Dayna Tortorici at the NYRB:
Because Gornick is foremost a memoirist, any tour of her work must contend with her autobiography as she tells it, in fragments. There is no single book in which she narrates her life story straight through; “truth in memoir,” she writes in The Situation and the Story (2001), “is achieved not through a recital of actual events.” Instead, each of her books marshals different pieces of her life in service of a central insight, whether she’s writing memoir, criticism, reportage, or a biography of someone else. She is dedicated to nonfiction as a genre, but has a novelist’s instinct for selection. To recount her biography chronologically thus requires some reconstruction.
Gornick was born in 1935 in the Bronx, the second child of working-class immigrant Jews. Her father, she recalls in The Romance of American Communism, was a kind man who “stood upright on the floor of a dress factory on West 35th Street…with a steam iron in his hand for thirty years.” Her mother, a passionate woman with a rougher style of affection, kept house.