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The Crying Book - cover

The Crying Book

Heather Christle

Publisher: Catapult

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Summary

The Crying Book is a brilliant, genre-bending, and inquisitive nonfiction look at tears—Why do we cry? What does it mean? Can tears be insincere?—and the inquiry weaves through a turbulent period in the author’s own life Simmering beneath the author's wide-ranging exploration of tears is the narrative throughline of her attempts to get pregnant, her pregnancy and anxiety over inherited depression, and her new motherhood in the throes of depression  “They say perhaps we cry when language fails, when words can no longer adequately convey our hurt.” While reckoning with tumult in her own life—the death of a close friend, the birth of her first child—Christle probes the act of crying with radiant curiosity This book is genuinely fun to read, despite (or perhaps because of!) its subject matter; it's delightful and endearing, funning and surprising and brimming with discovery, and the super-short sections—threads formatted as paragraphs or even sentences—mean you can whip through the book quickly. For fans of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize series, Heidi Julavits, Eula Biss, or Maggie Nelson, as well as Insomnia by Marina Benjamin (Catapult), The Crying Book is poetic and intimate, while also deeply and astonishingly researched
  The examples Christle presents of crying and tears are remarkable, harrowing, heartbreaking, and inspiring in equal measure: the racially weaponized nature of white women's tears, dismissed mother's tears, tears at a moment of national crisis, and more; they can also be delightful and surprising, like Joan Didion’s method for stopping tears 
 In beautiful ways, Christle's book is a poet's subject-specific commonplace book, with deeply satisfying intertextuality
 The Crying Book has moments of glittering, winking humor: “Hard to feel you are too tragic a figure when the tears mix with snot. There is no glamour in honking.” The Crying Book will include black-and-white photos throughout


 
Bookseller Praise for The Crying Book

"The Crying Book is a lyrical, literary, and marauding meditation on a human act with a long history of mystery and misunderstanding. Poet Heather Christle began researching and writing this sui generis social science memoir at a time when tears were most copious for her, while both grieving the suicide of a close friend and anxiously preparing for the birth of her daughter. What emerges from Christle’s exploration of the act of crying is both intimate and intellectual, particular and profound, as she dives into the significance of tears personally, scientifically, and historically." —Megan Bell, Underground Books (Carrollton, GA)
"When, where, why do we cry? How is it that some are predisposed to cry little and others to weep endlessly? Why does it so often feel shameful? When does it relieve us, does it trap us in depression? Peaceful and powerful, The Crying Book is a poetic examination of the art of weeping. Poet Heather Christle meditates on tears, grief, in a graceful mourning song held together by personal experiences, scientific insight, and her most beloved—poetry. In the face of great loss, Christle’s account is crystalline and mystical, a necessary embrace for the bereaved, and validating manifesto to the tearful." —Mary Wahlmeier, The Raven Book Store (Lawrence, KS)
"Heather Christle's The Crying Book is a beautiful exploration into why we cry, peeling back the layers of seemingly everyday moments in her life. Each short section gives you insight into either her thoughts, daily life, or a discovery she has made about crying. While at points it feels as if it meanders—in the most beautiful of ways—it always seems to circle back and connect together again. A sincere exploration. Readers will be as blown away by Christle's honest revelations as they will be by her beautiful prose." —Erin Gold, Pages Bookshop (Detroit, MI)
"This one's for those of us who have cried half-naked in the kitchen, who have looked in the mirror, eyes puffy, snot dripping down your chin, and wondered what the hell you're doing. It's a collection of curiosities, memories, and deep research into art, history, politics, and poetry where Christle has fashioned together a hybrid compendium memoir of a little-understood yet everyday function of our lives. Such a weird, beautiful, insightful gift that will help me feel a little less alone in my next cry." —Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop (Athens, GA)
"Of course I would read a book about crying! I can already hear the jokes at my expense from my coworkers. But in truth, this is a beautiful study on the subject—part memoir, part science, philosophy, history, and poetry. Heather Christle uses her research in part to make sense of her own depression, as well as the mental illness of loved ones and artists who have inspired her. I was highlighting passages and writing notes in margins, something I rarely do! Definitely a book I will revisit over and over." —Carl Kranz, Fountain Bookstore (Richmond, VA)
"Fascinating and unique." —Buffy Cummins, Tattered Cover (Littleton, CO)
"To be a writer is to be both in constant awe and in constant envy of other writers. Heather Christle is no exception. She is a writer to whom a world of poets look for playful imagery and careful affect. The Crying Book is not billed as poetry, but it's not prose—it's something very deeply embedded between genres. There are no line breaks, but there is lyricism and a poetic philosophy of the intimate relationship between things: between tears, grief, war, motherhood, friendship, partnership, science, history. The literary world has already likened it to Maggie Nelson's Bluets, but Christle's work seems to me more delicate, as though each turn of a tear-soaked page allows readers the permission, as Christle puts it, to be held. And to be held by a book is, I think, exactly what a reader craves. Absolutely everyone should read this book." —Lauren Korn, Fact & Fiction (Missoula, MT)
"Heather Christle cries a lot. After the death of her close friend, she began crying even more, with more intensity. In mourning, through her thick curtain of tears, Christle asked: 'Why do I cry?' The product of that question is a tender and meandering collection of thoughts that feels too human to be simply A Book. Maggie Nelson, in Bluets (an obvious blue companion to Christle's piece), says she often cried looking at herself in the mirror—not so she could pity herself, but that she felt witnessed in her despair. The Crying Book offers a spiritual mirror of sorts: the reader bearing witness to the author's crying, and, in turn, the words seeing us, witnessing us in our pain as well. It is a beautiful and indescribable feeling to be seen without truly being seen. The Crying Book is a tiny miracle I know I will return to when I find myself, again, pushed to the kitchen floor." —Ryan, Flyleaf Books (Chapel Hill, NC)
"The Crying Book is intensely meta and layered in every direction. I love nothing more than the melding of the scientific and the literary, and with this exploration of tears, Heather Christle creates just that. In short bursts that are compulsively readable, she breaks down the endlessly frustrating and artificial wall between 'the academic' and 'the feminine,' encouraging a discomfort with her emotionality (and then encouraging a critique of that discomfort). A new go-to recommendation for anyone questioning their own or another's relationship to sadness." —Afton Montgomery, Tattered Cover (Denver, CO)

"A beautiful look at the act of crying and all that accompanies this rawest of emotions. Best read in small doses to appreciate Christle's writing, this will make you cry, warm your heart, and have you identifying with the book over and over again." —Beth Seufer Buss, Bookmarks (Winston-Salem, NC)
"The Crying Book is written in a series of vignettes (reminiscent of Bluets or 300 Arguments) that guide the reader through Christle’s research on the science of tears, the racial implications of white women’s tears, Christle’s critique of the gendered and racialized study of tears, and memoir of Christle’s friendships, her close friend’s suicide,  her family history, herself as a mother, and her own depression. This weaving of topics surrounding the obsession of tears breaks down the dichotomy that American culture often has between grief and the rest of life by reminding us that tears are a part of the everyday, even if those tears are from cutting onions, laughing, or if it's resistance to tears due to socialization. I appreciated that this book took place over many years, which helped to normalize the haunting nature of sorrow (whether it's grief or depression) and how it can sit with someone chronically, even in moments of joy and pride. Christle’s poetic tendency made this book sticky with its language; it’s the kind of book that gets stuck in your head, so when I put it down to go on a drive or out to eat, my inner monologue was writing its own vignettes in the voice of Christle. The Crying Book made me giggle, had me highlighting passages and flipping back to the end notes to read more, and made me sit long after putting the book down, heavy with all of the wonder and aches that Christle drew up in me upon reading this book. I think this would be a great book for someone who wants to get back into reading after a while, as it is a pretty quick read and is gratifying in its emotional depth and easy to read form. She does include a suicide hotline number at the end, so it may be a book that warrants a content warning for mention of suicide, however she did not go into any explicit detail or even ruminate all that much on the details of suicide or suicidal ideation, so I didn’t find it triggering or even all that dark, but its worth mentioning." —Lucy Hayes Capehart, Greenlight Bookstore (Brooklyn, NY)
"Just as Maggie Nelson approached the color blue in her contemporary classic Bluets, Heather Christle uses crying and tears as lenses to explore an expanse of human experience made accessible through specificity. What arises from this approach is a profound awareness of relationship and interconnection—between crying, animals, emotion, parenting, race, gender, loss, friendship, sorrow, and despair. Christle illustrates how crying tethers us to life, demonstrating through autobiography and the biographies and works of others how bodily experience and physical sensation can indicate the greater complexities of life. Smart, attentive, always poetic, and sprinkled with humor, this book should be savored in stillness and over time." —Emma Richter, Literati Bookstore (Ann Arbor, MI)
“A thorough, intimate, and deeply empathetic study into the nature and implications of our tears. Part memoir, part essay, this book centers around the author’s recent loss of a friend and her anxieties surrounding motherhood, or more specifically, mothering through heartache. Here, we meet the love child of Maggie Nelson’s Bluets and Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights, two not-distinctly-poetry books by poets as inimitable as Christle. P.S. cover goalssssssss.” —Serena Morales, Books Are Magic (Brooklyn, NY)
“The Crying Book is a beautiful amalgamation of small epiphanies. Christle weaves succinct prose, poetry, and personal experience to create perfectly cohesive whole. The comparisons to Maggie Nelson's Bluets are justified, while Christle has created her own epic book around the ubiquitous tear. I cried, I admired, I learned.” —Mara Panich-Crouch, Fact & Fiction (Missoula, MT)
“Are you a crier? I unabashedly am! I cry with books, commercials, conversations, in public, and in private. This book dives deep into the cultural and personal meanings behind crying. It is nearly poetic. I love the snippets, the style, and the overall depth of the book. Widely informative!” —Shane Mullen, Left Bank Books (St. Louis, MO)
"Poet Heather Christle's first book of prose is a sweeping collage of all things tears. Throughout a series of lyrically tinged anecdotes, Christle presents a study of crying ranging from the scientific, philosophic, performative, linguistic, and domestic. With astute intellect and pure imaginative force, The Crying Book demands we examine our most vulnerable selves in a time when compassion feels all but absent." —Tyler Heath, Interabang Books (Dallas, TX)
“A gorgeous and contemplative mediation on crying, lyrically interwoven with Christle’s processing of the suicide of a close friend and the birth of a child. The Crying Book is beautiful and vulnerable.” —Sarah Cassavant, Subtext Books (St Paul, MN)
"Formed at a tremendously tender and fraught juncture of Heather Christle’s life—following a dear friend’s suicide, while grappling with her own depression and impending motherhood—The Crying Book comprises a glittering, revelatory well of scientific, personal, and historical examinations of tears and the innumerable contexts in which they appear. Each of The Crying Book’s many brief scenes and ruminations bursts with intelligence and unique insights into grief, mental illness, and the often harrowing business of reckoning past with present and future." —Ben Newgard, Flyleaf Books (Chapel Hill, NC)
"Heather Christle's The Crying Book is positively brilliant. Christle weaves memoir, history, and criticism together in her investigation of tears and the reasons why we cry. From mentions of tears in poetry, letters, film, and pop culture, Christle asks why we cry, to what end, and what it means. She discusses the gendered and racial undertones to certain acts of crying and the ways tears have both enabled and disabled women's agency throughout history. Her prose is poetic, and the book is smart, thoughtful, and wise. For anyone who enjoys off-the-beaten-path histories, read this book!" —Michelle Malonzo, Changing Hands Bookstore (Tempe, AZ)

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