Priscilla Gilman

Beautiful: honest, raw, careful, soulful, brave and incredibly readable.”

Nick Hornby
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The Critic's Daughter

a memoir

The Critic’s Daughter was a Washington Post Best Book of 2023, a New York Times Book Critics’ Favorite Book of 2023, a Good Morning America Must-Read for February 2023, one of the Los Angeles Times’ book critic and Book Maven Bethanne Patrick’s Top 10 Non-Fiction Books of 2023, one of the 18 Books Lilith magazine Loved in 2023,” and 3rd on Bookreporters Harvey Freedenburg’s Favorite Books of 2023.

An exquisitely rendered portrait of a unique father-daughter relationship and a moving memoir of family and identity.

Growing up on the Upper West Side of New York City in the 1970s, in an apartment filled with dazzling literary and artistic characters, Priscilla Gilman worshiped her brilliant, adoring, and mercurial father, the writer, theater critic, and Yale School of Drama professor Richard Gilman. But when Priscilla was ten years old, her mother, renowned literary agent Lynn Nesbit, abruptly announced that she was ending the marriage. The resulting cascade of disturbing revelations — about her parents’ hollow marriage, her father’s double life and tortured sexual identity — fundamentally changed Priscilla’s perception of her father, as she attempted to protect him from the depression that had long shadowed him.

A wrenching story about what it means to be the daughter of a demanding parent, a revelatory window onto the impact of divorce, and a searching reflection on the nature of art and criticism, The Critic’s Daughter is an unflinching account of loss and grief — and a radiant testament of forgiveness and love.

Praise for The Critic's Daughter

This revealing and clearly heartfelt memoir — a love letter to her father that doesn’t obscure the difficult and frustrating aspects of their relationship — works precisely because Gilman delivers a detailed portrait of her father, proverbial warts and all … She certainly provides the rest of us with a daughter’s thoughtful and empathetic profile of her dad.”

Daneet Steffens, The Boston Globe

A penetrating, plangent memoir, electric with emotional urgency and alive with self-awareness… Gilman has the gumption to look at her father, her mother and herself with clarity and without apology. She wonders if she can make radical honesty an act of love.’ Her efforts are brave, and bracing.”

Nneka McGuire, Wall Street Journal

Gilman writes with resplendent clarity, meticulous candor, and incandescent love forged in the fire of extraordinarily demanding family dynamics… Gilman incisively charts her remarkable father’s intense ups-and-downs and lucidly analyzes her own struggles in a richly involving chronicle gracefully laced with literary allusions, compassion, and wisdom.”

Booklist, starred review

Loss, grief, criticism, and love mix and mingle in this moving, literary memoir, one of the best father/​daughter memoirs around.”

Zibby Owens, Good Morning America

Richard Gilman actually was a great writer…But by turning away from his kind of declarative claims, Priscilla paints a richer, more vital portrait than I think Gilman probably could have painted of himself.…She has resurrected him. In the end, The Critic’s Daughter” is about the complex love between a parent and a child. It’s not just a book for literary gossips…Most people didn’t have celebrity book-critic parents. But to every child, every parent is, at some point, a titan — their first god, like Gilman was to his daughter.…The memoir genre …pumps out innumerable rote tales of becoming, of breaking free, of learning to direct” one’s own life. It offers few stories of being and remaining entangled, though much of life, really, consists of the latter. The Critic’s Daughter” is an account of a love that’s neither takeoff strip nor landing pad, a child’s confounding adoration for her parent that’s neither ever really resolved nor extinguished.”

Eve Fairbanks, The Washington Post

In capturing the essence of its challenging subject, THE CRITIC’S DAUGHTER is a rare combination of honesty, warmheartedness and exquisite writing… Richard Gilman would be proud of the eloquence and grace with which she has done it.”

Harvey Freedenberg, Bookreporter

With bracing honesty, The Critic’s Daughter, Priscilla Gilman’s perspicacious memoir, unmasks the privilege and the burden of her beloved father’s life and his literary legacy… The Critic’s Daughter spotlights an era of formidable criticism accomplished with conscious clarity. It’s a reminder that criticism is a necessary art form. But the book is even more than that… Gilman’s skills as a memoirist, playwright, poet, critic, dramaturge, and family historian set a high bar.”

Yvonne Conza, BOMB Magazine

Priscilla Gilman tells a fascinating story about her dynamic parents and the literary world that they inhabited… While The Critic’s Daughter concerns itself with her parents’ marriage and its aftermath, it’s very much a book about the way one develops and nurtures a fascination with the arts through enthusiasm, criticism, and commerce.”

Lauren LeBlanc, LitHub

Captivating and heartfelt…Gilman’s reflections on her father’s work, as well as her own struggles with identity, are both heartbreaking and inspiring…The Critic’s Daughter is an honest and moving exploration of family, identity, and the human experience. It is a must-read for anyone looking for an intimate and honest look into the life of a literary family.”

The EU Times

Gilman delightfully weaves the television shows, plays, and movies of her childhood into the story… While the questions raised about the nature and value of criticism are worthwhile, the heart of this memoir is the unusually powerful, fraught, and enduring father-daughter relationship. Gilman creates an emotional map of the catastrophic disruption of divorce and the devotion of a child for her parent despite his failings.”

Jane Constanineau, New York Journal of Books

Passionate, resonant, and beautifully written…evokes both a uniquely brilliant and troubled man and the poignantly relatable essence of the father-daughter connection.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The Critic’s Daughter is an exquisite love song, a riveting story, a book for our time. Any daughter with a father, anyone who has been part of a family, anyone who has struggled with loving, anyone interested in literary criticism, or the theater, or life, this is a book for you.”

Andre Gregory, theater director, writer, and star of My Dinner With Andre

The Critics’ Daughter is first and foremost a very touching love story about a father, a daughter, and their unbreakable bond. Priscilla Gilman writes with eloquence and absolute candor of her late father Richard Gilman, the esteemed, brilliant, but deeply troubled drama and literary critic. Her attempt to understand their complicated emotional history will particularly appeal to readers puzzling over their own family relationships, which may well be all of us. An unforgettable read, The Critics’ Daughter is as entertaining as it is moving.”

James Lapine, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright

The Critic’s Daughter is an exquisite and rare example of how the memoir needs as much inventiveness in scope and form as our most lush fiction and poetry. Priscilla Gilman writes sentences I never see coming, and those sentences splinter into a textured model of how to write about — and through — art, perpetual discovery and parenting. I’ve read few books in my life as skillfully executed and willfully conceived as The Critic’s Daughter. This should not work. But my goodness, it just does.”

Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

The Critic’s Daughter holds so many joys in store for you: The joy of disappearing into a finely crafted world — in this case, of Gilman’s mind, heart, and personal history. The joy of encountering a text sprinkled with insights, like so many pearls. But most of all, the joy of basking in Priscilla Gilman’s capacious love — for her father, for her family, and for you, her reader.”

Susan Cain, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Bittersweet and Quiet

The daughter of an unsparing critic, Priscilla Gilman has written a book her father would have deeply admired: a tender, unflinching memoir that is also a searching reflection on the relationship between criticism and love. The father she lost is vividly captured in this moving, gracefully written, bracingly honest book.”

Eyal Press, author of Dirty Work, Beautiful Souls, and Absolute Convictions

A brilliant, gorgeous, miracle of a book.”

Will Schwalbe, author of The End Of Your Life Book Club and We Should Not Be Friends

Beautiful: honest, raw, careful, soulful, brave and incredibly readable.”

Nick Hornby

Poignant… Bibliophiles will enjoy the literary cameos (Joan Didion, Toni Morrison) and reflections on literature, but Gilman’s wrenching recollections of marital, and familial, dissolution are near-universal. This is an eye-opening testament to the lasting wounds of divorce.”

Publishers Weekly

Rich, well-written memoir about flawed relationships and the lasting trauma of divorce.”

Library Journal

Priscilla Gilman is the author of the memoir, The Anti-Romantic Child, and a former professor of English literature at Yale University and Vassar College. The Anti-Romantic Child received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist, was selected as one the Best Books of 2011 by the Leonard Lopate Show and The Chicago Tribune, and was one of five nominees for a Books for a Better Life Award for Best First Book. Gilman’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, O, the Oprah Magazine, and elsewhere. She lives in New York City.