Sounds of Leigh Newman’s “Still Points North”

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“The story was there in the music, down to the epilogue.”

Leigh Newman’s memoir, Still Points North: One Alaskan Childhood, One Grown-up World, One Long Journey Home, gets a unique treatment over at Largehearted boy‘s Booknotes, a column where authors are asked to compile a sort of soundtrack to their process. It gives very rich context for writers and fan of writing alike.

When I was a young kid, Mom loved to listen to opera while cleaned the house and I love to watch her. As she dusted with lemon polish and waltzed around the living room, she would tell me the story of Cio-Cio-San and her lover Pinkerton. At the end of act three, when Cico-Cio San discovered that Pinkerton has married a nice white American, Mom would dramatically commit harikari with a broom handle. The opera had a lot of subtext that I didn’t understand at the time about the state of my family—but it was yet another indicator that Mom wasn’t as at home in Alaska as Dad and I.

Newman intriguingly blends classic American country (Kenny Rogers) alongside Puccini, mentioned above, and others on her memoir “about growing up in Alaska … about falling for your own family.” Already a confessional text, Newman’s playlist offers even more intimacy to the narrative experience. Plus, the book sounds great.


Tony DeGenaro is an MFA candidate at the University of San Francisco. His poetry has been seen in Rusted Radishes, Quiz & Quill, and his chapbook, “Drink From the Ohio River,” was published at Otterbein University. He is an Ohio native and not afraid to show it. Tony is also a prolific blogger and twitter-er. More from this author →