He Said What? book review

He Said What? wins the best title award! As if you couldn’t tell what the memoir anthology from Victoria Zackheim is about, the subtitle is Women Write About Moments When Everything Changed.

I’ve read and enjoyed all Victoria Zackheim’s anthologies. She’s our age, and she knows the themes that affect our lives and haunt our memories. She has a knack for gathering top-notch writers to share their personal moments, and she’s at the top of her game with He Said What?

The essays are powerful revelations of a moment when something a man said changed how a women saw herself, or made a life decision, or knew a relationship was over. As you’d guess, some of the personal essays (and they’re very personal!) revolve around bad boys, bad dates, bad lovers, bad husbands, and bad liars. But sometimes the man uttering the life altering words is a father, a teacher, a doctor, or a brother, and sometimes they’re not bad people, just bearers of bad news.

Some of the essays are funny, especially those about the “demented dance of dating,” as Jane Ganahl calls it. Some are searing. All are worth reading.

Most of the writers in this anthology are over 50, Zackheim tells me. Sometimes you can tell that from the context of the essay: a 6th grade bathroom in 1964; a miniskirt, tie-died shirt, or Grateful Dead song at 15; marrying a naval officer before he ships out to Vietnam. Writing these essays with the perspective of decades after the pivotal event makes them even more powerful to a reader, especially readers our age.

I’ll bet this review is making you think about which “He Said What?” incident you’d choose. Please feel free to comment with your own memory here. Men, “She Said What?” memories are welcome, too!

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