My What If Year, by Alisha Fernandez Miranda
Embodying the intern spirit at 40 and beyond (plus new literature on running and writing)
Memoirs with Melissa shares bimonthly reviews intended to expose readers to diverse authors and life experiences. To see more of what I’m reading, browse my virtual memoir shelf on Goodreads.
When Alisha Fernandez Miranda started pitching her memoir to literary agents, she received a disturbing response: “Don’t you have any trauma to put in?” an agent asked. “Those are the kind of ‘own voices’ stories that will sell.”
Thank goodness that person did not become her agent. As a successful, second-generation American hailing from Miami and living in Scotland with her husband and two kids, Miranda had her own fun, thought-provoking, and authentic story to tell. She refused to succumb to the script often set for so many BIPOC and queer creators—one that forces them to show up in a prescribed way to meet consumer demand.
So how did she write and sell the story she wanted to tell? The same ingenuity that took her through four internships in three countries while raising twins in the midst of a pandemic, connected her with Zibby Books, a new publishing company from the creator of the popular podcast Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.
The same ingenuity that took [Miranda] through four internships in three countries while raising twins in the midst of a pandemic, connected her with Zibby Books….
It’s no secret the publishing industry has been going through a lot of changes. I couldn’t be more thrilled to see a new outlet connecting more authors and readers. When I read about Miranda’s early experience pitching literary agents, I knew I wanted to buy her book. Her narrative and journey to publication seemed different and fresh. And we are in such desperate need of new space for more stories.
My What If Year did not disappoint. The cover is gorgeous, the editing is professional, and the writing is straightforward and accessible. Approaching her 40th birthday at the top of her career game, Miranda decides to do something about her nagging sense of discontentment. As the daughter of a Cuban immigrant father and Jewish mother, she’s always done the next right thing. From graduating Harvard to starting a family and founding her own company, her path forward has been linear and clear.
Now she can’t help but wonder: What if she’d pursued all the career possibilities she left behind in her youth? Could her key to happiness lie in her neglected interests—broadway, art, fitness, or maybe hospitality?
Without giving away the answers, what I love about Miranda’s story is the way it left me open to more possibility in my own life. If a parent of twins who runs her own company can work her way backstage on Broadway, create an entirely new career opportunity in the art world, risk her dignity making embarrassing mistakes serving at a high-end resort, and publish a book about it, how many opportunities exist in my world that I haven’t even considered?
There is more to life than the traditional path through middle-age and beyond, and there are more stories than what’s already been told and sold. My What If Year has renewed my sense of adventure on both fronts.
Want This Memoir?
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New Literature on Running and Writing
Running, by Lindsey A. Freeman (Out March 14, 2023)
One of four books in Duke University Press's Practices series, Running, by sociology professor Lindsey A. Freeman, reads like a love letter to running and writing. Being a serious writer and recreational runner myself, I found so many parallels between the two practices in these pages. What makes this book stand out from others on running is that it was created with the queer, feminist reader in mind. Freeman’s ability to use her own running practice as a lens for viewing gender, compulsory heterosexuality, and body acceptance is bound to give new perspective on these dimensions of life that affect us all.
Choosing to Run, by Des Linden (Out April 4, 2023)
I was eager to get my hands on this memoir while training for my first half marathon. Linden feeds us segments of her Boston marathon win in chronological order with bits about her childhood, her path to professional running, and the ups and downs of her running life tucked in between. I enjoyed reading about her racing strategy and her references to Deena Kastor, another runner whose memoir I loved. What I appreciated most about Linden’s story was how she coped with disappointment and injury. When the speed she was used to wasn’t there for a period of time, she had to find the intrinsic joy and value in running to keep herself showing up. While I started the book looking for running inspiration, I walked away with motivation to keep showing up in both my running and writing practices.
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