The Weight of Ghosts

The Weight of Ghosts is a lyrical memoir by an author struggling with the death of her older son and sifting through the details of her life.

The Weight of Ghosts is a circling of grief following the death of the author’s older son when he was twenty-one, a horror that was compounded by her younger son’s drug use, the country’s slow eruption as it dealt with its own brokenness, and reckoning the author had to do regarding her own story. The Weight of Ghosts is a lyrical reclaiming and an insistence by the author that she own the rights to her story, which is American flavored with an unreleasing elsewhere. The Weight of Ghosts is an immigrant story and a love story. While it is raw and honest and tragic, it is also a hopeful, funny, and original telling that demonstrates the strength of the human spirit, while offering a vocabulary for these most unmanageable human experiences.


“Equal parts devastating and life-affirming, Laila Halaby’s memoir offers wisdom and truth for everyone who has ever moved through a difficult time and shredded a skin to adapt. There are many layers to this story, all tied together by the clear, poetic language that is as musical as the birdsong that accompanies Halaby on her healing walks around Tucson. The Weight of Ghosts is a brave and remarkable achievement.”
—Alice Elliott Dark, author of Fellowship Point and In the Gloaming

“Beautiful and heartbreaking.”
—Randa Jarrar, author of Love Is An Ex-Country

A tile mosaic background in various shades of blue illustrate the ocean, with a protrusion resembling the bow of a boat emerging from the waves. "The Weight of Ghosts, a memoir by Laila Halaby" rests over the image.

Laila Halaby ( Author Website )

Publication Date: September 5, 2023

Genre/Imprint: Memoir, Red Hen Press

$17.95 Tradepaper

Shop: Red Hen, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble

ISBN: 9781636281346

Download the Press Kit Here

American Bastard

American Bastard is a lyrical inquiry into the experience of being a bastard in America. This memoir travels across literal continents—and continents of desire as Beatty finds her birthfather, a Canadian hockey player who’s won three Stanley Cups—and her birthmother, a working-class woman from Pittsburgh. This is not the whitewashed story, but the real story, where Beatty writes through complete erasure: loss of name and history, and a culture based on the currency of gratitude as expected payment from the adoptee. American Bastard sandblasts the exaltation of adoption in Western culture and the myth of the “chosen baby.” This journey into the relationship of place and body compels and unhinges, with the link between identity and blood history as its driving force. Beatty rescripts the order of things: the horizontal world of the birth table where babies are switched, the complex yard of the body where names and blood shift and revolt, and the actual story into the relationship of place and the insurrection of the body erased. Issues of class and struggle run throughout this book, this narrative river between blood and continents, between work and desire.


I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this one. I hadn’t known some live haunted by their own blood ghosts. It will be medicine for those wounded by their own births and illuminating for anyone who thought they understood notions of home and kin. It’s as if Beatty’s lived homesick for herself. American Bastard is as brutal and beautiful as Beatty’s poetry. A surgery of the self. Precise and invasive, exploratory and celebratory, debilitating and transformational.—Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street and A House of My Own: Stories from My Life

Jan Beatty’s American Bastard starts with a threat—with razorlike prose, she backs you up against the wall of your naïve assumptions. A monumental work of wild innovative storytelling, wholly original, American Bastard would be unbearable in its pain were it not rendered with such exquisite craft and beauty. As a reader, you’re either in or out; I suggest you stay in for one of the decade’s premier memoirs.—Sapphire, author of Push and The Kid

American Bastard dares and succeeds at reimaging and redefining memoir as a genre where stream of consciousness meets essay, meets magical realism, meets reportage, meets poetry to create an epic mosaic only possible through the literary genius of Jan Beatty. And as if that weren’t enough, an enthralling yet gracious exposé about adoption that confronts and educates us through a voice that is at times tender and broken, at times angry and fierce, but always unflinchingly honest with herself, the people in her life, and her readers.—Richard Blanco, author of The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Memoir

Old faded black and white photograph of a young kid holding a shot gun with red script over it that reads American Bastard a memoir by Jan Beatty.

Jan Beatty ( Author Website )

Publication Date: October 19, 2021

Genre/Imprint: Memoir, Red Hen Press

$15.95 Tradepaper

Shop: Red Hen, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble

ISBN: 9781597098786