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September 15, 2018

My Own Devices by Dessa ~ a Review

by MK French

Dessa is a hip-hop singer/songwriter with solo performances as well as through the group Doomtree. I had first heard of her through the song "Call Off Your Ghost" that was featured on the podcast Welcome To Night Vale. It's a song that grabbed me immediately with it's emotion and her singing. I looked up the rest of her discography at the time, which I enjoyed just as much. It's an eclectic mix of rap and hip-hop rhythms with some classical allusions along with the everyday elements of heartbreak, sadness and trying to relate to others.
Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

My Own Devices
September 2018; Dutton; 978-1524742294
audio, ebook, print (272 pages); memoir
This memoir is a collection of essays as eclectic as her music and just as poignant. The essays chronicle her life on the road, and it's an interesting look at how the club circuit actually works, as well as an introduction to the lingo used. Her life has played out in a zigzag of ways: valedictorian of an IB program in Minneapolis, a Bachelor's in philosophy, and getting consumed by her artistry and the relationships around her. We see glimpses of her parents, step-parents and her younger brother, as well as famous names that she interacted with. Her relationship with her ex, in particular, is one that consumed her, the two orbiting each other for years out of love but difficulty maintaining a long-term and mutually healthy relationship. It's a relationship that readers may be able to identify with, and one that she tries to excise with neurofeedback in the final essay of the memoir. She worried that it would lessen the impact of her music or her ability to create her art. There's a new album out, and it hits me emotionally just as much as her earlier work. Dessa really didn't have to worry on that front!

I don't usually look into the private lives of celebrities or artists, feeling like it should be exactly that: private. What we see on stage isn't necessarily what goes on behind the scenes, after all, but for Dessa, it's one and the same. She exposes a lot of her life through poetry, spoken word, and her music. Reading this memoir actually gives me more context to her music; I wound up going back to watch the videos and listen to the lyrics again, and I have more of an appreciation for the process and the emotion that fuels them.

It's an open secret who her ex is, though I didn't try to go back to figure out who it is. That wasn't important for the context of these essays. I was more impressed by the fact that she creates math problems when bored or stuck on the road, that she can equate the beauty of the integral sign with the f-hole of a violin, and that she would make the comparison in the first place. She and her family are all creative individuals in their own ways, and I can see how it all culminated in her own eclectic interests. This was a fascinating look into her life and music, and I enjoyed every page of it.

Buy My Own Devices at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever. 

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