Who Do You Think You Are?

A Memoir by Alyse Myers

Now in paperback!
Photograph of Who Do You Think You Are?
Leslie Cauley in USA Today

"Mother-daughter relationships can be exquisitely complicated, some more than others. That's the message of Who Do You Think You Are?, a chilling and bittersweet debut by Alyse Myers. Now an executive with The New York Times, Myers was raised in a Queens housing project by two deeply flawed parents. As told by Myers, her mother was iron-fisted and vindictive, singling out her eldest daughter—Alyse—for the worst of her sadistic tirades. She also was incensed by Alyse's quest to make a better life for herself, a running conflict from which the title springs. Reconciliation isn't sweet in this absorbing tale of love and forgiveness, but it does eventually arrive." more...

The New York Times Book Review

"In the tradition of Mommie Dearest, which recounted a terrorized daughter’s childhood and escape from the brutal Joan Crawford, Who Do You Think You Are? is the moving story of Alyse Myers’s struggle with a cruel if far less glamorous mother, and of the author’s fight to break free...What emerges from the single-layered narration is a touching, even tender, record of her thorny mother’s difficult life raising three girls alone with few resources." more...

—Jennifer Gilmore, author of "Golden Country"
Library Journal
Starred review

"Verdict: Myers provides a moving lesson: we attach to our mothers when we’re young, reject them as young adults, and, hopefully, as Myers does, come to a place where we can identify with them and view them with empathy. This journey has universal resonance for myriad readers. Background: Vice president of brand programs for the New York Times, Myers, her two younger sisters, and their mother grew up in a Queens, NY, housing project in the 1960s and 1970s, Myers’s beloved father having passed away when she was 11. The backdrop of near-poverty and want informs every relationship in the family, but particularly that of Myers and her mother, who constantly berates the young Myers for wanting more out of her life than she had: a failed marriage, widowhood, single motherhood, and a series of low-paying jobs. Myers’s mother is emotionally and physically abusive as well, humiliating her when she tries to confide. The author, however, overcomes her background, obtaining a job at the venerable Times and starting her own family."

—Elizabeth Brinkley, Granite Falls, WA
Terry Teachout at Commentary.com

"One of the many sins for which the baby boomers must someday answer is the extent to which their chronic self-absorption has devalued the memoir as a literary genre. Fortunately, it is still possible to write a good book about an unhappy childhood, and Alyse Myers has done just that with Who Do You Think You Are? (Touchstone, 250 pp., $24)...The art of a memoir is in the telling, not what is told, and the unselfconscious simplicity with which Myers tells her tale conceals no small amount of artfulness." more...

Mya Guarnieri in The Jerusalem Post

"Ultimately, Myers's rediscovery of her mother is what makes the end so profound. Just when the two women are coming together, Myers's mother falls ill. She is on her death bed when it strikes Myers, "And then I realized I didn't want her to die. That I wanted her to live. And that I wanted to start all over." more...

Mary Bruni in The Daily Star, Oneonta, N.Y.

"Right after Alyse Myers' mother dies, she and her sisters clean out their mother's apartment. It was hard trying to decide what to keep, what to discard. Alyse wants just one thing, the wooden box that sits on a shelf in the back of a closet. She has coveted this box her whole life, never knowing what it contained, but sure that it would change her life. Who Do You Think You Are? is a memoir of mother and daughter. You'll also learn what was in the box." more...

Bill Goldstein
Appearing on WNBC-TV's "The Reading Section"

"[Who Do You Think You Are] is a memoir by Alyse Myers...It is a fascinating book. Alyse starts off by saying she didn't like or love her mother—and that her mother didn't really like her, either. Alyse holds nothing back while writing about a very difficult relationship with her mother. Alyse tries to understand her mother, who died many years ago of cancer, and does so from a great distance. Alyse writes that it wasn't until she had her own daughter that she and her mother started to have something in common. But by then it was too late. Even though this is a very brutal book, in a lot of ways, Alyse has a wonderful eye for detail. Alyse works on the business side but has a great reporter's eye. [The book] is uplifting because ultimately it is about Alyse's relationship with her daughter and her desire not to make the same mistakes as her own mother. [The book] is about love."

Tom Beer at Newsday.com

"Alyse Myers, a vice president for branding at The New York Times, certainly hasn't written a warm, fuzzy Mother's Day book. It opens: "I didn't like my mother, and I certainly didn't love her." Myers recalls a childhood in the working-class Queens of the 1960s and the combative relationship she had with her unhappy, chain-smoking mom—who did, paradoxically, teach Myers some important life lessons."

"Here's a book so honest it won't let you off the hook. You may not realize it during the early pages but it's a book about love. Indeed, it's a story where love is redefined, and even though it traces the sometimes unbearable relationship of mother and daughter, there are insights here for all of us. And — the writing is masterly: taut, honest and strangely satisfying."

— Frank McCourt, Pulitzer Prize winning author of
Angela's Ashes, 'Tis and Teacher Man

"Alyse Myers candidly illuminates how challenging it sometimes is to love those closest to us, but how necessary it is to love them, if only so that we may know what love is."

— Esmeralda Santiago, author of When I Was Puerto Rican,
Almost A Woman
and The Turkish Lover

"A compelling read . . . Popular memoirs are peopled now with sadists and victims, but Alyse Myers has put real people in her story. She's written a wonderful book. Completely genuine, and yet artfully done."

— Benjamin Cheever, author of Selling Ben Cheever, The Plagiarist,
The Partisan, Famous After Death, The Good Nanny
and Strides: Running Through History
with an Unlikely Athlete

"I am not often drawn to stories about the relationship between mothers and daughters, but the honesty and depth of feeling in WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE pulled me in from the first page. Alyse Myers tells the story of her difficult upbringing without decoration or hype, and with a straightforward prose that brings forth both the pain of her early life, and the transcendance of that pain as she becomes an adult. At its heart, the book is an unblinking exploration of the complexities of domestic love: from infidelity and parental cruelty to the love of a supportive spouse and a careful parent; from viciousness to tenderness, with a good measure of forgiveness blended in. By the end, I felt like I'd been listening to a friend who could not lie, talking about a life she could not escape, and showing me all the wisdom she'd gained in the process of making the trip from despair to peace."

— Roland Merullo, author of Golfing With God, and
Breakfast With Buddha