Book Review: Drawing Breath by Gayle Brandeis

I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced reader copy (ARC) of Gayle Brandeis’ new book, Drawing Breath: Essays on Writing, the Body, and Loss. I was excited to read this book, having read Brandeis’ memoir The Art of Misdiagnosis.

Drawing Breath Book Cover

The book is organized around the metaphor of the title essay, “Drawing Breath,” which discusses writing and the breath. Sections are built around different types of breathing, Eupnea: Quiet Breathing, Hyperaeration: Increased Lung Volume, for example, but are not simply related to the breath, though some are.

The essays deal with broad categories of writing, loss, and the body, as the subtitle suggests. Some of the essays may be familiar if you’ve read The Art of Misdiagnosis, covering some of the same topics in different ways. I enjoyed reading this material which was not included in the book. As a writer who has been writing about the same thing for many years myself, it was interesting to see how someone who had written a book also covers the same material in so many different ways and in so many iterations.

I enjoyed the creativity of some of the essays. In one essay, no doubt pulled together from research as she wrote her book, she creates an essay about her mother by using quotes from other writers. The title essay is laid out as if it is inhaling and exhaling on the page.

How did writing your memoir change you?
In some ways, it ruined my writing life. …
Less than I thought. …
It helped me gain some distance from my story, knowing that once it goes out into the world, it will not be my story anymore.

Drawing Breath: Essays on Writing, the Body, and Loss, Gayle Brandeis

Brandeis also provides an interesting essay showing what it is like to write about such a personal experience. In, “self interview” she asks herself the same question over and over again. “How did writing your memoir change you?” is the question I imagine many would-be memoirists project upon themselves as they write their memoir. I know it is right up there with, “Why did you write your memoir?” in the imaginary interviews I’ve done in my head. Reading Brandeis’ essay shows what it is really like to put a personal story out into the world.

The book is available from Overcup Press on February 7, 2023.

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