Recently, I’ve read two excellent autobiographical essay collections. And they happen to be by people you very well may know….
If you’ve been on OS for even a short while, you’ve most likely encountered Linda Seccaspina
. You know, the sweet, eccentric, funny lady who ends her comments with the famous-in-OS-circles “HUGGGGGGGGGGGGG”.
If you’ve read any of Linda’s posts, you’ve probably discovered that, while her affection is sincere, she’s more than just a friendly face – or avatar…or however you want to put it, in this virtual place. Linda has led a really extraordinary life: eccentric almost from birth, she experienced loss, self-image issues, and finding her passion for fashion, early on. She left high school and began working for several notable clothing brands, then eventually opened stores whose customers were as offbeat as she is. She’s traveled, lived in a very old house, and had a brush or two with erstwhile teen idols. In addition to these experiences, Linda regularly blogs about her encounters with strangers, and her thoughts on issues like eating disorders, body image, Celiac disease, getting older – and, on a lighter note (sort of), menopause.
Linda is one of those people who seems to have done it all. While such a life might make some people distant or blasé, it seems to have had the opposite effect on her: This is a woman who will talk to, and laugh with, anyone.
A few months ago, Linda published Menopausal Woman From the Corn
, a collection of her reminiscences and musings, and I’m happy to say it’s what I’d hoped. The wonderful thing about Linda's writing is that she can tackle any subject, and it will be instantly relatable. Her kindness, warmth, and wacky sense of humor shine through everything. It's telling that in this book, a collection of some of her best writing, each essay finishes with a comment from a friend or reader. She takes us along with her to experience laughable incidents, inspiring moments, memories happy and sad. She shares recipes and brutally honest (and hilarious) reflections on what it is to be a menopausal woman, among many, many other things.
I'd recommend Menopausal Woman From the Corn to anyone who likes to look deeper into life, and to do it with joy, curiosity, and humanity; every woman out there going through the M-word; those suffering from Celiac disease or other digestion issues; those struggling with their weight or body image; those who look back on their childhoods with happy nostalgia even if they can sometimes see the darker moments; and anyone who loves to laugh.
This book is like a ray of sunshine that not only brightens the sky, but makes the clouds stand out so that you suddenly notice their intriguing and funny shapes.
Last fall, OSer Ingrid Ricks
published her bestselling book Hippie Boy: A Girl's Story
, a true account of her troubled life at home, and freer life on the road with her traveling salesman father. The book was captivating, exciting, sad, and ultimately incredibly inspiring.
So I was thrilled when I found out Ingrid had published A Little Book of Mormon (and Not So Mormon) Stories
, a collection of essays about her life growing up. Struggles with poverty, divorced parents, and a despicable stepfather, as well as her life on the road, is such rich material to draw from, that I figured A Little Book of Mormon (and Not So Mormon) Stories
would be a continuation of Hippie Boy
. But that’s not the case; in this book, Ingrid focuses more on her relationship with her mother, a devout convert to Mormonism, and to the contrasts in her childhood and teenage years, from a nerve-wrackingly low-budget roadtrip that takes her family to Philadelphia, where she meets aunts, uncles, and cousins who live a life very different from hers, to finally being allowed to break curfew, with disappointing results.
A Little Book of Mormon (and Not So Mormon) Stories also gives us a glimpse into the daily existence of extreme Mormons, who get the family up early every day for religious readings and discussion, find the consumption of coffee evil, and even have their own pilgrimage routes across America, traveling to towns most of us have never heard of in search of traces of their religion’s origins. But as the book’s title also suggests, Ingrid is writing about a lot more than this. These are stories of coming of age, of seeing your family and the world around you in a new light. In addition to learning more about Ingrid’s relationship with her parents, we follow her on that aforementioned roadtrip, watch what happens when her family takes in a Native American girl, and learn a hard lesson when she accepts a dubious summer nanny job for a wealthy family in Rhode Island.
What I most admire about Ingrid is that she’s lived through circumstances that could have completely broken her: poverty; divorce; ; a truly wicked stepfather; a religion that told her that by the age of eight she’d have to fast once a month and that any sins she committed would be counted by God – but she remains hopeful, full of dreams and joy. Though Ingrid is no longer Mormon, she doesn’t look upon the religion with blind anger or criticism – instead, she often weighs the good and the bad. She doesn’t turn her back on her mother, but comes to see her differently, and even finds peace and a healthy relationship with her. She goes from loathing her estranged grandmother, to trying to unravel and understand her story.
The second-to-last story in the book is one of reconciliation. The book’s final story is “Dream Fever,” a rally cry to follow your dreams and to never give up. What Ingrid writes shows she isn’t merely echoing positive clichés: she’s seen firsthand what determination can do.
Whether you’re looking for an insight into Mormon culture, a fascinating true story about family and growing up (in all senses of the word), or something to give you hope, A Little Book of Mormon (and Not So Mormon) Stories is a must-read.
Great for summer- or anytime – reading, you can get a copy of....