As a long time Doomtree fan, I’ve been excited about Dessa’s book for quite a while. But My Own Devices does not require previous knowledge of her music career. Even anticipating this book, I was floored by how good it is. Dessa tells the story of love that won’t quit even when you want it to, artistic passion, and family with grace and humor. She writes sentences that stun, and the cumulative impact of each essay builds to a crescendo in the moving “Call Off Your Ghost.” Here Dessa flexes her love of science and explains the brain and its processes in relatable prose, finally begging the question: can you make yourself fall out of love? She gives it a shot through the use of neurofeedback. One of the best essay collections I’ve read in a long time—Dessa belongs on your shelf.
“I love the way Dessa puts words together. In her songs, in her poetry, in her short stories, and now in this beautiful and candid memoir. Wanna be an artist? Get this book.” --Lin-Manuel Miranda
"Dessa writes beautifully about a wide range of topics, including science, music, and the pain that comes with being in love; it's a surprising and generous memoir by a singular voice." --NPR, Best Books of 2018
Dessa defies category--she is an intellectual with an international rap career and an inhaler in her backpack; a creative writer fascinated by philosophy and behavioral science; and a funny, charismatic performer dogged by blue moods and heartache. She's ferocious on stage and endearingly neurotic in the tour van. Her stunning literary debut memoir stitches together poignant insights on love, science, and language--a demonstration of just how far the mind can travel while the body is on a six-hour ride to the next gig.
In "The Fool That Bets Against Me," Dessa writes to Geico to request a commercial insurance policy for the broken heart that's helped her write so many sad songs. "A Ringing in the Ears" tells the story of her father building a wooden airplane in their backyard garage. In "'Congratulations,'" she describes the challenge of recording a song for The Hamilton Mixtape in a Minneapolis basement, straining for a high note and hoping for a break. "Call Off Your Ghost" chronicles the fascinating project she undertook with a team of neuroscientists to try to clinically excise romantic feelings for an old flame. Her writing is infused with scientific research, dry wit, a philosophical perspective, and an abiding tenderness for the people she tours with and the people she leaves behind to be on the road.
My Own Devices is an uncompromising and candid account of a life in motion, in music, and in love. Dessa is as compelling on the page as she is onstage, making My Own Devices the debut of a unique and deft literary voice.
About the Author
Dessa is a rapper, a singer, an essayist, and a proud member of the Doomtree hip-hop crew. She's performed around the world at opera houses and rock clubs and while standing on barroom tables. She's landed on the Billboard Top 200 Albums list as a solo artist (Parts of Speech, Chime), as a Doomtree member (All Hands), and as a contributor to The Hamilton Mixtape. As a writer, she's contributed to the New York Times Magazine, Minnesota Public Radio, the Star Tribune (Minneapolis), Minnesota Monthly, literary journals across the country, and has published two short collections of poetry and essays. She now splits her time between Manhattan, Minneapolis, and a tour van cruising at six miles per hour above the posted limit.
Praise for My Own Devices
“[Dessa is] a natural at the written word. There's not an essay in My Own Devices that's less than fascinating… [My Own Devices] is funny, heartbreaking and brilliantly written, and very possibly the best memoir by a musician since Patti Smith's Just Kids.” —Star Tribune
“Dessa has captured the punishing beauty of untenable love and touring, states of being that both require a stubborn, romantic heart.”—Tegan and Sara
“Dessa’s words are an articulation of the universal.”—MN Daily
“In a witty, well-researched collection of essays, the multidisciplinary creator delves into heartache, philosophy, and science from an artistic perspective.” —The Austin Chronicle
“I’m not exaggerating when I say Dessa’s words will change your life.”—HelloGiggles
“My Own Devices is filled with… not just wit, candor and intelligence, but also the depth normally associated with longer works.” —amNewYork
“Well-written and full of art and science, a really enjoyable read.” —Angela Moon, Publisher's Weekly
“My Own Devices is more universal than most performer bios and more lyrical than many celebrity essay collections, as sharp and witty as the best magazine pieces.” —Shelf Awareness
“As with any good memoir, Dessa’s writing mingles the specific and the universal.”—City Pages
“I found myself laughing with almost every page, often because the writing was funny, but even more often out of sheer delight at someone using the English language so audaciously well. Dessa has an essayist’s eye and a rapper’s virtuosity, and she’s going to conquer the world.”—Joseph Fink, author of Welcome to Night Valeand Alice Isn't Dead
“Dessa is a master of putting words to our feelings, even the ones that are hardest to pinpoint. This book is her deftest work: an articulation of the feelings that haunt so many of us: the thrill of pursuing everything you want, the terror of realizing you’re racing against an invisible clock, and the ache of loving a person you probably shouldn’t. I read it cover to cover—twice—and dogeared so many pages it would be easier to find the pages I *hadn’t* marked. A beautiful book.”—Nora McInerny, Author and host,Terrible, Thanks for Asking
“Dessa has consistently transcended conventional stereotyping, and her writing should command interest even from readers who know nothing of her work with the Doomtree collective and her solo releases.”