When warm months roll around, all people seem to want is an easy read and rosé. Which you can do! That’s fine. Both those things are great. But if you want to step that combo up a little, impress your friends and what not, may we suggest these two: How To Write An Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee, and this peachy-pink Bakari Pinot Grigio.
Neither of these are as they seem. Chee’s book is not an autobiographical novel at all, or a writer’s how-to (though would-be essayists could learn a lot from his near-perfect structure and voice), but a collection of personal essays that smarts of memoir but skips around, cherry picking parts of his life that lend well to the reflective essay format. Every one has a touch of hardship, of violence, of perseverance in it, and it’s inspiring in its frankness. There are stories of becoming a writer and studying under Annie Dillard; of the choice to enter an MFA and doing so at the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop; of what it means to be a writer in America, a particularly deep piece that lingers long after you finish it. There are also stories of childhood trauma: Being a mixed-race kid in a small Maine town, half Scottish and half Japanese, the odd one out; of sexual assault by an uncle as a young boy; of coming up in San Francisco during the AIDs crisis, learning to do drag and being dragged by police. Despite the heavy subject matters, the book reads easily—the deftness of Chee’s prose keeps you swimming along, eager to know more, to soak up some of his earned wisdom.
The wine, too, is deceiving: Pink, yes, but actually a macerated (or skin contact, when white grapes are left to ferment with their skins on for a brief period of time, lending color and body) Pinot Grigio, somewhere between a very light orange wine and a tart dry rosé. It’s eminently drinkable but a lot more interesting than your typical “summer water”, with bright lemon and unripe strawberry lending a zing, and high acidity with a slight sourness to it. It’s light, though, an easy entry into skin contact wines with the familiarity of the Pinot Grigio grape. Bring this to your next picnic and impress everyone around you. But should you forgo company, these two are also you need to bask for a whole afternoon, like a cat in a spot of sun, refilling your glass with each beautiful essay.