cover image To Be Honest: A Memoir

To Be Honest: A Memoir

Michael Leviton. Abrams, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4197-4305-4

Musician and screenwriter Leviton brings great wit and irony to his debut memoir about the pros and cons of being honest, at all costs, all of the time. In his late 30s, after ending a seven-year relationship with Eve, a fellow musician, he recalls his eccentric Southern California upbringing. Leviton’s emotionally distant father told the then-four-year-old Leviton to respect people by “trusting them to handle the truth,” even if it may hurt them. “It made most people want to strangle me,” he writes. In grade school, he accuses a teacher of being a racist after she unjustly punishes a Latino classmate; Leviton also scares away a group of bullies after challenging them to reveal their feelings about themselves. In his early 20s, Leviton moves to New York City, where he meets Eve, his people-pleasing foil. She helps him recognize the traits of his upbringing (“Silence was suffering, confession was connection, and criticism was love,” he writes). Then, convinced that lying will make him and others happier, he becomes lost in untruths, wrestling with the pleasant white lies of small talk, such as saying “I’m fine” when asked “How are you?” He eventually stops lying, realizing that he’s unmoved by “being liked or making people happy,” and vows to “read whether a person wants honesty or not.” Honestly, this thoroughly enjoyable, wry narrative is a winner. (Jan, 2021)