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Year of Plagues: A Memoir of 2020

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In this piercing and unforgettable memoir, the award-winning poet reflects on a year of turbulence, fear, and hope. For acclaimed British-Guyanese writer Fred D’Aguiar, 2020 was a year of personal and global crisis. The world around him was shattered by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the United States, California burned, and In this piercing and unforgettable memoir, the award-winning poet reflects on a year of turbulence, fear, and hope. For acclaimed British-Guyanese writer Fred D’Aguiar, 2020 was a year of personal and global crisis. The world around him was shattered by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the United States, California burned, and D’Aguiar was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Year of Plagues is an intimate, multifaceted exploration of these seismic events. Combining personal reminiscence and philosophy, D’Aguiar confronts profound questions about the purpose of pursuing a life of writing and teaching in the face of overwhelming upheavals; the imaginative and artistic strategies a writer can bring to bear as his sense of self and community are severely tested; and the quest for strength and solace necessary to help forge a better future. Drawn from two cultural perspectives—his Caribbean upbringing and his American lifestyle—D’Aguiar’s beautiful and challenging memoir is a paean of resistance to despotic authority and life-threatening disease. In his first work of nonfiction, D’Aguiar subverts the traditional memoir with highly charged language that shifts from the lyrical to the quotidian, from the metaphysical to the personal. While his experience could not be darker, its rendering is tinged with light and joy, captured in prose that unfolds in wonderful, unexpected ways. Both tender and ferocious, Year of Plagues is a harrowing yet uplifting genre-bending memoir of existence, protest, and survival.


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In this piercing and unforgettable memoir, the award-winning poet reflects on a year of turbulence, fear, and hope. For acclaimed British-Guyanese writer Fred D’Aguiar, 2020 was a year of personal and global crisis. The world around him was shattered by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the United States, California burned, and In this piercing and unforgettable memoir, the award-winning poet reflects on a year of turbulence, fear, and hope. For acclaimed British-Guyanese writer Fred D’Aguiar, 2020 was a year of personal and global crisis. The world around him was shattered by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests erupted across the United States, California burned, and D’Aguiar was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Year of Plagues is an intimate, multifaceted exploration of these seismic events. Combining personal reminiscence and philosophy, D’Aguiar confronts profound questions about the purpose of pursuing a life of writing and teaching in the face of overwhelming upheavals; the imaginative and artistic strategies a writer can bring to bear as his sense of self and community are severely tested; and the quest for strength and solace necessary to help forge a better future. Drawn from two cultural perspectives—his Caribbean upbringing and his American lifestyle—D’Aguiar’s beautiful and challenging memoir is a paean of resistance to despotic authority and life-threatening disease. In his first work of nonfiction, D’Aguiar subverts the traditional memoir with highly charged language that shifts from the lyrical to the quotidian, from the metaphysical to the personal. While his experience could not be darker, its rendering is tinged with light and joy, captured in prose that unfolds in wonderful, unexpected ways. Both tender and ferocious, Year of Plagues is a harrowing yet uplifting genre-bending memoir of existence, protest, and survival.

45 review for Year of Plagues: A Memoir of 2020

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    (2.5) The plague for D’Aguiar was dual: not just Covid, but cancer. Specifically, stage 4 prostate cancer. A hospital was the last place he wanted to spend time during a pandemic, yet his treatment required frequent visits. Current events, including a curfew in his adopted home of Los Angeles and the protests following George Floyd’s murder, form a distant background to an allegorized medical struggle. D’Aguiar personifies his illness as a force intent on harming him; his hope is that he can be (2.5) The plague for D’Aguiar was dual: not just Covid, but cancer. Specifically, stage 4 prostate cancer. A hospital was the last place he wanted to spend time during a pandemic, yet his treatment required frequent visits. Current events, including a curfew in his adopted home of Los Angeles and the protests following George Floyd’s murder, form a distant background to an allegorized medical struggle. D’Aguiar personifies his illness as a force intent on harming him; his hope is that he can be like Anansi and outwit the Brer Rabbit of cancer. He imagines dialogues between himself and his illness as they spar through a turbulent year. Cancer needs a song: tambourine and cymbals and a choir, not to raise it from the dead but [to] lay it to rest finally. Tracing the effects of his cancer on his wife and children as well as on his own body, he wonders if the treatment will disrupt his sense of his own masculinity. I thought the narrative would hit home given that I have a family member going through the same thing, but it struck me as a jumble, full of repetition and TMI moments. Expecting concision from a poet, I wanted the highlights reel instead of 323 rambling pages. Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    very much a poet writing a memoir of a most horrible time in his life

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    I didn't really know anything about prostate cancer. Now I know perhaps too much. A little meandering but interesting. I didn't really know anything about prostate cancer. Now I know perhaps too much. A little meandering but interesting.

  4. 5 out of 5

    K C

    Interesting memoir although that was not my reason for reading this book. I read it since 2020 was also a year that my husband was being treated with aggressive prostate cancer as well as dealing with corona and I wanted to compare the experiences. D'Aguiar, as a professor of English and a poet, is clearly more literate and verbal than my husband, who I am sure is not talking to his cancer, but it did give me more insight as to what my husband is going through. Interesting memoir although that was not my reason for reading this book. I read it since 2020 was also a year that my husband was being treated with aggressive prostate cancer as well as dealing with corona and I wanted to compare the experiences. D'Aguiar, as a professor of English and a poet, is clearly more literate and verbal than my husband, who I am sure is not talking to his cancer, but it did give me more insight as to what my husband is going through.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Scott Martin

    A unique take on the difficult year that was 2020. For the author, it is primarily an account of his life as he faced a devastating cancer diagnosis during the time of COVID. That the author is black, the upheaval in the wake of the George Floyd killing is also accounted for here. I am not quite a fan of the writing style, as the author is more of a poet/playwright. Perhaps some will like the style, but it didn't resonate with me. Good insights about the facts of treatment during a time of a pan A unique take on the difficult year that was 2020. For the author, it is primarily an account of his life as he faced a devastating cancer diagnosis during the time of COVID. That the author is black, the upheaval in the wake of the George Floyd killing is also accounted for here. I am not quite a fan of the writing style, as the author is more of a poet/playwright. Perhaps some will like the style, but it didn't resonate with me. Good insights about the facts of treatment during a time of a pandemic though.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Larry Welch

  7. 5 out of 5

    Christina

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tim

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Saunders

  10. 4 out of 5

    Abel Ang

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mike Segal

  12. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gary Reed

  14. 4 out of 5

    David

  15. 5 out of 5

    Whitechocomuffin

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jay Moran

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Velez Diodonet

  19. 4 out of 5

    Eduvigues Cruz

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

  21. 4 out of 5

    MBP

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

  24. 5 out of 5

    Buried In Print

  25. 5 out of 5

    Somia

  26. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Park

  27. 4 out of 5

    Katie/Doing Dewey

  28. 4 out of 5

    Acme146

  29. 5 out of 5

    Douglas

  30. 4 out of 5

    elizabeth

  31. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

  32. 5 out of 5

    Naomi

  33. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

  34. 4 out of 5

    J. Dakar

  35. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  36. 5 out of 5

    Stacy Caputo

  37. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  38. 4 out of 5

    Karissa Haugeberg

  39. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  40. 4 out of 5

    Amelie

  41. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  42. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  43. 5 out of 5

    Ronsank

  44. 4 out of 5

    Steven P. Wicihowski

  45. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Smith

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