Cullen has created a humorous and poignant chronicle of her travels around the country to discover how Americans -- baby boomers, in particular -- are reinventing the rites of dying. What she discovered is that the people who reinvented youth, redefined careers, and reconceived middle age have created a new attitude toward the afterlife. They no longer want to take death lying down; instead, they're taking their demise into their own hands and planning the after-party.
Cullen begins her journey at a national undertakers' convention in Nashville, where she checks out the latest in death merchandise. Traveling with her newborn infant on her back, she hears stories of modern-day funerals: lobster-shaped caskets and other unconventional containers for corpses; the booming cremation industry that has spawned a slew of "end-trepreneurs," including a company that turns cremated remains into diamonds; and even mishaps like dove releases gone horribly wrong.
Cullen tours the country's first "green" cemetery in South Carolina, meets a mummification advocate at his pyramid in Utah, and visits the Frozen Dead Guy Days festival in Colorado. She crashes a Hmong funeral in Minneapolis and a tango funeral in Washington, D.C.
Eye-opening, funny, and unforgettable, Remember Me gives an account of the ways in which Americans are designing new occasions to mark death -- by celebrating life.
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A New York–based staff writer for Time, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen was its Tokyo correspondent, as well as a writer for Money. A recipient of a fellowship from the International Reporting Project, she is a graduate of Columbia University's journalism school and a member of the Asian-American Journalists Association. Cullen was born and raised in Kobe, Japan. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and their daughter.From Publishers Weekly:
This intriguing survey of America's rapidly mutating funeral customs probes the one force mightier than death: consumerism. Journalist Cullen explores the innumerable ways in which funerals are being personalized, publicized, economized, commercialized, trivialized and, perhaps, humanized. Among the many offbeat memorials she unearths are funerals with Hawaiian, tango or Harley-Davidson themes, as well as beer-themed caskets, eco-friendly funerals, "human diamonds" manufactured from a loved one's ashes, and a Colorado town that celebrates a do-it-yourself cryonics pioneer with its Frozen Dead Guy Days Festival, now a major tourist attraction. In the middle of it all, she finds, is an uneasy funeral industry, squeezed at the bottom by cheap Chinese caskets and the vogue for no-frills cremation and challenged at the top by finicky boomer customers demanding more elaborate and symbol-laden rites (one poignant graveside dove-release attracted a passing hawk, with off-message results.) Cullen isn't much given to muckraking or dark pensées; "Death is a big, huge bummer" is as morbid as she gets. Her set-piece retrospectives on the guests of honor at unusual send-offs sometimes seem dully eulogistic. But for the most part her vivid reportage and wryly sympathetic tone feel anything but embalmed. (Aug.)
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