Wife | Daughter | Self

Forthcoming March 2, 2021

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, New York Times, The Normal School, North American Review, Salon, Catapult, LitHub, Brevity, The Millions, The Rumpus, and 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.

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

Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir

“A marvelous primer for anyone who would dare to face the furies and write about his or her life. Beth Kephart has read the genre closely, put her own feet to the fire, and distilled the form with all the passion of a great teacher.” 

Marie Arana, author of American Chica  

“A gorgeous meditation on memoir.”

Library Journal, starred review

“With infectious passion and hard-won wisdom, Beth Kephart eloquently celebrates the rigors and rewards of the creative process andequally necessarythe art of crafting a meaningful life.“

Katrina Kenison, author of Magical Journey:  

An Apprenticeship in Contentment 

“A self-described ‘memoir autodidact’ and distinguished author’s refreshingly idiosyncratic guide to the art of creative nonfiction.”

Kirkus, starred review

“Intense, provocative, endearing, and kind, Handling the Truth recalls Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (1995). The appendix alone is a reading course not to be missed. Delightful.”

—Colleen Mondor, Booklist

Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River

“Kephart is a master not only of descriptive memory, but of constructing an existential vocabulary. Thus the river is born, becomes aware, is besieged, comes to terms with abuse, half-wishes to be abandoned, and nearly loses hope.” 

—Nathaniel Popkin, City Paper

Additional Praise


“Beth Kephart . . . is a gifted, even poetic writer.”

The New York Times Book Review 


“Kephart’s writing is so clear, so nonpreachy, that you just want to jump in and join her.”

Los Angeles Times Book Review 

“Richly evocative prose that can only be called masterful . . . a revelation and a feast.”

— Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog


“Writing as brilliantly as she does about love might have been enough even for someone of her intelligence and depth. But in this memoir she demonstrates that she can go further. Kephart is able to generalize from her personal experience to the greater human one.”

—Wendy Gimble, Washington Post 


“For Beth Kephart, friendship is more than casual sociability:  it’s a gift, it’s an art form, it’s a righteous cause, and it’s civilization’s unifying force.  She writes with winning passion; her sentences are crafted from measured complements of love and intelligence.”

—Ken Kalfus , author of A Disorder Peculiar to the Country


“Kephart’s prose is luminous, her story so moving that I savored it, read and reread it within days.  It is a powerful testimony—a hope-giving book.”

The Sun


“It’s nearly impossible for an evocation of a garden, of flowers and air and branches and breath, to move itself to paper, but in (Ghosts in the Garden), with gorgeous prose and startling imagery by Beth Kephart, and with intimate, striking photography by William Sulit. A garden and a life are captured.”

—Susan Straight, author of In the Country of Women

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