cover image SLEEPING WITH CATS: A Memoir


Marge Piercy, . . Morrow, $25.95 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-06-621115-2

Born in the mid-1930s in a tough Detroit neighborhood, poet and novelist Piercy (Dance the Eagle to Sleep) fought grueling battles in her youth, involving difficult relationships with her parents, participation in a street gang and more. When she became pregnant at 17, her mother left her alone to perform an abortion on herself—she almost bled to death—and her hostile father once broke her fingers in the car door when she was late for a shopping trip. Piercy notes that her memoir's focus is her emotional life, but that understates the book's rich picture of her literary and political life. That life embraces 15 novels and just as many books of poetry, three marriages (one a 15-year open relationship in a communal household), sojourns in Chicago, San Francisco, Brooklyn and Paris, and a deep engagement in the political movements of the 1960s through the '80s. She peppers these events with charming vignettes of the many cats she's befriended during her life. Piercy is as convincing writing about her rough beginnings as she is describing her present status as the "cat lady" of her tiny Cape Cod town. "Remembering," she writes, "is like one of those old-fashioned black-and-white-tile floors: wherever I stand or sit, the tiles converge upon me. So our pasts always seem to lead us directly to our present choices. We turn and make a pattern of the chaos of our lives so that we belong exactly where we are." B&w photos. (Jan.)