My Five Favorite Memoirs by Garn Press Author Carolyn Walker

Carolyn Walker is the author of Every Least Sparrow. She is a memoirist, essayist, poet, and creative writing instructor. Every Least Sparrow is simultaneously heartbreaking and delightful in revealing the story of Jennifer Walker, a girl born with Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, a rare and confounding condition that affects mental and physical development. Nearly every one of Jennifer’s body functions is adversely affected by this disorder, creating enormous challenges. Rubinstein-Taybi, however, cannot lay claim to Jennifer’s spirit, or her mother’s determination that her daughter live a full and happy life. Every Least Sparrow is available in hardcover, paperback, and as an ebook. Paperback book on sale on Amazon, $14.35. Also available on Barnes & Noble | IndieBound (local bookstore) | Books-A-Million! | Indigo Books. Ebook $2.99 through Kindle Matchbook Program on Amazon

By Carolyn Walker

I did not set out to write a memoir, or to read them. I fancied myself a writer of fiction – a lover of books such as A Prayer for Owen Meany, Lonesome Dove, The Yearling, and To Kill a Mockingbird – until I went off to graduate school as a 52-year-old woman and was convinced otherwise.

At Vermont College of Fine Arts, they steered me in the direction of Creative Nonfiction, where my natural talents lie, and soon I was at work on Every Least Sparrow, dreaming of the day my book would reside on bookshelves alongside my personal favorites. I held a particularly lovely literary setting in my mind.

Reading the work of others as I wrote my own, I quickly became hooked on memoir as a wonderful literary form, and have read many, by both men and women.

I notice a trend in my reading: I tend to favor memoirs by women searching for themselves or their purpose, such as Cheryl Strayed in WILD, and Julie Barton in Dog Medicine; women who travel alone, such as Rosemary Mahoney in Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff, Alice Steinbach in Educating Alice: Adventures of a Curious Woman, and Loreen Niewenhuis in A 1000-Mile Walk on the Beach – One Woman’s Trek of the Perimeter of Lake Michigan (now there’s a title!).

For some reason, I also have a penchant for memoirs by men who survived trials and tribulations in the Amazon, such as Lost in the Jungle: A Harrowing True Story of Adventure and Survival by Yossi Ghinsberg, and Walking the Amazon, by Ed Stafford.

And who can resist memoirs with titles like Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, by Nick Flynn, and the incomparable Sh*t My Dad Says, by Justin Halpern?

This is but a tip of my memoir iceberg, and I am hard-pressed to identify five favorite titles. But I will give it a try, in no particular order.

Five Favorite Memoirs

The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls

I love The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls. Humorous, poignant, tragic and incredible by turns, The Glass Castle recounts Walls’ coming of age under the strange, complicated, massively dysfunctional and unpredictable love of her nomadic and eccentric mother and father. Walls’ memoir falls under the category of “you can’t make this stuff up”. It is amazing.

A Likely Story: One Summer With Lillian Hellman by Rosemary Mahoney

A second favorite memoir is A Likely Story: One Summer With Lillian Hellman, another book by Rosemary Mahoney (I really must read more of her wonderful writing). In this book, Mahoney details her “summer from hell” as a helpmate to the famous dramatist, Lillian Hellman, who proved to be ornery, cranky, troublesome and shocking in the months Mahoney, still in high school, went to work for her as an idealistic maid who hoped to be befriended by the famous writer.

The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home by George Howe Colt, and They Left Us Everything by Plum Johnson

Falling in at third and fourth places are The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home, by George Howe Colt, and They Left Us Everything, by Plum Johnson. In both books, the authors take a walk back through time, searching their emotions as they ponder the complicated lives of loved ones, and themselves, in ancient, enormous family homes, and the divesting of centuries worth of artifacts.

An American Childhood by Annie Dillard

Lastly, no self-respecting memoirist would have a “favorite memoirs” list without including something by Annie Dillard. One of my writing mentors told me Dillard is a writer you either love or hate, and as I read her I found that I could understand that statement. I, however, fell into the love category. I was particularly drawn to her memoir An American Childhood, her narrative about coming of age in the United States, set in the 1950s. Reverent and scientific, Dillard is a thoughtful, pensive, meditative kind of writer who takes her time with her subject matter, examining it in close detail. She is uniquely gifted at helping the reader to see the macrocosm of life while contemplating the microcosm.

When I look back over my list, I realize that I love to read about people’s journeys, whether they be from country to country, moment to moment, thought to thought, or emotion to emotion. I see that my tastes are connected by place, history, and struggle. I see that my tastes are in line with what it means to be human. And humans make for fantastic memoirs!!!

Every Least Sparrow by Carolyn Walker is now available – hardcover, paperback, and as an ebook.

“Grace, courage and steadfast love is what you’ll find in Carolyn Walker’s new book.”

Book: Every Least Sparrow
Author: Carolyn Walker
Garn Press (226 pp.)
ISBN: 978-1-942146-50-6
$27.95 hardcover | $17.95 paperback |$9.99 e-book. Ebook $2.99 through Kindle Matchbook Program.
Paperback & Hardcover: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound (local bookstore) | Books-A-Million! | Indigo Books
eBook Available: Amazon

 

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