A series of vividly rendered personal narratives, Trespasses: A Memoir recounts the coming of age of three generations in the rural Great Plains. In examining how class, race, and gender play out in the lives of two farm families who simultaneously love and hate the place they can’t escape, Lacy Johnson presents rural whiteness as an ethnicity worthy of study. As she dism A series of vividly rendered personal narratives, Trespasses: A Memoir recounts the coming of age of three generations in the rural Great Plains. In examining how class, race, and gender play out in the lives of two farm families who simultaneously love and hate the place they can’t escape, Lacy Johnson presents rural whiteness as an ethnicity worthy of study. As she dismantles the complex history of a forgotten place while fighting to keep its people whole, Johnson reflects on a place that outsiders can cross into or pass through, but may never fully know. From formal and informal research methods, Johnson has produced an innovative collection of prose poems and essays that together create an exciting work of contemporary nonfiction. Examining region through the lenses of memory (experience), history (memory made public), and theory (experience abstracted), Trespasses is a deeply intelligent work, at the center of which is the author, always feeling as if she doesn’t belong but not sure where she else she should be. In this profound work, Johnson drifts gracefully back and forth between timelines and voices in a way that illustrates how her present is connected to the many pasts she chronicles....
|Title||:||Trespasses: A Memoir|
|Number of Pages||:||140 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Trespasses: A Memoir Reviews
Full Disclosure: I’ve had Lacy Johnson, the author of this book, as a teacher for several community writing workshops. I read Trespasses in part to better understand her approach to writing and how that influences her instruction, but what I found was a book that made me ache fiercely for its beauty and its heart.Trespasses is a meditation on memory, identity, and place - specifically the rural Midwest. The volume is a collection of 80 short pieces of prose, including history, memoir, prose-poems, historical fiction, sociology, liturgy, etymology, jokes, ethnography, criticism and mythology. If The House on Mango Street took place in Missouri, this book would be it (or very close).The book sets out with Lacy, pregnant with her first child (a girl) returning to her childhood home of Macon, Missouri, to better make peace with her past. Through a series of interviews with her family and research in the local genealogical library, Lacy constructs a mosaic of the place she chose to leave behind, weaving together the stories of her parents and grandparents as well as her own memories of Missouri. What emerges is a complex, and at times contradictory, portrait of a community and its conflicts over poverty, gender, class, race, and religion.Ultimately, Trespasses is an exercise in subversion. As a young girl from a background of poverty, with intelligence and ambition and a penchant for questioning the established order of things, Lacy couldn’t remain in her home or her hometown: “Growing up in this town, for me, was like learning to breathe underwater.” Her high school chemistry teacher delivers his prognosis for her, shortly before she is suspended: “Won’t amount to anything. Barefoot and pregnant. Poor white trash.”She returns a decade later, at the conclusion of her doctoral studies in literature and creative writing, to make sense of the injustice and violence and small-mindedness of a place that she simultaneously is compelled to love and defend: “I have an argument with a New Yorker. ‘The problem with midwesterners,’ he tells me, ‘is that you have no culture.’ He has come to this conclusion after having driven through the Midwest at some point in the past. His scalp shines through his hair in the patio light, which glints off the glasses he wears pushed far up on his nose. ‘Applebee’s,’ he says, crossing his legs at the knees, ‘is not culture.’” But after reading Trespasses, it’s hard to see the experiences of the Missourians described as any less valid or urgent than those of urban, coastal Americans.After gracefully undermining both the Midwestern notions of class and gender roles and the cultural elite’s stereotypes of rural America, the author then turns her attention to traditions regarding what constitutes “art” and “literature,” using her own life and work as a case study. She describes her high school encounters with poetry: “these poems are so far removed from my own language, my own experience, I feel small and stupid and poor.” Years later, after infiltrating the academic establishment by adopting their discourse, she wonders: “What passes as poetry? What passes as nonfiction? Where is the border between verse and prose, fact and fiction? Who has drawn it? Who polices it? And according to what aesthetic?” And by challenging those very conceptions of “legitimate” art, she creates opportunities for individuals to take on new identities. The author describes the interview in which her grandmother, who painted portraits of the people and landscapes of the country in Trespasses, and what that act of creation meant to her: “’It’s been a blessing to me,’ she tells me earnestly. ‘It gave me a personality – I’d always been my parents’ daughter, my brother’s sister, Arthur’s wife, the kids’ mom. Painting made me Wilda the artist.” And it’s hard not to feel your heart snag on everything Johnson has to say about class and gender in the Midwest, when she describes her mother, a lifelong crafter who sewed her own wedding dress: “These days, she spends most of her time making bears – intricately crafted collectors’ items she sells at trade shows across the country, through her website, on eBay. ‘I’ve sent my bears to London, Australia, Hong Kong,’ she tells me as I thumb through a stack of beading magazines on the floor beneath her sewing table. ‘Places I’ll never see,” she says, a little absently. ‘Can’t hardly imagine.’” The language in this work is fresh and honest, and makes me half-consider taking my next vacation to a Midwestern farm: “You wash up at the water pump while the bird dogs yap from their pens and when nobody’s looking you lie down in the long uncut grass behind the barn, where you can close your eyes and spread your whole body out under the sky’s blue curve.” The author describes the “margarine vinyl seats” of the town’s gossipy beauty salon, where her grandmother, the “child of a hot-headed woman and a hard-handed man” and a woman with a “fly-catching voice” would visit each week. The image of her grandfather’s silent tears as his failed farm is auctioned off in 1955: “clean wet tracks plowing through the fields of dust and dirt.” Scenes of farm life that make me nostalgic, without even having experienced them myself: “a litter of kittens curled together like cooked beans in an empty barrel,” and “the chickens hunched and tucked or drawn into themselves, their snores such an affable puttering [...] and the eggs, warm and solid in his hands.”Although Trespasses is labeled as “a memoir,” I think it’s really one of those genre-defying experiments that we don’t have a word for yet. In the meantime, I will say that it is a love letter, to the author’s daughter about her heritage and her birthright, and to the reader, if she has ever felt that there were roles and places off-limits to her.Read this book if:• You’re a fan of Sandra Cisneros or Jeannette Walls• You want to know what it means to be “Middle America” (though you still won’t understand it all by the end of the book, but you’ll be okay with that)• You’re a writer looking for a mentor text on “beyond genre”• You’re a writer looking for a mentor text that self-consciously considers the act of rememberingThis book may not be for you if:• You’re looking for a beach read, or you’re bothered by non-traditional structures and genres• You’re the author of a couple of self-published e-books with covers designed in the 1997 edition of Microsoft Paint and a chip on your shoulder
At the start of Trespasses, author Lacy M. Johnson explains her writing process of compiling her memoir by saying that she spent over sixty hours interviewing family members about their life stories. Then, according to Johnson, "At a certain point the facts got in the way of the truth." The line between what is truth and what is fact is always a fuzzy boundary, of course, and it's this fuzzy boundary that Johnson uses as a tool to explore her family's life in rural Missouri.Johnson's story is not a chronological one. Instead, she chooses to trace the past through episodic scenes; many of them could be described as spots of time or specific transcriptions of memories. Through these snippets we see her parents' and grandparents' stories, stories that often brim with a rugged love of both family and land. We also see Johnson's own stories . Not only does she record her own memories of growing up, we read quiet contemplations woven in between tales. Identity is the main focus of these contemplations, and indeed, class, race, and gender issues surface through many places in this book. For example, in one section, Johnson considers the meaning of white trash while recording her struggles at a major university. In another section, she discusses her frustration when someone tells her that the rural Midwest doesn't have "culture."Like Johnson, I know what it is like to struggle with identity. I grew up in rural northern Pennsylvania, a place that cannot be defined by being part of the East Coast (our way of living is nothing like those who live in New York City or Philadelphia), yet we are not really part of the Midwest. Technically speaking, we are part of Northern Appalachia, which yes, is very different than Southern Appalachia -- so as you can see, I find identity a hard subject to examine, and Johnson's episodic exploration of the past is a stark look at the way we navigate our own personal histories.
Lacy grew up in Missouri to a traditional, poor farming family that never bothered to keep track of its European roots. Through interviews with her family members and a series of personal vignettes, Lacy explores what it is to be white and poor in America, the farming community, and the odd in-between Missouri inhabits as not quite southern and not quite midwestern.The concept behind this book is excellent. The execution is discombobulated with a few gems at best, off-putting to the reader at worst.I think what is most difficult about this book as a reader is that we jump around through time and situations with no guidance. Then there's the narration style. It jumps from "you are so and so" to third person to first person past to first person present without any real rhyme or reason. The absolute strength of the work is when Lacy puts down her story-telling mantel and simply talks about the history of the terms "white trash, cracker," what it is to grow up white trash, what it is to change class setting from poor to academic. These were interesting and relatable. Overall although the concept of this memoir is strong and unique, the method of time-jumping vignettes and constantly changing narration styles make for a confusing read. I would recommend you browse a copy in a library or a bookstore if you are interested in the author's writing style or one or two particular vignettes, but not venture beyond that.Check out my full review. (Link will be live on March 21, 2012).Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
I'd saved this for this summer to read. Very strong prose style. I liked the patience of assembling short prose essays (some of them actually prose poems) according to tone rather than narrative arc. I was very intrigued with the way the author tried to explore the notion of "white trash" but I wondered if it went far enough. Also, it was hard to get a sense of class with the speaker's family, since the father seemed to have gone to college and become an engineer (which somewhat complicates the thematic positing of the family as poor midwestern farmers/white trash). I admire the amount of research (mostly family interviews) that went into this. I will definitely keep and refer to this work again. Overall, I like the way the book was assembled as a sort of patchwork memoir rather than a linear one. I could also imagine that the collection could have been halved and arranged as a book of prose poems. This versatility and hybridity are themselves features that make the book interesting to me, especially from a writerly perspective.
Trespasses is a series of vignettes about Johnson, her parents, and her grandparents' and their lives in the rural Great Plains. There is really no narrative arc in the book. She moves back and forth in time and in the people she's writing about. Some of the essays I found to be hauntingly beautiful while others were nothing special. Given the lack of narrative focus I found it hard to get engaged with the book, but I did really appreciate some of her writing and description.
Holy shit. This book just blew me away. I read it in a few hours, I couldn't put it down. I can't wait to read The Other Side now, though I'm sort of afraid it is going to be too honest, too awesome for me to handle.
I work at the same institution and have worked with Lacy and had no idea she was an author. I grew up in small town Texas and can relate to how she grew up. Never would have guessed her life and beginnings were like that. Next I want to read her new book.