Wife | Daughter | Self

Pre-order at Bookshop.org. Forthcoming March 2, 2021 in paperback, audiobook (via Blackstone Audio), and ebook.

How are we shaped by the people we love? Who are we when we think no one else is watching? How do we trust the choices we make? The answers shift as the years go by. The stories remake themselves as we remember. Curiously, inventively, Beth Kephart reflects on the iterative, composite self in her new memoir―traveling to lakes and rivers, New Mexico and Mexico, the icy waters of Alaska and a hot-air balloon launch in search of understanding. She is accompanied, often, by her Salvadoran-artist husband. She spends time, a lot of time, with her widowed father. As she looks at them she ponders herself and comes to terms with the person she is still becoming. At once sweeping and intimate, Wife | Daughter | Self is a memoir built of interlocking essays by an acclaimed author, teacher, and critic.

About the Book

Beth Kephart • Forest Avenue Press • Illustrated by William Sulit • Trade paperback • Ebook • Nonfiction •  Publication Date: March 2, 2021 • Trade Paper: 6 x 9 • Cover Price: $16 • ISBN:  9781942436447 • 250 pages

About the Author

Beth Kephart is a National Book Award finalist, a Pew fellowship winner, an NEA grant winner, and the multi-genre author of more than thirty books that often appear on “best of” lists. She is an award-winning teacher at the University of Pennsylvania, co-founder of Juncture Workshops, and a widely published essayist and critic who has written extensively about memoir and traveled the country giving workshops. Essays, some of them included in this book, have appeared, or soon will appear, in Life magazine, Ninth Letter, the New York Times, The Normal School, North American Review, Salon, Catapult, Literary Hub, Brevity, The Millions, The Rumpus, and the Chicago Tribune. Beth and her husband, artist William Sulit, collaborate on picture books, middle grade novels, Juncture Workshops, and a series of memoir workbooks and illustrated journals.

About the Illustrator

William Sulit is a Salvadoran-born, Yale-educated architect and visual artist. He has collaborated with his wife, Beth Kephart, on multiple book projects, including the middle-grade novels Wild Blues, Cloud Hopper, and Dr. Radway’s Sarsparilla Resolvent; the memoir Ghosts in the Garden; the corporate fable, Zenobia: The Curious Book of Business; a series of memoir workbooks; and the picture book Trini’s Big Leap. He is the co-founder, with Beth, of Juncture Workshops. Find him on Instagram at ws_studioarts.


Watch a short video about this remarkable memoir, narrated by the author.


Advance Praise

Wife | Daughter | Self is a riveting, atmospheric dream of a book. It’s a big, complicated portrait of a woman inhabiting the major roles of her life. Sometimes we encounter Beth Kephart’s ‘tip-toe self,’ artfully and gracefully telling her story. Other times she’s out there—bold, making noise, ‘piercing the truth.’ But she never settles for the easy answer. She’s really just asking bone-deep, tough questions. Questions that turn everything back to her readers so that we can learn how to inhabit our own roles. This memoir is so revelatory, so affecting, that long after you turn the last page, you won’t stop thinking about it.”

Judy Kurtz Goldman, author of Together: A Memoir of a Marriage and a Medical Mishap

“Rare and brave and beautifully written, Wife | Daughter | Self is a memoir to savor. Beth Kephart is a jeweler: her words glisten, the emotions shine. This story of marriage, daughterhood, and motherhood, is also the story of an artist—how a woman becomes a writer and how she enters into conversation with the world. This moving work will linger with readers long after the final page.”

—Diana Abu-Jaber, author of The Language of Baklava

“She believes in acute, clear-eyed attention to the small moments. Her stories are bare, stripped down, whittled to their very essence, like one of her husband’s dark, pragmatic vessels. To her father, she says, ‘I am here. Are you there?’ In each line of prose she poses the question to us and we answer, yes, we are. We are here.”

—Jacinda Barrett, actress and writer

“A profound meditation on how our most cherished—and most complicated—relationships shape who we are. Kephart’s work is a masterclass in memoir.”

—Megan Stielstra, The Wrong Way to Save Your Life

“Kephart’s Wife Daughter Self passes the whole of a life through the prism of intimate relations and the result is revelatory: a memoir that assembles itself as we read, until all its parts are shimmering with meaning and that most sought, most elusive treasure is revealed: what it means to be human, and aware.”

—Carolyn Forché, What You Have Heard is True

“Opening Beth Kephart’s memoir feels akin to stepping into a river of striking clarity and song. With tenacious honesty, Wife | Daughter | Self explores the weight and shape of the ever-deepening bonds we form with those closest to us and how those bonds intertwine with our perceptions of our innermost selves. This book is a journey into a life dedicated to writing and art, one that honors both joy and pain, love and loss. Piercing, lyrical, and wondrously alive with detail, Kephart’s sentences sing. I didn’t want it to end.” 

—Chloe Honum, author of Then Winter


“From the serenity of a kayaking-on-the-lake moment to fragmenting struggles with self-criticism, Kephart deftly and succinctly captures entire expanses of human experience.”

― Booklist, Starred Review

Wife | Daughter | Self is a resonant memoir in essays, in which Beth Kephart stops to wonder how others shaped her, and how the bonds of family make her who she is.”

―Jaime Herndon, Foreword Reviews


March 3, 2021, 7:30 PM ESt: Free Library of Philadelphia Launch of Wife | Daughter | Self. Beth Kephart in conversation with actress and author Jacinda Barrett. Information/registration here.

March 14, 2021, 3 PM EST: Six Books, One Essay, and One Poem that Shaped My Thinking About Memoir, a Juncture Workshop featuring a conversation with Laura Stanfill, Beth’s editor at Forest Avenue Press. This workshop will be offered for $1 with proof-of-purchase of Wife | Daughter | Self. You can purchase it here.

March 20, 2021: A Wife | Daughter | Self conversation with Christi Craig of Hidden Timber Books. Please register here.

Brandywine Museum event, “The Making of AND I PAINT IT: HENRIETTE WYETH’S WORLD,” April 28, with Beth Kephart and illustrator Amy June Bates, the award-winning team who produced the children’s book. Beth will also talk about her memoir, which features an essay about Henriette Wyeth.

May 5, 2021: Main Line Night School presentation on memoir writing and Wife | Daughter | Self. Register here.

Press, Events, Interviews, and Other Coverage

“The Case for Writing a Memoir in Essays,” LitHub

Publishers Weekly roundup of trade shows including Beth Kephart’s appearance at the NAIBA/SIBA tradeshow

Book cover design, Ut Omnia Bene

Booklist, starred review, full version

9 Must-Have Winter Reads, Mainline Today

Causeway Lit: craft essay by Beth Kephart

A Memoir Conversation with David Marchino and Beth Kephart, Cleaver

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