by Andrew Moreno
Portland author Lidia Yuknavitch— award-winning memoirist, novelist, editor, short-story writer, critic and more— will be visiting Spokane and reading at Auntie’s Bookstore on February 26th at 7:30. You should go. I’m going. But enough about me.
In an interview the Rumpus, Yuknavitch said “the membrane between fiction and nonfiction is thin as an infant’s skin,” and this thinness is certainly at play in her most recent novel, The Small Backs of Children. The main character—called “the writer”— has a past very similar to Yuknavitch’s own: former swimmer, former addict, mother to a dead daughter and a living son. So when you open one of her books, you can expect a fair share of narrative experiments—shifting points of view, moving through time, and testing of the bounds between truth and untruth. The novel moves between two perspectives: that of an American photographer who captures an iconic image of a young girl fleeing war in Eastern Europe; and that of a writer, the photographer’s best friend, who becomes obsessed with the image and the unknown girl within it. The Los Angeles Times called the novel “fierce in its vision, with captivating prose that carries its own momentum. Yuknavitch has created a reading experience that is uncomfortable and dazzling, with a vital intensity that grabs at the gutstrings.”
“Memoirs are fiction to me,” Yuknavitch said in an interview with Lit Hub. Yuknavitch’s memoir The Chronology of Water was released in 2010, and it received ecstatic reviews from across the literary community. Fellow Portlander Chuck Palahniuk said of the “I’ve read [it], cover to cover, a dozen times. I am still reading it. And I will, most likely, return to it for inspiration and ideas, and out of sheer admiration, for the rest of my life.” Chronology, as much as Yuknavitch says the form may be a fiction, chronicles the author’s childhood abuse at the hands of her father, competitive swimming that promised to be the escape, and the alcohol and drug addiction that caused her to lose her Olympic dreams and would shape her life for years to come.
Be sure to see Lidia Yuknavitch— writer, teacher, editor, and really just one of the most interesting people you’re likely to get to hear speak— at Auntie’s Friday the 26th at 7:30. I guarantee it’ll be worth it.