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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Manic Depression

  1. 5 out of 5

    Yaaresse

    Disclaimer per my own rule and to maintain everyone's integrity: I have an acquaintance with the author. Also, I received a advance copy of this book with mutual understanding that I am a contumacious, opinionated old harpy and was under no obligation how or even if to post remarks. I stumbled upon David Leite during a minor crisis (mine) involving Portuguese sweet bread and my spouse's childhood memory of a sainted great aunt. (Every Azorean family has a sainted great aunt, trust me on this.) D Disclaimer per my own rule and to maintain everyone's integrity: I have an acquaintance with the author. Also, I received a advance copy of this book with mutual understanding that I am a contumacious, opinionated old harpy and was under no obligation how or even if to post remarks. I stumbled upon David Leite during a minor crisis (mine) involving Portuguese sweet bread and my spouse's childhood memory of a sainted great aunt. (Every Azorean family has a sainted great aunt, trust me on this.) David's food website was in its infancy, and those well-deserved James Beard awards were in his not-too-distant future. He responded to my probably creepy and definitely frantic email with humor and solid advice. As a fan of the website, I knew his writing could be funny, irreverent, charming, and smart as a whip. With this memoir, he brings all of those traits into writing about family dynamics, cultural identity, self-identity, and mental health. These are complex topics, here approached head-on in a frank and clear voice. His descriptions of people, places and sensations are vivid and visceral. You will read this book with your eyes, but you'll vicariously smell, hear and taste what's happening, from the intoxicating ruckus and aroma of a traditional family meal to the disconcerting physical and emotional whiplash that happens when cycling between manic and depressive states. I felt the strongest parts of the book were the first third (childhood) and the last quarter. In my opinion, the transitions to and from the middle suffered from abrupt jumps in time and tone. The middle is more focused on what was going on internally with less vivid descriptions of places and people. Perhaps this was intentional? Depression can make the world a much flatter and monotone place. While the vivid writing returns in later chapters, it doesn't quite have the same holographic quality. The payoff to continue reading definitely is there, but it is more subtle and nuanced. I appreciate that there is no Disney-esque ending with everything tied up in the Happily Ever After ribbon here. Instead, the more gentle and realistic closure felt right. More importantly, it felt honest. Personally, I could have done without the explicit sexual details, but I admit I have a low TMI threshold and operate on the "if you wouldn't have wanted want me in the room then, spare me the graphics now" principle. I'm not puritanical, merely disinterested. Notes on a Banana is sharp, candid, and engaging. Like all good storytelling, it plucks at the heartstrings as much as it provides laugh-out-loud moments. Modern memoirs often are little more than a bid for attention, the writer's solicitation for social currency; this one bucks the trend by offering more than it takes and having something substantial to share. Kudos. Well played.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Book Riot Community

    I’ve been raving about this book since I read it for my book group and I make no apologies for it. This memoir encompasses so many struggles and obstacles, but does so in a way that is both self-deprecating and hilarious. Leite’s use of language is even more interesting than his anecdotes about growing up Portuguese, bipolar, and gay. The way he orchestrates the rhythm of his writing is nothing short of masterful. When he’s writing about his manic episodes, clipped sentences lend a sense of urge I’ve been raving about this book since I read it for my book group and I make no apologies for it. This memoir encompasses so many struggles and obstacles, but does so in a way that is both self-deprecating and hilarious. Leite’s use of language is even more interesting than his anecdotes about growing up Portuguese, bipolar, and gay. The way he orchestrates the rhythm of his writing is nothing short of masterful. When he’s writing about his manic episodes, clipped sentences lend a sense of urgency to the telling. And a more loose and slower cadence are the hallmarks of his depressive periods. The author’s writing is as lyrical and immersive as if it were literary fiction; elements that are rarely found in traditional memoirs. Yet, he accomplishes this feat with grace and levity. In speaking to others, Leite’s story and writing style have been likened to David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs, and Jeffrey Eugenides. Powerful recommendations for this funny and touching memoir. — Elizabeth Allen from The Best Books We Read In June 2017: https://bookriot.com/2017/07/03/riot-...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    David Leite’s parents emigrated from the Azores to Massachusetts, where he grew up in a tenement crowded with relatives. Processed American snack foods, which appealed more than the traditional Portuguese fare his grandmother cooked, were a guilty pleasure shared with his mother. “Banana” was her nickname for him, and she left daily messages of encouragement written in marker on the peel of his breakfast banana. Food was a comfort in the years that followed, but as an adolescent and young man Le David Leite’s parents emigrated from the Azores to Massachusetts, where he grew up in a tenement crowded with relatives. Processed American snack foods, which appealed more than the traditional Portuguese fare his grandmother cooked, were a guilty pleasure shared with his mother. “Banana” was her nickname for him, and she left daily messages of encouragement written in marker on the peel of his breakfast banana. Food was a comfort in the years that followed, but as an adolescent and young man Leite was so troubled by anxiety, breakdowns, and coming to terms with his homosexuality that eating right and taking the time to cook for himself fell by the wayside. It took 25 years for the author to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder (though he prefers the term “manic depression”), and he didn’t get a degree until he was 37. He’d studied acting and psychology but dropped out twice, and even tried to turn himself straight via the Aesthetic Realism cult so he could marry his best girlfriend. After moving to New York City, he worked at the Windows on the World restaurant and then in advertising, and also met his partner of more than two decades now, Alan. With Alan’s help he got his mental health under control, reconnected with his Portuguese/Azorean heritage, and finally found his true vocation: food writing. There’s a lot going on in this memoir, especially in the middle third; I wondered if streamlining the narrative could have kept it from feeling so packed. It’s also a bit less about food than I was expecting. Still, I was interested to see how mental illness would play out in Leite’s life, from his early breakdowns triggered by scary movies to the ongoing veneta (temper) that threatened his relationship with Alan. Favorite passage: “According to the Sisters of the Spatula, my name for the flock of women who ruled my childhood, donuts were lice control—anytime they wanted us kids out of their hair, they’d dole out money and tell us to go to the Terminal Bakery around the corner on Davol Street, buy some donuts, and make sure to get lost on the way back.” Readalikes: Gorilla and the Bird by Zack McDermott Pancakes in Paris by Craig Carlson

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I read this book for a new book group I am going to join soon. They read books about food, not necessarily cookbooks. This is their selection for July. So my first critique here may not be about the book at all, or even fair as regards the book. This book has very little to do with cooking. This book is primarily about living with a bipolar disorder and struggling with being gay and coming out. I did enjoy this book but I kept wondering, since it is a book club pick dealing with food books, where I read this book for a new book group I am going to join soon. They read books about food, not necessarily cookbooks. This is their selection for July. So my first critique here may not be about the book at all, or even fair as regards the book. This book has very little to do with cooking. This book is primarily about living with a bipolar disorder and struggling with being gay and coming out. I did enjoy this book but I kept wondering, since it is a book club pick dealing with food books, where does the food come into play? I had never heard of David Leite but I read the bio about him and his contributions to food and cooking via articles and the internet. This is the story of his life. How he documents his mental illness is very interetsing. I can't imagine feeling this way all of my life and trying to explain it to people, even psychologists and psychiatrists. He seems to have had a slew of bad therapists, unfortunately. I'm glad he ends up getting the help that he needs. Yes, a little bit more about food would have been nice but I'm not sure that was his intent with this book. David was saying "Here I am, flaws and all, this is me. I have a story to tell." I appreciated that.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    In a beautifully written memoir of self-discovery, David Leite takes us on a journey of finding the true balance in his heritage, his sexual orientation, his bi-polar disorder and his deep and abiding love of food. With the anchor of strong family and culture, the author mines the depths of mental illness and the aching journey of diagnosis to find balance and, ultimately, happiness. From the author of the James Beard Award-winning website Leite’s Culinaria, David Leite has given us a feast of a In a beautifully written memoir of self-discovery, David Leite takes us on a journey of finding the true balance in his heritage, his sexual orientation, his bi-polar disorder and his deep and abiding love of food. With the anchor of strong family and culture, the author mines the depths of mental illness and the aching journey of diagnosis to find balance and, ultimately, happiness. From the author of the James Beard Award-winning website Leite’s Culinaria, David Leite has given us a feast of a journey to devour in this piercing memoir.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Marika

    One of the most funny, touching memoirs that I have read in a very long while. David writes humorously about growing up in a Portuguese household, including their rich history of cooking, family feasts and yes, dysfunction. More importantly, he writes about the first signs of his mental illness and the ways he tried to cope and hide it. He writes in a way where readers will be able to identify with his battle with mental illness, which will demystify mental illness and reduce the guilt/shame tha One of the most funny, touching memoirs that I have read in a very long while. David writes humorously about growing up in a Portuguese household, including their rich history of cooking, family feasts and yes, dysfunction. More importantly, he writes about the first signs of his mental illness and the ways he tried to cope and hide it. He writes in a way where readers will be able to identify with his battle with mental illness, which will demystify mental illness and reduce the guilt/shame that those who suffer from it tend to struggle with...and they shouldn't. This is a wonderful mashup of authors David Sedaris and Amy Lawson. A book that will heal and will be wonderful for book clubs. I received an advance copy and was not compensated.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Dettwiler

    I laughed, I cried, I smiled and I felt the emotional roller coaster of Davids life, love and mental health challenges.. David shares his love of those that provide a foundation to his development both in balance and relationships. From Barry to Paul, from Bridget to Ronnie, from Becca to Alan... David shares the emotional peaks and valleys that helped form his love of life, family and food.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I laughed! I cried! I just really loved this memoir. Leite is such a charming, humorous, original, and piquant writer, even when writing about the ups and downs of living with undiagnosed bipolar II disorder. He so exceptionally depicted the physicality of a panic attack and the descent of anxiety and depression in a way I’ve never seen before. There were moments where I wanted to shout, “This! This is the feeling!” And the way he writes about food and its (mega important) role in his life is ju I laughed! I cried! I just really loved this memoir. Leite is such a charming, humorous, original, and piquant writer, even when writing about the ups and downs of living with undiagnosed bipolar II disorder. He so exceptionally depicted the physicality of a panic attack and the descent of anxiety and depression in a way I’ve never seen before. There were moments where I wanted to shout, “This! This is the feeling!” And the way he writes about food and its (mega important) role in his life is just woven in so naturally—I feel it could have been really easy for him to focus on the success he’s had in that world but none of that really emerges until closer to the end. But, the way he writes about flavor and cooking and family and connection is just *kisses fingers.* Delightful. And, a really great depiction of what life might look like for someone living with a serious mental illness. He really gave his readers an intimate look at what was happening in his brain and body during the ups, downs, and swings in between manic and depressive states.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Meg Aki

    Absolutely beautifully written. Made me sob and laugh, which is the best kind of book in my opinion. Leite’s vivid and raw descriptions pull you directly into his emotional and mental state throughout the memoir. Peppered throughout are these luscious and striking food vignettes that instantly remind you that he is also a phenomenal food writer.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Roy Trimble

    Pre-read. Looking forward to the final! Well I read the final version and it's even better. What a wonderful and powerful story. I expected a story about food. Instead I got a powerful story about a young man coming to grips with the things that haunted and shaped him. It's a very powerful story that makes you think about what all the people around you are going through every day. Food does play a big role. A simple banana can be so full of love. And the memories of it can last a lifetime. Pre-read. Looking forward to the final! Well I read the final version and it's even better. What a wonderful and powerful story. I expected a story about food. Instead I got a powerful story about a young man coming to grips with the things that haunted and shaped him. It's a very powerful story that makes you think about what all the people around you are going through every day. Food does play a big role. A simple banana can be so full of love. And the memories of it can last a lifetime.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Georgie Fear

    Couldn't finish it The writing itself is good, funny at times and descriptive. But halfway through the book I was just not enjoying it. I felt sorry for the author in his times of despair and suffering, yet his feelings of being superior to everyone else during other periods left me not really liking him. I found myself thinking I hope he gets help in the second half of the book but I wasn't enjoying it enough to want to bother reading it. Couldn't finish it The writing itself is good, funny at times and descriptive. But halfway through the book I was just not enjoying it. I felt sorry for the author in his times of despair and suffering, yet his feelings of being superior to everyone else during other periods left me not really liking him. I found myself thinking I hope he gets help in the second half of the book but I wasn't enjoying it enough to want to bother reading it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Brenner

    Beautiful book! Funny and heartfelt...food and family. What more can we ask for in a book?

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Guerfi

    David Leite's touching autobiography takes a look at himself from a small boy growing up to his present life as the creator of the James Beard Award winning website Leite's Culinaria. Leite introduces us to the happy memories and tribulations that have assailed him. His genuine and candid look at what he would later come to realize as a maelstrom of mental illness and the confusion of sexual identity that began to afflict him from a very young age. David's family is the perfect example of an imm David Leite's touching autobiography takes a look at himself from a small boy growing up to his present life as the creator of the James Beard Award winning website Leite's Culinaria. Leite introduces us to the happy memories and tribulations that have assailed him. His genuine and candid look at what he would later come to realize as a maelstrom of mental illness and the confusion of sexual identity that began to afflict him from a very young age. David's family is the perfect example of an immigrants that came to America to begin a better life and were successful. Many would say he had the perfect childhood but that is the whole point of David's story. He was dealing with an illness that he could not even imagine never mind ask for help with and at the same time he began to realize that he felt differently than was considered normal about other boys. The confusion of realizing he was gay in a time when that was considered a moral flaw was hard for him considering he had a mother who he dubbed a bloodhound for Jesus. So even surrounded as he was by loving support from his family, his mental illness and secrets caught him in an undertow of anguish that would follow him for most of his life until being correctly diagnosed helped him fight his inner demons and finding the right person to love helped him conquer his fears. David Leite is not saying he's perfect or cured. What you will find in here is the story of a young man who was vulnerable and weak and searched for answers, stumbling from one idea to another until he found it at last. This book is a look at the depths that some have to struggle out of and a hope for those who are lost on their own paths. David is a guiding light to learn to accept who you are and not be afraid to ask for help. This is a book about growing into your own identity no matter what. It is at the very end a book about hope and we could all learn a little something from that.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    Soooo gooood. I’m a memoir freak, and this just hits so many of my buttons that it was inevitable I’d love it. I have loved @davidleite since I first heard him on The Splendid Table years ago. He is a delight on social media and his website, Leite’s Culinaria, is incredible. (If you are into food, you must follow him. He was the first food writer to win a James Beard award for a website!) This memoir tells of his Portuguese immigrant childhood in Massachusetts, his struggle to come to terms with Soooo gooood. I’m a memoir freak, and this just hits so many of my buttons that it was inevitable I’d love it. I have loved @davidleite since I first heard him on The Splendid Table years ago. He is a delight on social media and his website, Leite’s Culinaria, is incredible. (If you are into food, you must follow him. He was the first food writer to win a James Beard award for a website!) This memoir tells of his Portuguese immigrant childhood in Massachusetts, his struggle to come to terms with his sexuality (you know what doesn’t help when you’re trying to come out? Your devout Catholic parents becoming Charismatic Christians), his story finding and falling in love with his partner, Alan (Leite fans know him from his website as The One ❤️), and, oh yeah, his horribly misdiagnosed and mismanaged bipolar disorder. He writes so evocatively about what it is like to experience manic depression - not just the mental and emotional aspects, but the physical experiences of it. It’s fascinating and I learned so much. I also learned a lot about Portuguese cuisine and now I want to experience some of those dishes for myself. All in all, a fantastic read if you’re interested in food, mental health, memoirs, or just entertaining books - he is so funny.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Judy

    The title (and cover) of the book drew my attention first, and of course...the thought of reading a memoir that included food, love and manic depression...how could one say no to that. I enjoyed the background and mini-intro to Portuguese culture that the author provided, and my heart ached for David when he shared all the manic moments he endured his entire life. It was such a relief that he never gave up...not on himself, not on his therapist, not on his dream of getting a degree, and not on h The title (and cover) of the book drew my attention first, and of course...the thought of reading a memoir that included food, love and manic depression...how could one say no to that. I enjoyed the background and mini-intro to Portuguese culture that the author provided, and my heart ached for David when he shared all the manic moments he endured his entire life. It was such a relief that he never gave up...not on himself, not on his therapist, not on his dream of getting a degree, and not on his partner in life. The only reason I didn't give it four stars, and this could just be because I was reading an Advanced Readers copy, was the small number of photos included in the memoir. All the descriptions the author provided would have gone great with photos. Maybe in the finalized edition they will include those photos, here's hoping.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kelley Frengle

    Really enjoyed this memoir that is well-written, witty, comical, and entertaining. I enjoyed learning about his Portuguese family, food, and culture. Also enjoyed about reading about his journey to love and to his successful career. Most importantly, I appreciate that David brings the audience into how manic depression has impacted his life, helping to share understanding and appreciation for mental illness.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    If you're looking for a book that shares real, raw experiences about growing up, working, dating, coping and thriving as a gay person with a bipolar disorder, then you'll probably really like this one. I picked this book up totally at random from the bookstore because I love reading memoirs, and I'm very glad I got to read about someone's experiences that are different from my own. If you're looking for a book that shares real, raw experiences about growing up, working, dating, coping and thriving as a gay person with a bipolar disorder, then you'll probably really like this one. I picked this book up totally at random from the bookstore because I love reading memoirs, and I'm very glad I got to read about someone's experiences that are different from my own.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Katie Dillon

    (4.5) I adored this book. David Leite wrote about his mental illness and his struggle to come to terms with his sexuality in such a beautiful way. There was humor, tenderness and love present in this book. I can't recommend this book enough to those who love memoirs. (4.5) I adored this book. David Leite wrote about his mental illness and his struggle to come to terms with his sexuality in such a beautiful way. There was humor, tenderness and love present in this book. I can't recommend this book enough to those who love memoirs.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Riot

    Entertaining, funny, and so true to life about living with bipolar. I would give this more than five stars if I could.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kitt O'Malley

    Loved Leite's Self-Deprecating Memoir As a mental health advocate and bipolar blogger, I've read A LOT of writing by those of us living with mental illness -- with bipolar disorder in particular. What makes Leite's different and enjoyable is his incredible self-deprecating sense of humor. Humor can literally save your life. Don't underestimate it as a coping mechanism. Check out Chapter 33 for the psychiatric interview in which Leite was diagnosed bipolar II. I even published a blog post quoting Loved Leite's Self-Deprecating Memoir As a mental health advocate and bipolar blogger, I've read A LOT of writing by those of us living with mental illness -- with bipolar disorder in particular. What makes Leite's different and enjoyable is his incredible self-deprecating sense of humor. Humor can literally save your life. Don't underestimate it as a coping mechanism. Check out Chapter 33 for the psychiatric interview in which Leite was diagnosed bipolar II. I even published a blog post quoting it, I was so impressed. Even though I use the term bipolar disorder, I agree with Leite that manic depression is more accurate and descriptive of our experience.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    This audio was not quite what I expected, but by the end, I was sad it was over.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Megan Ramirez

    As someone who also deals with mental health, i could relate. It takes alot of courage to open up about your life to complete strangers, lots of laughs and tears, i enjoyed every second!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Bookman

    After the first 50 pages, I was starting to compose my review - "I love this book. The descriptions are so vivid, the situations so funny yet deep, and the situations so personal that it could only be a real story" and fully intending to give 5 stars. But, then David grew up and moved away from home and any/all other interesting or fully described people (outside of Alan). I fully admit that I am a sucker for childhood and generally more bored by the realities of adulthood in ANY story. But the After the first 50 pages, I was starting to compose my review - "I love this book. The descriptions are so vivid, the situations so funny yet deep, and the situations so personal that it could only be a real story" and fully intending to give 5 stars. But, then David grew up and moved away from home and any/all other interesting or fully described people (outside of Alan). I fully admit that I am a sucker for childhood and generally more bored by the realities of adulthood in ANY story. But the dramatic difference is what threw me. The middle part of the book is, by comparison to the first and last sections, so long. It drags. And not because every moment is described - in fact whole periods of time vanish and are glossed over (ex: jumping from broke and struggling to successful and rich with zero explanation). The pace did pick up again in the last section, and although it wasn't "amazing" in the same way as the start, it was at least well-written and thoughtful. The writing style was fine, the focus on themes was nice, and it was clearly thought out and logical to read. I just wish that the stories chosen for the central section of the book had been a little better curated and presented (some needed to be sped up/shorter, some needed more explanation, and some just needed to be cut, in my opinion). I also suppose I am a bit of a prude, but the fairly explicit chapters also bothered me. I couldn't care less that it was with other men, and I am in fact very glad that the LGBT aspect of mental health was included, and naturally rather than artificially, but I just dont enjoy reading the intimate details of anyone's sex life. In any context. So, big picture: - I thought that the "tough" issues (being gay, mental illness, etc) were highlights and were well-written. - The chapters from childhood, even when "ugly" were by far my favorites, particularly the descriptions of other people, who felt real and important. - I applaud the author for being real and honest and personal. - The writing style was easy to read (and I am often a critic here). - But, after the first section, the book was almost entirely about David, and the interesting and relevant other people seemingly disappeared. Nobody else was ever given descriptions or personality that made them feel alive. (I realize some of this IS the emotional point. But as a reader rather than a therapist or friend, it isn't very engaging.) - There was way too much sex for me. - And the book really dragged in the middle, particularly the first half of the middle section, and occasionally felt jumpy in between overly long stories.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Emily Hampton Haynes

    I think this is the best book I've read all year. It was especially powerful for me to read how long it took for Leite to get the diagnosis that fit him -- over 30 years. I'm so impressed by his will even as a child to fight for his life, for his brain. It's also a very sweet memoir about love, family, food, and acceptance. A fantastic read. I think this is the best book I've read all year. It was especially powerful for me to read how long it took for Leite to get the diagnosis that fit him -- over 30 years. I'm so impressed by his will even as a child to fight for his life, for his brain. It's also a very sweet memoir about love, family, food, and acceptance. A fantastic read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jeimy

    This was a good memoir, but I was expecting more based on the subtitle. I felt that the manic depression part of the memoir--which I was most interested in--is almost an afterthought . I would have described it as mental illness.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Vicky

    I was really enjoying this memoir, especially the depiction of an immigrant Portuguese family and neighbourhood. However, I lost interest once I found it too pretentious.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Listened on audio (hoopla) while walking in the mornings. I enjoyed all of this honest memoir, but especially loved the epilogue, which gave me chills.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    I just finished reading Notes on a Banana by David Leite. I have known David through several foods groups for many years. I have a copy of his cookbook , The New Portuguese Table (which I also love) and have seen glimpses of his personal life that he has shared on his Facebook page and on his Leite's Culinary page. David has always shared "The One", on a limited level with his readers. This book gave us the ability to really get to see and know David on a completely different level. The book is I just finished reading Notes on a Banana by David Leite. I have known David through several foods groups for many years. I have a copy of his cookbook , The New Portuguese Table (which I also love) and have seen glimpses of his personal life that he has shared on his Facebook page and on his Leite's Culinary page. David has always shared "The One", on a limited level with his readers. This book gave us the ability to really get to see and know David on a completely different level. The book is funny, poignant, sad at times, but through it all, the message of love and family triumphing over the greatest of odds, mental illness is there. You feel like you are inside of David's head, you can feel every emotion that he is experiencing, you feel his pain, his frustrations, his joy, and in my opinion his ultimate triumphs and joy at the life that he is now leading with Alan aka, The One. You can feel for his parents, and for David, at the shared frustrations of being a parent and not knowing how to help your child, as a child not knowing how to convey what you are experiencing,and yet no matter what happens, no matter how much families may experience levels of estrangement for various reasons, the message that love will get you through things if you can allow yourself to see it. I loved this book, I am so grateful that David shared his life with us. You can see the tremendous amount of pain and courage that it must have taken to write this book and leave yourself so open to strangers, in the hopes that if one person is feeling what you felt, that here is always hope and a light at the end of the tunnel if you are fortunate enough to find it. I laughed, I cried, as a mother I could relate to the notes on the banana, to the frustration of not knowing how to help your child, that sometimes, even love is not enough. I think everyone can find something in this book that will touch them - parenting, mental illness, homosexuality, love, family, caring, there is something in the book we can all relate to on some level. Bravo David for baring your soul the way you did. You are an amazing man, son, husband, friend, cook, blogger, and author. I am very proud to call you my friend even if we have never met in person. After all these years of sharing so many food experiences, I thought I knew you, I was wrong. After reading this, now, I can say I really know, love, and admire David Leite...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Janet Elsbach

    Two things I rarely do: read two books at once, and read a lot of memoir. So just recently I read two memoirs at once, not by design but just by accident of them coming from the library at the same time and my having to race (unsuccessfully, as it happened) their due dates, like two cartons of milk in the fridge. They are very different books but here they are together in one thought. Notes On A Banana is a big meal, lots of things eaten together, sauce spilling on the table cloth and kids runni Two things I rarely do: read two books at once, and read a lot of memoir. So just recently I read two memoirs at once, not by design but just by accident of them coming from the library at the same time and my having to race (unsuccessfully, as it happened) their due dates, like two cartons of milk in the fridge. They are very different books but here they are together in one thought. Notes On A Banana is a big meal, lots of things eaten together, sauce spilling on the table cloth and kids running through the sprinkler and it’s hot and you should probably have had more water or stopped after the second-to-last plate. Insomniac City is a cool glass of wine, some cheese, a few crackers and an olive, on the porch in the shade. This is the strength and challenge of both books, to me. Each style is very true to its author. Leite’s book made me scratch my head a bit—when did that happen? Before or after? But the lurchy, mixy-mashy chronology and missing facts and cacophony of tastes and characters and so forth are the story they are telling, just as the spare and thoughtful pace of Hayes’ book set the story up there. I sometimes wanted Leite to slow down, sort things out a bit. I sometimes needed a mental Tums. In Hayes’ case, I felt sometimes a little prurient, seeing jotted notes and intimate details from the life of someone (his lover, Oliver Sacks) who by all accounts (Hayes’ included) was scrupulously private. I wondered if we were doing the right thing, emptying his pockets this way. The parts more about Hayes and the city, its own character in the story, and the parts where Hayes just talks about his experience of being with his partner, were less complicated to read, for me, and had a lovely quality.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    I absolutely loved Notes on a Banana. I sensed a kindred spirit in David Leite - James Beard-award winning founder of the popular website, Leite's Culinaria - with every page. I didn't grow up Portuguese, but I had grandmothers who were incredible cooks and loved assembling family around the table to share in the delicious meals they created. That desire to immerse myself in good food and share it with the ones I love is what inspired me to become a baker. I, too, like David, loved acting as a ki I absolutely loved Notes on a Banana. I sensed a kindred spirit in David Leite - James Beard-award winning founder of the popular website, Leite's Culinaria - with every page. I didn't grow up Portuguese, but I had grandmothers who were incredible cooks and loved assembling family around the table to share in the delicious meals they created. That desire to immerse myself in good food and share it with the ones I love is what inspired me to become a baker. I, too, like David, loved acting as a kid - putting on my own performances in my bedroom, wondering about that day when I would one day be "discovered". This also translated for me into a college education built on fine arts - namely, acting and theatre - and I continue to be an actor in several Milwaukee-area community theatres today (sadly, professional theatre has eluded me). Also like David, I suffer from depression - though probably not to as manic a degree as he does. I understand the ups and downs, and those days when you just can't seem to drag yourself out of bed, or are too frightened to face what the day will bring. You can't pinpoint a reason for these feelings, hard as you try. I am also a gay man. I could identify with so many of David's thoughts and fears about coming out... and wondering if you will ever find your one true love in a community that all too often finds temporary solace in only one-night stands and shies from commitment. There was so much I could identify with in this book - I laughed, I cried, I savored every bit. The epilogue at the end truly had me teary-eyed. I'm so thankful to David Leite for so openly and honestly sharing his story with us.

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