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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Pure Flame

Pure Flame

A Legacy

Michelle Orange

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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An intellectual, personal, and ultimately ferocious reckoning with feminism, family, and motherhood from celebrated critic Michelle Orange

In this searing work of cultural memoir, Michelle Orange explores illness, mortality, and questions of maternal legacy, in pursuit of what Adrienne Rich called our “great untold story”: that of the mother-daughter bond. Through the interconnected lives of three women—Orange’s grandmother, her mother, and herself, born at the beginning, the middle, and toward the end of the twentieth century, respectively—Pure Flame traces the impact and influence on that bond of a century’s various seismic shifts: what has been gained, lost, and what remains only dimly understood. A question posed during a 1971 gathering of some of the era’s most powerful female writers, thinkers, and activists—including Susan Sontag, Germaine Greer, and Elizabeth Hardwick—offers a touchstone for the book’s blend of social, cultural, and personal inquiry: If a woman is not to model herself after her mother, by whose example should she live?

Pure Flame grapples with this question among many, reckoning in particular with the transformation of Orange’s mother from part-time teacher to MBA to CEO—a personally rewarding but grueling journey that took her away from her family and had lasting effects on her health. Written with warmth and rigor, Orange’s account of their relationship becomes pressurized in critical and unexpected ways, resulting in an urgent, revelatory meditation … More…

An intellectual, personal, and ultimately ferocious reckoning with feminism, family, and motherhood from celebrated critic Michelle Orange

In this searing work of cultural memoir, Michelle Orange explores illness, mortality, and questions of maternal legacy, in pursuit of what Adrienne Rich called our “great untold story”: that of the mother-daughter bond. Through the interconnected lives of three women—Orange’s grandmother, her mother, and herself, born at the beginning, the middle, and toward the end of the twentieth century, respectively—Pure Flame traces the impact and influence on that bond of a century’s various seismic shifts: what has been gained, lost, and what remains only dimly understood. A question posed during a 1971 gathering of some of the era’s most powerful female writers, thinkers, and activists—including Susan Sontag, Germaine Greer, and Elizabeth Hardwick—offers a touchstone for the book’s blend of social, cultural, and personal inquiry: If a woman is not to model herself after her mother, by whose example should she live?

Pure Flame grapples with this question among many, reckoning in particular with the transformation of Orange’s mother from part-time teacher to MBA to CEO—a personally rewarding but grueling journey that took her away from her family and had lasting effects on her health. Written with warmth and rigor, Orange’s account of their relationship becomes pressurized in critical and unexpected ways, resulting in an urgent, revelatory meditation on becoming, selfhood, freedom, attachment, storytelling, and what it means to be a mother’s daughter now.

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Michelle Orange

Michelle Orange is author of the essay collection This Is Running for Your Life, which was named a best book of 2013 by The New Yorker. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The New York Times, Slate, Bookforum, The Nation, and many other outlets. A contributing editor and columnist for the Virginia Quarterly Review, she is a faculty men­tor in the grad­u­ate writ­ing pro­gram at Goucher Col­lege and an adjunct assis­tant profes­sor of writ­ing at Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity.

image of Michelle Orangeo
© Trevor Ross

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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