Saturday, June 20, 2009

Memoirs to Read in the Summertime

American Flag Pie: Homegrown Rhubarb & Black Currant

MISS AMERICAN PIE: A DIARY OF LOVE, SECRETS AND GROWING UP IN THE 1970s Margaret Sartor: My girlhood was very little like the one described here. All the boyfriends, and drinking, and using the f--- word, the horseback riding and rah-rah pom - pom beauty queen stuff -- none of that was me (me, I was a Girl With Glasses!). But one thing I did love about this young heroine -- she has my crazy frizzy hair! On 2 November 1976, she writes, "Jimmy Carter was elected president and Daddy said he won because it was such a beautiful day all over the South. This would seem to suggest a connection between the presidency of the United States and the frizziness of my hair" (198). Now that made me laugh! Reminded me, in fact, of the boy at my high school graduation (a day of high humidity) who said, "Kitti, your hair looks like the Wrath of God." Gee, thanks!

GIRL WITH GLASSES: MY OPTIC HISTORY Marissa Walsh: What a smart, funny memoir and darling cover photo (take a look on amazon). Pretty sure I had that exact same outfit in 4th grade! Maybe we all did -- Haha! Reading in public because you just can't help yourself, or maybe to avoid human interaction? Walsh calls this "the girl-with-a-book thing" (148). She experiments with contact lenses, only to learn that even with her contacts in, she is still "the girl with glasses" (53). And she quotes Scooby-Doo, that episode when Daphne asks, "Velma, do you have a book for every occasion?" And Velma (a girl with glasses) replies, "Actually, yes." I love the idea of a life story chronicled by sequential eye-wear choices. You could also do it with footwear, winter coats, cars, hair, you name it. Fun!

SHE GOT UP OFF THE COUCH AND OTHER HEROIC ACTS FROM MOORELAND, INDIANA Haven Kimmel: ZIPPY is as cute and funny as ever (see below, 2004: GROWING UP SMALL), but by the end of this installment, she is wising up, sadly, and falling from innocence. Not that she ever loses her winsome sense of humor. She thinks that maybe she will have a detective agency with her sister when they grow up. Okay, says her sister: "'I would be the brains and you could do all the gross stuff.' I sighed. She had just named my dream life" (146).

In this book, Zippy's mother is the one who gets up off the couch (where according to Zippy she has spent the last few years "eating pork rinds and reading books from the bookmobile" 36) and enrolls at Ball State to complete a degree in English. Zippy's mom is a Girl With Glasses! Zippy observes that her mother "was forever quoting someone [James Joyce, for example], I can't describe how powerfully vexing it was" (261). Kind of like Velma, in Scooby-Doo.

In an evocative passage, Zippy recalls visiting the Laundromat with her parents, the smell of Tide & Downy, climbing into the large rolling laundry baskets:

"Plus you could buy individual boxes of detergent and fabric softener, even bleach, and there was nothing that made me grind my teeth with pleasure more than a real thing shrunken down small. The first time my dad showed me a toothache kit from a box of equipment from the Korean War and I saw the tiny cotton balls (the size of very small ball bearings), I nearly swooned. . . . Miniaturization was a gift from God, no doubt about it, and there it was, right in a vending machine in the place we used to do our laundry in New Castle, Indiana" (155).

Kimmel's description of Miniaturization nearly made ME swoon! Particularly since one of the most exciting books of literary theory I've ever read is Susan Stewart's ON LONGING: NARRATIVES OF THE MINIATURE, THE GIGANTIC, THE SOUVENIR, THE COLLECTION, which inspired my own book on the role of dolls and miniatures in fiction.

Great autobiographical / social commentary by Joyce Maynard.

For more on Joyce Maynard

check out my "Listmania" on
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"Joyce Maynard Treasure Hunt" (27 May 2009)

on my literary blog of connection and coincidence