An art historian and the author of biographies on Frida Kahlo and Arshile Gorky, among others, looks back on her freewheeling upbringing as the daughter of privileged, artistic, hard-drinking, bohemian parents, set against a backdrop of 1950s New York, Cape Cod, and Mexico.
... a story that gets to its essence not by sticking too long with any one episode, but by showing through a long series of short memories that a lifetime of well-meaning neglect can breed fear, uncertainty, and dissatisfaction in children ... Upper Bohemia can feel disjointed; at times it is a frustrating read because Herrera moves so quickly from one memory to another. Still, Herrera espouses a form that mirrors her upbringing. She doesn’t stick to any one thing for long because the narrative of her own life was one of constant interruptions.
Herrera’s clear, piercing language both manifests and foils the allure of the society her mother calls 'Upper Bohemia.' Herrera’s craft shines in her ability to write candidly about class and privilege in a memoir dedicated to childhood wonder.The book imparts a desire for belonging and parental affirmation; Herrera writes affectionate and at times scandalous portraits that preserve her younger self, her siblings, her parents, and her parents’ lovers, sometimes with images of their naked bodies. And yet, the romance she best preserves in this memoir is her relationship with Cape Cod, a pastoral setting of lost generational wealth and intense familiarity ... Herrera’s memoir engages in discussions of mental health, equality, and fulfillment without passing judgement on her subjects; a rare feat. A riveting story of necessary resilience.
Ms. Herrera’s account of her privileged but wanting upbringing by narcissistic parents, who each married five times, is both insightful and forgiving ... Ms. Herrera paints a particularly vivid portrait of her aloof mother, a restless beauty forever seeking excitement ... Upper Bohemia carefully chronicles the tolls of instability on a sensitive child...whose sense of recall borders on the uncanny ... Upper Bohemia captures an enchanted but erratic childhood in a rarefied milieu with the critical but appreciative eye of a seasoned art historian.