Notes on a Banana

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Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Manic Depression


The stunning and long-awaited memoir from the beloved founder of the James Beard Award-winning website Leite’s Culinaria—a candid, courageous, and at times laugh-out-loud funny story of family, food, mental illness, and sexual identity.

Born into a family of Azorean immigrants, David Leite grew up in the 1960s in a devoutly Catholic, blue-collar, food-crazed Portuguese home in Fall River, Massachusetts. A clever and determined dreamer with a vivid imagination and a flair for the dramatic, “Banana” as his mother endearingly called him, yearned to live in a middle-class house with a swinging kitchen door just like the ones on television, and fell in love with everything French, thanks to his Portuguese and French-Canadian godmother. But David also struggled with the emotional devastation of manic depression. Until he was diagnosed in his mid-thirties, David found relief from his wild mood swings in learning about food, watching Julia Child, and cooking for others.

Notes on a Banana is his heartfelt, unflinchingly honest, yet tender memoir of growing up, accepting himself, and turning his love of food into an award-winning career. Reminiscing about the people and events that shaped him, David looks back at the highs and lows of his life: from his rejection of being gay and his attempt to “turn straight” through Aesthetic Realism, a cult in downtown Manhattan, to becoming a writer, cookbook author, and web publisher, to his twenty-four-year relationship with Alan, known to millions of David’s readers as “The One,” which began with (what else?) food. Throughout the journey, David returns to his stoves and tables, and those of his family, as a way of grounding himself.

A blend of Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind, the food memoirs by Ruth Reichl, Anthony Bourdain, and Gabrielle Hamilton, and the character-rich storytelling of Augusten Burroughs, David Sedaris, and Jenny Lawson, Notes on a Banana is a feast that dazzles, delights, and, ultimately, heals.

Media Inquiries

Sharyn Rosenblum
Dey Street Books
Sharyn.Rosenblum [at] harpercollins [dot] com


  1. David,

    I knew nothing about you, Portugal, or manic depression. Saw your book in the “Staff Recommends” Section of my local library…The cover caught my eye, and I’ve spent the last three days enjoying your very candid book. Just finished it and then enjoyed your Christmas video with “The One!” I had never heard of the Azores Islands…Show Stopper!!!

    I send this quick note to simply say, well done and God Bless. I learned several things from your writing that will stay with me (some that will haunt me!). Just kidding, of course. Be well and have the happiest 2018!

    1. Jill, thank you for your very kind and lovely words. I’m honored you enjoyed the book. And I hope that you find here, on Leite’s Culinaria, many things that also interest you. Wishing you and yours a wonderful 2018!

  2. David,
    Just this minute I finished reading your memoir. Thank you so much for writing it. I have bipolar 1 generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD. I wasn’t diagnosed and treated until my mid-forties. Your childhood experiences definitely remind me of my childhood. Thank you for sharing about your struggles with your sexuality. I am a facilitator of a bipolar and depression support group a duty that I share with a couple of other peer facilitators. I really appreciate that you were very honest about everything in your book and I feel less alone having read it. And of course I love food so I have loved hearing about the way you feel and think about food.

    I wish I could sit down and have coffee with you.

    Kristen Wilson, Eugene Oregon

  3. David,

    “Notes on a Banana” was absolutely mind-blowing, in a good way … you had a story to tell and you told it magnificently. You are a gifted writer. While “An Unquiet Mind” was deep, “Banana” was, in my opinion, much more relatable (if that is indeed a word). Congratulations for having the guts, stamina, and talent to bring such a wonderful story to life. Please also give The One a thousand thank-yous for sticking with you, even when the pan was just a little too hot.

    1. Lizzie, I can’t thank you enough for your kind words. They mean so much to me. Once a book is out in the world, an author doesn’t always know its impact. It’s heartening to learn it affected you. And I will certainly pass on your comments to The One.

  4. Would you be able to divulge the names of the pink and white pills mentioned in your book and what medications finally helped you. I don’t know if there would be liability for you, and surely it would not be the right regimen for all with bipolar 2, but doing so might help some with bipolar 2 shorten their struggle to find medication that helps them function better. Doing so may also suggest a reasonable medication trial for psychopharmacologists to try with their patients. I have suffered with bipolar 2 since medical school, and I am now disabled at age 63 due to the disease. I am still unable to find the apparent correct medication or medication combination, having endured many medication side effects, repeatedly stopping my medications due to side effects, and even endured memory sapping shock therapy. I hope you will be able to tell what works for you. If you can’t release the information publicly, I hope you will email it to me.
    Thank you and stay well.

    1. Richard, sure, I can. But as you say, there is no right medication protocol for everyone. And I am in no way suggesting you take these; they just help me. (And not always…) The pink pill is Depakote, the white is Neurontin. It was Neurontin that really put me on the right track.

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