I’m struck by how many memoirs I’ve read so far in this 50 book adventure. If you had asked me if I read a lot of memoirs before, I would probably have said no, which is clearly not true (4 of the 16 books I’ve read so far have been memoirs). I don’t really know why I like memoirs so much, but it’s definitely a genre that I go to pretty frequently. It probably has something to with the way that it feels like sitting down to coffee with someone who is totally willing to open up to you completely and expect nothing in return. They’ll tell you stories that will make you cry, some that will make you howl with laughter, and others that leave you speechless. All you have to do is snuggle up, drink your coffee and listen.
In A Girl Named Zippy, I met young Haven Kimmel: a girl so fiercely independent and funny that I could hardly believe her stories. I especially love kid memoirs, but a major pitfall of the genre is the tendency of the author to use the book as an opportunity to analyze their relationship with their parents, to view their childhood through a decidedly adult lens. I feel like that isn’t really necessary (or even all that interesting). Zippy really does force you to see the world that the story takes place in through the eyes of a child. It’s a world where a mom could sit on the couch and eat cheetos and read sci-fi novels without ever leaving the house and no one needs to stop and explain why. Where a story about a Christmas like any other kid’s Christmas could fall just after a blunt list of all the things a girl’s father won and lost in a lifetime of gambling (we’re not talking small potatoes, an engagement ring was on the list of lost things). This memoir could easily become a sad story of a poor middle-American family: a distant father with a gambling problem, a depressed mother, a child who permanently sleeps in a sleeping bed for lack of enough bedrooms. Instead, it’s a series of sweet, small tales of a happy young girl zipping around town on her bicycle, learning how to make friends, how to be a friend, and confronting the bully next door.
The list so far:
15. A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel