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Author Spotlight: Joanna Rakoff

Joanna Rakoff is the award-winning novelist, poet, and freelance journalist who penned the memoir My Salinger Year that has readers and critics alike raving. Her beautifully written memoir is not of the trashy tell-all material. Instead, she has given us an artful coming-of-age tale that appeals to all generations.


The memoir recounts Rakoff's bluesy in-between year after graduating college and trying to make her way in the cutthroat world of New York. After breaking up with her college boyfriend, Rakoff began searching for a job to pay for her sudden college debt and living costs. She landed a spot at a place called the Agency, a tucked-away corner of the world far removed from the beginning computer craze.


Learning how to use a Dictaphone and meeting the Agency's eccentric cast of characters, Rakoff discovered who the Agency worked for: none other than The Catcher in the Rye's J.D. Salinger. Rakoff was strictly instructed on how to communicate with the famous author. Don't call him up, refer him only to her boss, and definitely don't try to discuss writing with him.


In the year Rakoff spends behind a desk at an Agency from another world, she reflects on the life she is building for herself. The book becomes both dream-like and poignant, with descriptions of NY's career ladder, Rakoff's messy relationship with her new boyfriend, and the cast and crew of the Agency.


My Salinger Year becomes a book not only about Salinger but about life and humanity. The Washington Post described it as the Salinger story weaved “into a broader, more universal tale about finding one’s bearings during a pivotal transitional year into real adulthood.” Rakoff's artful writing and character details make the memoir difficult to put down. A simple scene of Rakoff and a childhood friend getting lunch together was truthful and moving enough to nearly make me cry.