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You Must Remember This by Joyce Carol Oates

By Ava Stern

Recently, I have been going through the pile of books I stole from my parents during winter break. I started with You Must Remember This by Joyce Carol Oates. I get super obsessed with books that I know my parents read because it feels sort of like a legacy.

When reading this novel, I felt ethically challenged because of the deep storylines of incest and suicide. I understand that it is more than crucial to read the uncomfortable but it always is a little hard to read detailed scenes of incest and suicide.

This novel explores the realness of a 1950s family and secrets that tear the individual apart, as well as uncomfortable sexuality. Joyce Carol Oates’ prose is impeccable garnering her critical acclaim and fame. Her controversial topics and public commentary fuel an army of supporters and haters that make reading her work even more fun and introspective.

I tend to like books where I cannot decide if I love or hate the characters and JCO does a great job of creating “real” people who have lapses in judgment and moral dilemmas. I found myself being invested in this family: the Stevicks, whose youngest daughter has an epic coming-of-age story.

“Though it was a truth Warren had picked up somewhere that things once said within a family cannot be unsaid. And things done but never named might well be forgotten” (You Must Remember This, 147).

An uncomfortable look into family and growing up, You Must Remember This was an excellent read that pushed me to think about family and the sometimes deeply agonizing parts of growing up.

4/5 Stars.

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