Love Is a Burning Thing: A Memoir

Nina St Pierre

Book cover for Love Is a Burning Thing: A Memoir
Book cover for Love Is a Burning Thing: A Memoir

Love Is a Burning Thing: A Memoir

Love Is a Burning Thing: A Memoir

Nina St Pierre

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A riveting memoir about a daughter's investigation into the wirings of her loving, unpredictable mother: a woman who lived her life in pursuit of the divine, and who started two big fires, decades apart.

Ten years before Nina was born, her mother lit herself on fire in a dual suicide attempt. During her recovery in the burn-unit, a nurse initiated her into Transcendental Meditation. From that day on, her mother's pain became intertwined with the pursuit of enlightenment.

Growing up, Nina longed for a normal life; instead, she and her brother were at the whims of their mother, who chased ascension up and down the state of California, swapping out spiritual practices as often as apartments. When they finally settled at the foot of a mountain--reputed to be cosmic--in Northern California, Nina hoped life would stabilize. But after another fire, and a tragic fallout, she was forced to confront the shadow side of her mother's mystical narratives. With obsessive dedication, Nina began to knit together the truth that would eventually release her.

In Love Is a Burning Thing, Nina interrogates what happens to those undiagnosed and unseen. This is a transfixing, moving portrait of a mother-daughter relationship that also examines mental health, stigma, poverty, and gender--and the role that spirituality plays within each. Nina's writing skirts the mystical, untangles it, and ultimately illuminates it with brilliance.

About the Author

Nina St. Pierre is a queer essayist and culture writer whose work has appeared in Elle, GQ, Harper's Bazaar, Gossamer, Nylon, Outside, Columbia Journal, Bitch, Catapult, and more. She is a 2023 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow in Nonfiction Literature. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Rutgers-Camden.

Critical Reviews

Most Anticipated by Esquire, Los Angeles Times, Bustle, Rumpus, Write or Die, and Alta Online

"This beautiful memoir about longing for normalcy while being buffeted by the whims of an unstable mother is perfect for fans of Mary Karr or stories about surviving difficult childhoods" --People, "Best Books to Read in May 2024"

"This debut memoir is a daughter's reckoning: a quest to understand her mystery of a mother, an exploration of mysticism and untreated mental illness, and an indictment of the systems that failed their family...St. Pierre and I grew up in the same remote corner of the west, but you don't need to know it in order to appreciate the descriptions that add lush texture to this searching, empathetic narrative." --Esquire, "Best Memoirs of 2024"

"A kaleidoscopic, illuminating reflection on mental health, poverty, gender, and spirituality." --Bustle, "Spring's Most Anticipated Books"

"Stark and emotionally raw, [Love is a Burning Thing] becomes increasingly warm and empathetic as Nina uncovers what made Anita the mother she was." --Apple Books

"St. Pierre crafts a vivid, richly textured, harrowing memoir of her bond, both steadfast and delicate, with her mother...St. Pierre emerges with a treatise for thinking about not only mental illness and family trauma, but also the ability of belief to alternately empower, embattle, and release. An exhilarating, heart-rending familial portrait." --Kirkus, *starred review*

"Essayist St. Pierre debuts with a haunting account of her complicated relationship with her mother...This is a beautifully written and often breathtaking examination of a difficult parent-child bond." --Publishers Weekly

"Love is a Burning Thing is a spectacular, fearless memoir, written with real muscle and voice, guided by an electric eye for truth and compassion. I loved this book." --Michelle Tea, author of Knocking Myself Up

"Nina St. Pierre's effulgent prose is as fiery as the title itself: unrelenting, strong, and vast. You will be shocked at learning that this is St. Pierre's debut as she wields such a command on language and narrative with extreme sensitivity towards mental illness, social inequities, and of course, the bond she had with her late mother that you'd believe she were a veteran in the world of arts and letters." --Morgan Jerkins, New York Times bestselling author

"This book is like molten lava rushing down a slope, burning away everything in its path: dangerous and wild and unstoppable, and awe-strikingly beautiful. Love is a Burning Thing is a testament to the life-defining and sometimes life-shattering mother-daughter bond; a free dive into the depths of mysticism and mental illness, and the slippery, disorienting spaces where they overlap; an indictment of systems that leave the most vulnerable to fend for themselves; and a record of a self-determined, wise, embodied creative life rising from ashes--literally." --Lilly Dancyger, author of First Love

"Nina St. Pierre's high-wire act of a memoir brilliantly balances pain, wit, and levity in its two trajectories of searching -- the mother's for enlightenment, for meaning, for salvation, and the narrator's for answers, empathy, and compassion. St. Pierre tells this story with a warmth and intimacy that makes you want to follow her wherever she goes. Love is a Burning Thing will sear your heart in two and leave you smoldering." --Zaina Arafat, author of You Exist Too Much

"Love Is a Burning Thing is an unflinching portrayal of a mother's untreated mental illness, its wide-reaching impact, and a daughter's drive to make sense of it all. Luminous, haunting, as painful as a burn and as beautiful as the flame that caused it, Nina St. Pierre's love-fueled story broke my heart and opened my eyes. One of the best memoirs I've ever read." --Gabrielle Korn, author of Yours for the Taking

"I was caught up in this memoir from the very beginning and struggled to put it down, not only for the wrenching story it tells about family history, mental illness, American counterculture, and one woman's calling, but because of the time we get to spend in a beautiful and sparsely populated part of California that is almost never represented on the page, on screen, or in the popular imagination. This is a profoundly California book, giving us as illuminating a portrait of the rural north state as it does of Nina's family and her mother's life--full of love, mystery, and heartbreak. I was blown away by St. Pierre's beautiful rendering of this complex family story." --Lydia Kiesling, author of Mobility

Publishing Information

Publisher: Dutton
Pub date: 2024-05-07
Length: 304 pages
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