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The Ivy is thrilled to welcome Michelle Orange for a reading and conversation about her book Pure Flame. Michelle will be in conversation with Jeannie Vanasco. This event will take place in-person, on The Ivy's back patio. Come at 6:30 for a glass of wine and snacks!
An intellectual, personal, and ultimately ferocious reckoning with feminism, family, and motherhood from a celebrated critic.
During one of the texting sessions that became our habit over the period I now think of as both late and early in our relationship, my mother revealed the existence of someone named Janis Jerome.
So begins Michelle Orange’s extraordinary inquiry into the meaning of maternal legacy—in her own family and across a century of seismic change. Jerome, she learns, is one of her mother’s many alter egos: the name used in a case study, eventually sold to the Harvard Business Review, about her mother’s midlife choice to leave her husband and children to pursue career opportunities in a bigger city. A flashpoint in the lives of both mother and daughter, the decision forms the heart of a broader exploration of the impact of feminism on what Adrienne Rich called “the great unwritten story”: that of the mother-daughter bond.
The death of Orange’s maternal grandmother at nearly ninety-six and the fear that her mother’s more “successful” life will not be as long bring new urgency to her questions about the woman whose absence and anger helped shape her life. Through a blend of memoir, social history, and cultural criticism, Pure Flame pursues a chain of personal, intellectual, and collective inheritance, tracing the forces that helped transform the world and what a woman might expect from it. Told with warmth and rigor, Orange’s account of her mother’s life and their relationship is pressurized in critical and unexpected ways, resulting in an essential, revelatory meditation on becoming, selfhood, freedom, mortality, storytelling, and what it means to be a mother’s daughter now.
Michelle Orange is the author of Pure Flame: A Legacy, and This Is Running for Your Life: Essays, which was named a best book of 2013 by the New Yorker and several other publications. Her writing has appeared in Harper’s, McSweeney’s, The Nation, Bookforum, the New York Times, the New Yorker, Tin House, the Village Voice, and other publications. She is a contributing editor at the Virginia Quarterly Review, where she is also a columnist, and is VQR’s 2019 winner of the Staige D. Blackford Prize for nonfiction.
Michelle moved to New York City from Canada in 2003, and currently divides her time between Brooklyn and Baltimore. She teaches nonfiction in the graduate writing programs at Goucher College and Columbia University.
Jeannie Vanasco is the author of the memoirs Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl and The Glass Eye. Her writing has appeared in the Believer, the New York Times, the Times Literary Supplement, and elsewhere. She lives in Baltimore and teaches at Towson University.
TIME & DATE
Friday, June 4, 2021 - 6:30pm