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Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Manic Depression (Paperback)
A FINALIST FOR THE NEW ENGLAND BOOK AWARD FOR NON FICTION
A PASTE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
ONE OF TIMEOUT NEW YORK’S BEST SUMMER BEACH READS OF 2017
ONE OF REAL SIMPLE’S 25 FATHER’S DAY BOOKS THAT COVER ALL OF DAD’S INTERESTS
The stunning and long-awaited memoir from the beloved founder of the James Beard Award-winning website Leite’s Culinaria—a candid, courageous, and at times laugh-out-loud funny story of family, food, mental illness, and sexual identity.
Born into a family of Azorean immigrants, David Leite grew up in the 1960s in a devoutly Catholic, blue-collar, food-crazed Portuguese home in Fall River, Massachusetts. A clever and determined dreamer with a vivid imagination and a flair for the dramatic, “Banana” as his mother endearingly called him, yearned to live in a middle-class house with a swinging kitchen door just like the ones on television, and fell in love with everything French, thanks to his Portuguese and French-Canadian godmother. But David also struggled with the emotional devastation of manic depression. Until he was diagnosed in his mid-thirties, David found relief from his wild mood swings in learning about food, watching Julia Child, and cooking for others.
Notes on a Banana is his heartfelt, unflinchingly honest, yet tender memoir of growing up, accepting himself, and turning his love of food into an award-winning career. Reminiscing about the people and events that shaped him, David looks back at the highs and lows of his life: from his rejection of being gay and his attempt to “turn straight” through Aesthetic Realism, a cult in downtown Manhattan, to becoming a writer, cookbook author, and web publisher, to his twenty-four-year relationship with Alan, known to millions of David’s readers as “The One,” which began with (what else?) food. Throughout the journey, David returns to his stoves and tables, and those of his family, as a way of grounding himself.
A blend of Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind, the food memoirs by Ruth Reichl, Anthony Bourdain, and Gabrielle Hamilton, and the character-rich storytelling of Augusten Burroughs, David Sedaris, and Jenny Lawson, Notes on a Banana is a feast that dazzles, delights, and, ultimately, heals.
About the Author
David Leite is a food writer, cookbook author, and web publisher. He founded Leite’s Culinaria (leitesculinaria.com) in 1999. In 2006, he had the distinction of being the first winner of a James Beard Award for a website, a feat he repeated in 2007. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Pastry, Men’s Health, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Washington Post, among other publications. His first book, The New Portuguese Table, explored the food of his heritage and won the IACP’s 2010 First Book: Julia Child Award. David is also a frequent correspondent and guest host on public radio’s The Splendid Table. He has been heard on NPR’s All Things Considered and has appeared on United Stuff of America, Beat Bobby Flay, and the Today show. When no one is looking, he still dances in his underwear in the kitchen.
“Leite bravely lets us into his world filled with family, food, mental illness and his struggle with coming to terms with his sexual identity . . . a beautifully-written book . . . poignant and rich, as some of us who love Leite’s work, have come to expect.”
“Born into a devout immigrant community that didn’t believe in psychiatry or being gay, Leite fought for twenty-five years to understand the truth about himself—his triumph is rich with lessons for us all.”
— Drew Ramsey, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University, and author of Eat Complete
“Warm, witty, [and] sometimes heartbreaking . . . Fans of the author’s James Beard Award-winning website, Leite’s Culinaria . . . won’t be surprised by his wonderful sense of humor and his keen powers of observation . . . candid and charming.”
“Leite impressively finds honesty and humor in the darkest of circumstances….a brave and moving tale of food, family, and psychology.”
“Excellent...Leite has managed the unlikely feat of combining a work of laugh-out-loud humor with the solemn subject of mental illness. A splendid and entertaining book.”
— Dick Cavett
“In hilarious, deeply honest prose, Leite has brilliantly captured the light and dark of bipolar disorder. But this book does so much more. It explores the relationships between culture and family, friendship and food, love and the body. A memoir about the astonishing resilience of the human heart.”
— Marya Hornbacher, author of Madness: A Bipolar Life
“Masterful . . . Notes on a Banana is beautifully crafted, inspiring, and poignantly honest. A must read for all foodies and memoir lovers who know the power food and family have to overcome nearly every obstacle in life.”
— Josh Kilmer-Purcell, author of I Am Not Myself These Days
“An honest look at overcoming a life fraught with anguish and obstacles . . . Leite [is] one of the best food writers of our generation. Notes on a Banana is the brutally forthright story of a man who found love, and finally his calling . . . in the kitchen.”
— David Lebovitz, author of My Paris Kitchen
“One of the finest portraits of bipolar disorder I have ever read.”
“Ruthlessly candid . . . The book is funny and hopeful even during some of its darkest passages, a deft balancing act that has brought Leite pre-publication comparisons with Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris.”
— Connecticut Post
“Expertly walks the line between sad and funny . . . [Leite’s] firsthand account of mental illness pulls no punches, serving up an honest and open perspective on personal and family issues that are often swept under the rug.”
— Publisher’s Weekly
“A witty account . . . readers will enjoy Leite’s ability to bring levity to a host of serious—and sometimes sad—subjects. The book gives a universal account of complications that many lives encounter, but Notes on a Banana brings levity and humor to the hardships the author recounts.”
— Associated Press
“A tender, funny and sadly real story—one that will certainly resonate with readers.”
— TimeOut New York
“Tender and honest, this reflection on what it means to grow up and find yourself will make dad both laugh and cry.”
— No Real Simple, 25 Father’s Day Books That Cover All of Dad’s Interests Real Simple, 25 Father’s Day Books That Cover All of Dad’s Interests
“A terrific contribution to understanding not only the experience of bipolar illness but the experience of life: warm, funny, poignant, and human.”
— Kay Redfield Jamison, author of An Unquiet Mind