grateful for the fact that it did.


From the Front Flap:
With the virtuosic synthesis of memoir, criticism, and journalism for which Leslie Jamison has been so widely acclaimed, the fourteen essays in Make It Scream, Make It Burn explore the oceanic depths of longing and the reverberations of obsession.

Among Jamison’s subjects are 52 Blue, deemed “the loneliest whale in the world”; the eerie past-life memories of children; the devoted citizens of an online world called Second Life; the haunted landscape of the Sri Lankan civil war; and an entire museum dedicated to the relics of broken relationships. These examinations lead Jamison to more personal reckonings – with elusive men and ruptured romances, with marriage and maternity – in essays about eloping in Las Vegas, becoming a stepmother, and giving birth.

Click on this graphic to explore the book page on LibraryThing!


I mentioned Make It Scream, Make It Burn in my anticipated releases of September post but I was waiting to review it until now for a few reasons. The first is that this year was supposed to be the first year I was to attend our regional booksellers conference/trade show and Leslie was a guest, the second, is that I was reading two essay collections at the same time (the second releases in March, stay tuned) and needed to take some time to sit back and separate the two in my mind.

Unfortunately, I wound up not being able to go to the conference/trade show (someone had to hold down the fort at the bookstore), and so I very adamantly put my copy of the book, an advance copy, in my bosses hands right before he left and gave him the very specific and adamant directions of finding Leslie, telling her how much I love her, and then kindly asking her to sign my book.

It’s not often that I will be so adamant about sending a book somewhere to be signed if I myself cannot go (though it’s happening twice this week – I mailed my Renee Ahdieh books to our publisher rep to get signed at Politics and Pose Friday night) but when it came to this essay collection, I even told my boss he should read it in his (nonexistent) free time at the show. Not only did Leslie sign it, but she wrote a lovely note on the title page and my boss came back saying how my love of her book meant something to her. I’m ecstatic. And so without further ado and story telling, a review!

Have you ever read a book you loved so much that you didn’t know how to describe it? A book that gave you “all the feels” and moved you in some profound way that you didn’t want to sully the experience of reading such magnificent words but trying to describe it, knowing your own words were coming up short? That’s what this book is to me.

When I sat down to write this review, I tried to find the connecting thread that pulls the essays together and I struggled to do so. The topics are so disparate, but at the same time, so similar – they’re all so human. Each describes and delves into an aspect of our joint human experience, each encompasses Leslie’s unique voice. Each made me feel an emotion to such depths: loneliness so profound a whale made me cry, a past life experience of a child that I couldn’t stop thinking about, and how we share stories and relate to each other on every level.

At its core, Make It Scream, Make It Burn is an exploration and adventure into humanity and what it means to be a part of the human race. Her writing will always make me have the difficult conversations with myself, the ones I often dread, but help me grow as a human being.

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Click this image to visit the book page on my Bookshop page!

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