Bookmarks Issue: 
Rosanne Cash

A Memoir

A-ComposedIn addition to her twelve albums of music, Rosanne Cash has written a book of short stories, a children's book, and various essays. She is the daughter of country music legend Johnny Cash.

The Topic: Long ago, Rosanne Cash proved through her music that she had a voice distinct from her famous father's. But while he, too, tried his hand at writing books, such as Man in White, his daughter had initially thought of writing as her first career; she viewed the literary life as a way not only of expressing her feelings but also of escaping the chaos she observed in her parents' life when she was a child. Now, at age 55, she has achieved many of her musical and literary dreams, as well as becoming a mother, overcoming serious illness, and addressing her earlier challenges. Composed, though far from a tell-all, relates these stories and many more from Cash's life.
Viking. 256 pages. $26.95. ISBN: 9780670021963

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"[T]he author is a craftswoman, and in her memoir, as in her songs, she places more emphasis on emotional resonance than on filling in the blanks. ... [I]t's the author's weaving of history and experience with a deep sense of reflection, at once clear-eyed and nearly impressionistic, that makes Composed such a pleasure to read." Joan Anderman

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"Cash delivers writerly meditations on what it means to be an artist and a public person and, yes, a daughter. Rare is the celebrity memoir that is so full of self-awareness and dignity." Karen Valby

Miami Herald 4 of 5 Stars
" Cash's Composed has higher aspirations; it's more a loving, reflective portrait than tawdry tell-all. ... Cash has conjured a carefully honed celebrity document that elevates the craft." Howard Cohen

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"Rosanne Cash is a brilliant singer and songwriter who at 55 has come back to the top of her game after brain surgery and a knee-buckling series of family tragedies. She's also a talented writer who's published a book of short stories and taught classes in the creative process, skills that serve her well in Composed, an episodic memoir that breaks her life down into impressionistic stories." Jeff Baker

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Rosanne Cash isn't just a writer and performer of songs, she's a writer, period." Jonathan Yardley

Chicago Sun-Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Here she finds the beginnings of her voice as a memoirist, a literal voice that is perhaps a little too composed. ... Cash offers a series of musings in which she sheds light on universal life experiences: love, loss, loneliness, motherhood and health challenges." Mary Houlihan

Minneapolis Star Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"At times, she is wonderfully revealing and brilliantly insightful, with vivid, poetic descriptions of what was going on in her mind. ... Elsewhere, however, Cash dismisses key elements of her life with less probing than Entertainment Tonight." Jon Bream

New York Times 3 of 5 Stars
"I did not find Composed to be the most arresting book in the world. Ms. Cash's memoirs are clearly a work in progress, however. ... If her writing career is going to unfold like her musical one, I suspect she's only beginning to find her voice." Dwight Garner

Critical Summary

The title of Rosanne Cash's memoir is apt: the majority of critics praised her for avoiding the tell-all, tabloid style of the average celebrity memoir, and several highlighted her elegant prose. Others, while noting those virtues, also felt that the book was a little too restrained and literary for their tastes. However, these criticisms indicate the level at which Cash's composition was being judged--not as a celebrity autobiography but as a genuine (if imperfect) contribution to the memoir genre. "Whether she pens prose or songs," wrote the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Cash is a wordsmith of uncommon emotional depth."