Lidia Yuknavitch. That’s her name.
I was racking my brain yesterday to recall the author of an emotionally intense memoir to recommend to someone, and tried every variation from Yanowitz to Yonavich. I tried to do a search on “amazing women authors from Oregon with Ken Kesey as writing teacher” but Google failed me. I finally had to look in my list of books read since 2011. (Yes, I keep a list- I’m a librarian.) The title is The Chronology of Water: A memoir. It was captivating, unforgettable, as was my impression of the author.
Yuknavitch. Yuk- like nuke, like the dropping of nuclear-strength honesty, and -vitch like… what women who fight ferociously for their expression and existence get called too often. Her memoir left me wishing I actually knew her, despite feeling not quite audacious enough. I love that magic of memoir - the intimacy it can grant between strangers.
In a satisfying bit of synchronicity, today I found that name on the cover of the latest Poets and Writers magazine (Amy Gall’s interview with Lidia Yuknavitch: The Other Side of Burning). Yuknavitch has a new book called The Book of Joan (not to be confused with Melissa Rivers’ 2015 biography of her mother). Kirkus Reviews calls it “A retelling of the Joan of Arc story set in a terrifying near future of environmental and political chaos.”
Yuknavitch says that despite the dystopian theme, eerily prescient of recent history, The Book of Joan does inspire hope. “Part of this hope includes remaking our myths and our archetypes and taking the stories different places than they have been, because all our mighty myths lead to war and destruction. And the hero’s journey doesn’t fit all of our bodies; it just fits the white male body. And that’s where Joan comes in.” (Yuknavitch in Poets and Writers, May/June 2017)
Lidia Yuknavitch’s novel The Small Backs of Children won the 2016 Oregon Book Award’s Ken Kesey Award for Fiction, as well as the Readers' Choice Award (her memoir was Readers' Choice in 2012). She has also written Dora: A Head Case, 3 story collections, a book of criticism, and her TED talk will soon be a book: The Misfit’s Manifesto.
The Book of Joan is currently in processing and will soon be on the shelf at OPL. There are already 6 Hold requests for the 2 copies; I am number 7. Get in line.