SPD would like to wish a huge congratulations to Samantha Giles, winner of the Gold Medal at the California Book Awards for Poetry
for her book Total Recall
Each year, The Commonwealth Club receives hundreds of books from California authors for award consideration. Our dedicated jury spends several months assessing each entry, narrowing down the many submitted works to a group of finalists and finally the medalists themselves.
TOTAL RECALL is, at its root, a memoir about memory. Yet in this chronology by Samantha Giles, the roots twist, double over and fold back on themselves in a narrative fractured by sexual, physical and emotional trauma. Part essay part poem, in this perseveration on how the body holds and discards the banality and sustainability of trauma, Giles questions how to know what you know when everything including your brain conspires to doubt you.
"A book that so powerfully and strangely melds autobiography, poetry, ethnography, philosophical inquiry, and testimony: that would have been enough. But on top of that, Samantha Giles manages to make TOTAL RECALL a page-turner, a psychological thriller (really!) whose tension is constructed adroitly and painfully from what Georges Perec, in W: Or the Memory of Childhood, refers to as 'gaps, lapses, doubts, guesses and meagre anecdotes.' Like Perec, Giles constructs a childhood narrative by fusing memoiristic writing with otherworldly narratives, and the 'truth' emerges from the intermingling of these stories, from the silences that form between them. I could go on and on about how the book is written and the multiple forms it takes. Yet more significant than questions of form is the book's content, which is heartbreaking, captivating, and terrifying, both for the traumas it reveals, the pathologies that manipulate and deny the traumas, and the pseudo-science of the real-life False Memory Syndrome Foundation-all presented in a voice and frame that doesn't let us off the hook. There's no self-indulgence here, no evocations of empathy or sentiment. There is, rather, brutality, affliction, and an indefinable presence in its presentation. I think this book is extraordinary." - Daniel Borzutsky