The Millions

Who Says Memoir Has to Be Nonfiction? The Millions Interviews Tyrese Coleman

Tyrese Coleman’s debut, How to Sit, defies easy categorization. It’s a slim book—about 120 pages—that blends essay and fiction. A finalist for the PEN Open Book Award, How to Sit is an unforgettable meditation on family and home—how our families both damage us and make us who we are; how we form our own families and how we find our place in the world.

Coleman and I recently discussed the book’s unusual blend of fact and fiction, as well as the process of publishing with a very small press.

The Millions: From the beginning, this collection plays with the line between memoir and fiction. Often memoirists will include a caveat that their memories are fallible, but they strive to present events as accurately as possible. In your opening author’s note and throughout the book, you actively embrace and explore the blurry line between what happened, how you remember it, and how you’d prefer to remember it. Why did that structure work so well for telling these stories? Do you think more writers should try playing in that space?

There was something freeing about being able to lean into the way my memories presented themselves in my head rather than shading them with research or other factual evidence. There is a poetry in memory and emotion that I did not want to lose. So, it would’ve been dishonest for me to make a claim that everything was as accurate as it could be. But I will say that it depends on the piece. Not every

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