W.W. Norton & Company
Hardcover, May 15, 2018
129 pages

Joshua Mensch’s devastating lyric memoir, BECAUSE, explores with extraordinary literary power and sophistication the toxic power of adults who prey on the children in their care. Its story begins when Mensch is ten years old and first meets Don, the charming director of a youth wilderness camp and a lifelong friend of his parents. What follows is a harrowing account of sexual and psychological abuse, told from the evolving perspective of a child entering adolescence. BECAUSE unfolds through a series of precise, jewel-like scenes that render the shifting and uncertain landscapes of childhood memory with vividness and precision. Its swift, convincing music, propelled by the powerful litany of the word “because,” builds a heartbreaking tale of genuine power whose characters are as complex and fully realized as those in a novel. An unflinching take on the vulnerabilities and dangers of childhood, BECAUSE succumbs neither to self-pity nor platitudes, but instead finds consolation in the healing power of its own narrative act.

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“[Because] is a memoir in flawless verse, and a masterpiece … Joshua Mensch has produced a small but monumental classic. … Let his audience be immense, from people who have no experience with exploitation, to guilty bystanders and institutional enablers in schools, camps, churches and elsewhere, to victims still trying to recover from what they were forced to endure. Because is a triumph. Let it be a bestseller for years to come. Let it be part of the permanent literary canon.” Barbara Berman writing in The Rumpus

“[Because] is a rare and remarkable text. Although it deals unswervingly with abuse, violations of trust and the deeply damaging effect of both of these, it is also literary, powerful and consoling … A deeply achieved record of human truth, earned at cost and beautifully expressed.” Eavan Boland

“This book tore me apart: it is riveting, beautiful, and quietly devastating. Mensch is a gifted and unflinching poet, and he has one hell of a story to tell.” Patrick Phillips, author of Blood at the Root and Elegy for a Broken Machine

“Unrelentingly obsessive … an achievement of sustained attention and imagination.” Michael Collier, author of Dark Wild Realm

“[A] disturbing, memorably and superbly handled book-length narrative poem … [Mensch] has an ear, he’s thoughtful, he’s subtle where subtle makes sense.” Stephanie Burt, author of The Poem Is You

“It in no way diminishes the power of physical wounds to recognize that psychic wounding represents its own palpable trauma, increased perhaps because the individual life of such pain is invisible and because the public knowledge of such pain too often exists in silence. “Because,” in fact, is the word in Joshua Mensch’s “lyric memoir,” an extended meditation on and examination of childhood sexual abuse. This deeply personal and profound poem may be the work of memory but its force is built from within our moment ― a force enhanced through a structure of anaphora and a percussive length of line that insists on being heard.” Stanley Plumly, author of Against Sunset