First Love: Essays on Friendship (Hardcover)

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A “vivid, thoughtful and nuanced collection of essays” (Associated Press) that treats women’s friendships as the love stories they truly are, from the critically acclaimed author of Negative Space

“A tender, unswerving homage to her found family, but also an insightful study of friendship as identity-crafting.”—Elle

Lilly Dancyger always thought of her closest friendships as great loves, complex and profound as any romance. When her beloved cousin was murdered just as both girls were entering adulthood, Dancyger’s devotion to the women in her life took on a new urgency—a desire to hold her friends close while she still could. In First Love, this urgency runs through a striking exploration of the bonds between women, from the intensity of adolescent best friendship and fluid sexuality to mothering and chosen family.

Each essay in this incisive collection is grounded in a close female friendship in Dancyger’s life, reaching outward to dissect cultural assumptions about identity and desire, and the many ways women create space for each other in a world that wants us small. Seamlessly weaving personal experience with literature and pop culture—ranging from fairy tales to true crime, from Anaïs Nin and Sylvia Plath to Heavenly Creatures and the “sad girls” of Tumblr—Dancyger’s essays form a kaleidoscopic story of a life told through friendships, and an expansive interrogation of what it means to love each other.

Though friendship will never be enough to keep us safe from the dangers of the world, Dancyger reminds us that love is always worth the risk, and that when tragedy strikes, it’s our friends who will help us survive. In First Love, these essential bonds get their due.

About the Author

Lilly Dancyger is the author of the memoir Negative Space, selected by Carmen Maria Machado as a winner of the Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Awards, and the editor of Burn It Down, a critically acclaimed anthology of essays on women’s anger. Dancyger’s writing has been published by Guernica, Literary Hub, The Rumpus, Longreads, The Washington Post, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and others. She lives in New York City and is a 2023 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow in nonfiction from The New York Foundation for the Arts.

Praise For…

“From childhood to adolescence and on to adulthood, [Dancyger’s] intense bonds with other women, based on commonalities as varied as kinship, substance abuse or caregiving, place these essays integrating personal experience and cultural allusions alongside Leslie Jamison’s work.”The Los Angeles Times

“The collection stands out not just for its elegant, unadorned writing but also for the way she effortlessly pivots between personal history and spot-on cultural criticism.”Associated Press

“A tender, unswerving homage to [Dancyger’s] found family, but also an insightful study of friendship as identity-crafting, a way of assembling tools to compose (and improve) a self.”Elle
“Early in First Love: Essays on Friendship, Lilly Dancyger writes about her fire escape [. . .], a perfect metaphor for the refuge found in friendship, for the ways we hold and make space for one another, and this book is an extension of that: a hand to squeeze, a shoulder to lean on.”The Millions

“What if our first and deepest female friendships were the real love stories? Lilly Dancyger holds open the possibility that female friendships are their own ontology, an extended flash, a magical space of being where anything is possible. It’s a dazzling array of essays.”—Lidia Yuknavitch, Literary Hub

“First Love is like a paper fortune teller as essay collection, but for looking into Dancyger’s past instead of her future. Her life folds and refolds in each of these essays, revealing more as she goes in unexpected flashes, and she makes it look easy as she does it. . . . A heartbreaking, funny, wise companion.”—Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

First Love is bracing in its honesty and verve, and is as heady and intoxicating as the relationships it details. It’s an astonishing work, one that made me laugh and cry and feel grateful and nostalgic for my own friendships across the eras of my life.”—Chloé Cooper Jones, author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist Easy Beauty

“This book is a goddamn marvel of a mixtape—a fervent, generous compilation of love songs brought together so that the whole is even more meaningful than its parts. First Love is poignant, ferociously smart, and unflinchingly honest.”—CJ Hauser, author of The Crane Wife

“Reading Lilly Dancyger’s First Love, I felt immediately returned to first loves of my own—late night phone calls and sardine-sleeping-bag sleepovers, falling asleep to the sound a friend’s voice saying, Are you still awake? Dancyger understands the urgency and entanglement of these early intimacies.”—Leslie Jamison, New York Times bestselling author of The Empathy Exams

“In these essays, love is inextricably bound with pain, a duality the author renders with a lyrical and affecting rawness. Cathartic and intense, this leaves a mark.”Publishers Weekly
Product Details
ISBN: 9780593447574
ISBN-10: 0593447573
Publisher: The Dial Press
Publication Date: May 7th, 2024
Pages: 224
Language: English