Memorable Memoirs: Monica Wood’s “When We Were the Kennedys”

When We Were the Kennedys at Pike's Place

  A while back I devoted almost two years to reading nothing but memoirs. For this period I had become disenchanted with fiction, and felt like the only truly compelling story was a lived one. These were not “celebrity” memoirs, they were captured moments in time by ordinary people who had, typically, faced some kind of adversity, and, in most cases, had come out the other side enlightened, empowered and able to articulate that challenging journey. I discovered some of my now favorite … [Read more...]

Memorable Memoirs: Koren Zailckas’s “Fury”

Fury by Koren Zailckas

In the case of Fury, Koren Zailckas’ exceptional follow up to her best selling book Smashed: Story of a Drunken Childhood, the term “memoir” may be a bit of a misnomer. Although it does indeed chronicle many of her personal experiences, it is also a scholarly book that quotes and references numerous sources – very effectively. The topic is anger. We are introduced to the author as she is flying back to the states after a failed relationship with a British musician – a devastating ending that … [Read more...]

Memorable Memoirs: Rick Bragg’s “The Prince of Frogtown” and “All Over but the Shoutin'”

Rick Bragg's "The Prince of Frogtown"

I read Rick Bragg’s wonderful All Over but the Shoutin’ years ago, before I even knew I preferred - well even liked - reading memoirs. The story of growing up in poverty in Alabama with a devoted, loving, hard-working mom, and a mostly absent alcoholic father, it managed to be, by turns, excruciatingly sad, laugh-out-loud funny, hopeless and life-affirming at the same time. If you love beautiful prose for prose’s sake, you will most likely enjoy this Pulitzer Prize winning author’s writing, with … [Read more...]

Memorable Memoirs: Barbara Robinette Moss’s “Change Me into Zeus’s Daughter”

Barbara Robinette Moss's Change Me into Zeus's Daughter

Change Me into Zeus's Daughter is an examination of the author’s youth; growing up verbally and physically abused by her alcoholic father, willing to risk eating poisoned corn to satiate her endless hunger, and sharing a ramshackle home with her mom and eight siblings in rural Alabama. Moss, with pitch perfect prose, describes a father who is gone more than around, which is mostly preferable given his propensity for inflicting pain: I had just turned seven years and didn’t think Dad’s … [Read more...]

Ned’s Reading: Bill Clegg’s “Ninety Days”

Bill Clegg's Ninety Days

This book is why I love reading memoirs – well, great memoirs. If done well, I feel like I’ve just sat down with the author and had a conversation about his or her life. And not a whole life, but a portion of particular significance. Bill Clegg had a successful literary agency in New York City, which he owned with a friend. In too short a time, thanks to a near lethal addiction to drugs and alcohol (chronicled in his first memoir, Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man), Clegg wrecks the … [Read more...]

Bullying prevention program begins at St. Bernard Academy

st bernard academy

Ned Andrew Solomon This article first appeared in the Tennessee Register. When you walk into Hannah Dwyer’s fourth level classroom at St. Bernard Academy, your eyes are immediately drawn to the bright red posters on the wall. In bold black letters they read, “Bullying is unBEARable,” punctuated underneath by a bear’s claw – these are the St. Bernard Academy Bears, after all. The claw is followed by a set of four rules, which are the cornerstones of the school’s brand new anti-bullying … [Read more...]

Accident survivor comforts others through their traumas

Brittany Leedham

By Ned Andrew Solomon This article first appeared in The Tennessee Register. When Brittany Leedham visits with patients and families at Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Trauma Center, she brings a unique perspective. Three years ago, Leedham was a patient there herself, having barely survived a car accident in Brentwood that killed her boyfriend, Zak Kerinuk. Leedham, who graduated from Father Ryan High School in May 2009, volunteers as a Peer Visitor with the Trauma Survivors … [Read more...]

A Really Big 108th Birthday Party

Ora Knies and Bishop Choby

By Ned Andrew Solomon This article originally appeared in The Tennessee Register. Ora Knies may be 108 years old, but it hasn’t slowed her down too much. “She goes 90 miles an hour on her walker,” said her 78-year-old son, Jack Knies, who attributes her longevity and verve to “good genes, number one, and number two, she stays pretty well occupied all the time." His mom lives in the Hickory Gardens Assisted Living community in Madison, which is where she recently hosted a celebration on … [Read more...]

Jackie Page: A Life Devoted to Access, and Improving Attitudes

Jackie Page TN

by Ned Andrew Solomon Jackie Page’s mission throughout her professional and personal life has been about two things: access and attitude. Born with quadriplegia during the depression in Asheville, North Carolina, Page had to adapt to life with few resources besides her own self determination. She came a long way to a BA (’63) in Sociology, an MA (’64) in Counseling and an EdS in 1989, all from Peabody. Until her undergraduate education, Page was taught at home. In her earliest years, that … [Read more...]

Blind Golfer Sees Life through Rose-Colored Glasses

Blind golfer sees life through rose-colored glasses

By Ned Andrew Solomon This article first appeared in The Tennessee Register. Christ the King parishioner, and championship golfer, David Meador, got his first taste of the green at eight years old, in his hometown of Salem, Illinois. He picked up the game and his appreciation of the sport from his dad. “I loved the ball,” said Meador. “Just seeing it explode off the club in those early years was something deeper than just the beautiful golf course, and the camaraderie.” The young Meador’s … [Read more...]