The Territory of Men: A Memoir by Joelle FraserThe Territory of Men: A Memoir by Joelle Fraser

The Territory of Men: A Memoir

byJoelle Fraser

Paperback | July 8, 2003

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Born into the turmoil of mid-sixties San Francisco, the daughter of a flower child and a surfer, Joelle Fraser grew up with no bedtime, no boundaries, and no father. But “dads” she had in abundance, as her mother worked her way through boyfriends and husbands, caught between the traditional rules of her upbringing and the new freedoms of the “me generation” and women’s lib. Moving every few months, from houseboats and beach shacks to run-down apartments, Joelle came to learn that a woman’s life, free or not, is played out on men’s territory.

Set in northern California, Hawaii, and the small coastal towns of Oregon, Fraser’s engrossing memoir captures this centerless childhood in wonderfully vivid, frank writing, then goes on to show how a legacy like this affects a girl as she grows up. Pretty, blond, precociously aware of her own sexuality, Joelle was drawn to men early, eager to unlock their mysteries. Working in bars, prisons, and firing ranges, she liked to hang out where they congregated. To her the only worlds that counted were men’s worlds. Men held the power; they made life matter.

Fraser’s sharp vignettes of her intense relationships, brief, turbulent marriage, and itinerant life are haunting echoes of her early memories. In The Territory of Men, she brilliantly portrays the way a rootless childhood leads to a restless adulthood, and how a mother’s aimless life serves as a blueprint for her daughter.

From the Hardcover edition.
Joelle Fraser has an MFA in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa and is a MacDowell fellow. She has won numerous awards, including the prestigious San Francisco Foundation Award for Nonfiction. The Territory of Men is her first book. She lives in Portland, Oregon.From the Hardcover edition.
Title:The Territory of Men: A MemoirFormat:PaperbackPublished:July 8, 2003Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0812968182

ISBN - 13:9780812968187


Read from the Book

SummertimeMother's Day, 1966Watch us as we barrel across that bright bridge toward San Francisco, the gray waves of the ocean seething and crashing below. It's a warm May day, the windows are wide open, and my mother's black hair flies wildly around her sweating face.We're late for the hospital, but traffic is light?and this is a party, after all, one that began in the morning and lasted all night and hasn't stopped for years. In the backseat, my father sits between two friends, smoking a cigarette, lips stained dark from gin and grape juice. He grins at my mother in front, tells her to hold on. He says wouldn't it be a great story if they had a baby on the Golden Gate Bridge.The Mamas and the Papas' "California Dreamin' " comes on the radio, and everyone sings, the words swept up by scarves of fog and spread over the sea. They're drunk, all of them, all but my mother, who leans back to ease the pain, belly swollen, legs braced because it's almost time and I'm pushing to get out.That summer my mother's twenty-four and broke, living in a small flat in Sausalito with an infant, and my father's away somewhere trying to earn money. He's lost jobs, as a shoe salesman, as a ranger in Muir Woods?he was let go for not keeping the latrines clean enough. This last job, at a landscaping company, they fired him for pulling out the jasmine instead of the weeds. He's been away from home for weeks.She reads my father's letter, which says he's lost his fourth job, and it's his fourth job in half a year. Life is much harder now with a baby, and she suspects that it will not ease up soon, or ever. She remembers those wonderful evenings after they were first married, living here in Sausalito, drinking Red Mountain wine at three dollars a gallon, feet dangling over the water as the fog lifted and the small boats floated by on the bay, with San Francisco's lights beyond. She thinks of the late nights at Contact, the art magazine they worked at in the city, and the concerts at the Fillmore. She has all the memories of the year before, in New York, when he worked at Look and she at Mademoiselle. In New York, the party began Wednesday and ended late Monday night: their home was an open invitation to visit anytime but Tuesday. They made jokes about their lifestyle, how it was like the title from Hemingway's book A Moveable Feast. Almost every night they drank, and in the morning woke to friends passed out on their floor.They were both dreamers, but my mother had a practical side, and it was mostly this concern for the future and for a sense of security that came between them. When they argued, it was about money, which fell through the cracks of their lives, emptied on booze and parties and books. But they had loved each other while it was just the two of them, and that was all that really mattered.Then she got pregnant with me and they headed back west. My mother tries not to think about the way her life has turned, how somewhere along the way the wheel jerked and took a hard left onto a road she didn't want to go down or wasn't ready for.From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

“The only thing I want from Joelle Fraser is more—she is a gifted writer with an honest and searching soul.” —Jennifer Lauck, author of Blackbird and Still Waters“It’s the magic of this book that in writing about her experience with such honesty and poetry, Joelle Fraser forces you to face some truths of your own. Woman, know thyself: Read The Territory of Men, and bring a hankie.” —Beverly Donofrio, author of Riding in Cars with Boys“This book doesn’t pretend that any individual’s life is epic. This book is about the daily revelations, mortifications, and moral quandaries we all endure. Joelle is self-aware, but she’s often as puzzled by herself as by others. This book contains many more question marks than exclamation points, and that makes it tender, funny, and true.” —Sherman Alexie, author of The Toughest Indian in the World“Joelle Fraser has taken a life built on broken fragments and transformed it into a gleaming whole. The Territory of Men is one of those rare books: the kind that keeps you up too late, the kind whose pages warp from wear, the kind that, once read, you place on your shelf with a wistful smile, a tinge of regret, and a promise to read it again.” —Deborah Copaken Kogan, author of Shutterbabe“Joelle Fraser has crafted an elegant, sharp-eyed portrait of her girlhood in the Free Love era. She manages such a wry depiction of difficult times that the book itself becomes a testament to the resilience of the born storyteller. What a miracle that a girl who lived through so much trouble could grow up to write like this.” —Lisa Michaels, author of Split: A Counterculture Childhood and Grand Ambition“To build a memoir from the excruciating details of a harrowing childhood is a delicate and demanding art. To build one this extraordinary—shot through with humor, generosity, and a haunting forgiveness—is the work of an exceptional artist.” —Michael Byers, author of The Coast of Good IntentionsFrom the Hardcover edition.