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. 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.

  2. Dear Mr Leite, I just finished your incredible memoir. I couldn’t put it down- not only was your story interesting and engaging, you also write so very beautifully. I believe your book will help, in some way or another, all who read it. Thank you –Allison

    1. allison, thank you so much for your kind message. I’m pleased you enjoyed the book, and I, too, hope it will help others–especially those who can’t put words to what they’re feeling and experiencing.

  3. I haven’t read your book but I am ready to quit trying. I have tried so many medications to help just balance out this craziness. I took some kind of gensight test and was very hopeful it would help find a medication, but the med they gave me had horrible side effects and they told me to try half a pill and it was the same.

    I don’t want to be here anymore. I’m tired of this. After being successful my entire life, in 2008 my doctors told me I would never work again and told me to go on disability. Somewhere I signed a paper letting them talk to my employer. The doctors told them I couldn’t work, and I lost my job 90 days later. They gave my now exwife a lawyers name and she did all the footwork to get me on disability.

    She then took my 401k and savings…had everything put in her name and then left me a few years after a new doctor said she was he problem. She was 10 years older than me. Had found me when I was 14 and she was 25. The new doctors now called me a victim.

    I live alone in a 759 square ft apartment and see my youngest son 2.5 days a week. There are days I feel like I could take on the world and days like this week where I just don’t want to exist.

    The only thing keeping me here is my son. I lost my father and was blamed for his death when I was 11. My son is 14. I couldn’t do that to him.

    I get enough money from disability to survive for 2 weeks out of the month. I then have to ask my family for money or miraculously find a small side job or open a new credit card.

    I can’t live like this anymore. It is hell. I’m tired of the rollercoaster. I see a therapist once a week but I don’t know how much good it is doing.

    My other 4 kids won’t even speak to me. I don’t know what my exwife told them.

    I’m glad you were successful in finding what works. I wish I could.

    1. Joe, Just happen to stumble across this article and plan to buy David book. Please Please know you are not alone. I suffer from major depression and have for over twenty years, I have tried many different medication combo with no promising results. I am currently at a very low point in my life. Every day it gets harder and harder to keep trying to go on. I was raised a very devout Catholic, and I even question if there ever was really a GOD because if so why would he allow me to suffer so much I live in a rural area so getting proper medical help is hard not to mention therapists put you on a waiting list. I really not have any answers for you just wanted you to know your not alone.

      1. Lori, I am so sorry to hear you’re not feeling well. But I do, in my heart, believe that knowing we’re not alone, that there are others out there who understand what we’re going through makes a difference. Or it does for me. I feel less alone, less like a freak, less hopeless. I wish you well. Stay strong.

    2. Joe: Don’t give up yet I know I’m not a shrink I too have suffered with bi-polar manic depression since my nervous breakdown at 30. I’ve got a wonderful husband, 3 lovely girls, 13 grandchildren and 3 great grand children. Everything to live for.. but there have been times I’ve said the same thing your saying today. You ready to quit trying. Yup, your mind has had enough. I do understand, but there is reason you are here. When I turned 22 my mother killed herself. Nothing dramatic just pills and alcohol. They say this illness is sometimes hereditary I guess she had problems too. But I am telling you there is not a day I don’t wish she were here! The people who love you will feel that pain too. So please give yourself another day to think about quitting. See how it is tomorrow. You will have your ups and downs. Just don’t take it all the way down. Leave some of you for your son. See if you can join a help group or even a class at the gym. I pray you will find even out with medication and social support. BW

    3. Joe, you’re not alone. I can assure you. I have been where you are, and I know countless others who have been, too. You’ve had a bad run, but it can change. It took 25 years before I was properly diagnosed and four more years before they found the right medication combination. What are you doing as far as social support? Are you in involved in any support groups? Those are free. Have you reached out to the local NAMI chapter? A therapist is crucial, but so is peer support.

  4. Loved your memoir so much, I posted about it on my blog, quoting from Chapter 33, “Diagnosis: Mental Lite!” As someone who also lives with bipolar II, I understand what it’s like to take decades to get the right diagnosis. Thank you for your self-deprecating sense of humor.

    1. Kitt, thank you so much. I saw that the other day. I’ve been on book tour, but I will jump over there and join in the conversation. Thanks for spreading the word!

  5. Hello David- I just finished your memoir and I wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading your story. Well done. Best wishes!


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