With thanks to Amy Wang for this interview in the Oregonian.
Q: What inspired you to write a memoir?
A: This memoir began when my mother died in 1995 and I wanted my daughter to know her grandma, who I thought was an incredible member of our family. It was just going to be a history. And then I started writing and met real writers and then I met poets and then I met a lot of political activists and the book just kept changing and changing until it became what it is now. It's still for my daughter, but it's also - I wanted it to become eventually a piece of art."
"Jenny Forrester's new memoir is gorgeously written; she is both unflinchingly honest and generous of heart when she navigates the tricky territories of family and the ways in which place can shape our identities. And while her story is grounded in a very specific time and place, the truth of the story transcends it. I deeply appreciate a writer who can capture the beauty of a place without romanticizing it and write about people in all their messiness while still allowing them to be fully human."
"What a journey we are taken on in this book. It is all too easy to be there while reading, and at the same time find out secrets about ourselves. This is a hard-to-stop-reading book.
Well done, Jenny Forrester!"
"A memoir of simple, sometimes brutal, honesty telling the truths of a life growing up in rural, conservative Colorado - to become a strong adult. Beautifully written. Nature is ever-present - a vital thread winding its way through the tapestry of a life. Highly recommended."
"Eloquent, lyrical, honest, and resilient. I love this book and this author."
So much love and gratitude to you all!
"It's hard to avoid hyperbole in describing this book. It's hard to believe that this is Jenny Forrester's first full length manuscript. Such is the quality of both story and the writing that brings that story to life. Others have described it as a memoir of a certain place, but Narrow River, Wide Sky describes more than any geography (although her ability to render place is genuinely terrific). The "where" of this memoir is really inside "family" and "community" and even "country". In this rendering, Forrester's story is universal. I heard the first chapter read by the author over a year ago in Portland. This is a town where you can't shake a stick without pointing at a writer. It's a writers town. I promise you that with this first book Jenny Forrester will take her rightful place among the top 1% of the wonderful wordsmiths from here. (Or, anywhere.) I bought four copies. Three for friends. It's on my kindle. It's the kind of book that you can read again and again and again and I will. You should too." - Love to Corie Skolnick, author of Orfan and America's Most Eligible
"Your beautiful book was my dearest companion all week. I adored it as you immersed me in Colorado because I've known all those places since I was in my late 20's. To read of your childhood there was golden. The small town struggles were very real to me. My high school wasn't as tiny as yours but it was small and everybody knew you, your family & your business.You captured this perfectly. Church and faith were factors in my growing up as they were in yours,and I found your ability to speak of this was beautifully nuanced. I understood it as the backdrop of your guilt over your emerging sexual self. I felt your longing for belonging and wanting to please your partners and not disappoint your mom, as if it were my own.
And your mom, oh gosh did I fall in love with her! What a brave and proud woman. I was crying out, no, no, no, no, NO when the call came about her cave diving death. I know you let us know up front, you'd be burying her, but I was so fully engaged in the arc of her story and the story of your relationship with her, I wanted her and the two of you to go on and on. I felt her death acutely and suffered your sorrow along side you. What an amazing tribute to her as you hit all your marks telling your story. I lingered over your luscious language and descriptions of vistas I'll be looking for when I drive out to Colorado this summer.
I'm sending copies to my two dearest girlfriends who live out in Pitkin County, Colorado. I know they will love it, too." - Love to Chuckie D.
"Poetry in novel form! Heart wrenching memoir and I found myself cheering on the author along with the story and disappointed and furious and crying along with her also. It is amazing! I could not put it down until it was done but it does demand to be read slower as poetry in order to capture the magic of the language in all the visuals. All together fantastic!!!" Love to Rebecca Smolen
The book launch was an incredible experience. Standing room only in the Pearl Room at Powell's and then a standing ovation. I cried and not just because I'm a crier. Thank you all so much!
I'm off on the book tour - first stop is Seattle to visit friends there, including Ijeoma Oluo, who will be there at Elliott Bay with me on Monday, the 8th. We're going to talk about things together. I can't wait! Love!
Here's a photo of the food I bought for the trip. I'll post a photo of Ijeoma and I soon and other friends and some sights.
I'd also like to post some photos from the book launch. Laura Stanfill is the greatest at capturing events.
The generous beyond generous Lidia Yuknavitch, author of several books, including Dora: A Headcase, Chronology of Water, The Small Backs of Children, and The Book of Joan (due out this month!), has an interview up on the Powell's featured books blog. She mentioned me and said a thing, "Radical Innovators" and I'm one of them. Love, love, love. Read the whole thing here: http://www.powells.com/post/qa/powells-qa-lidia-yuknavitch-author-of-the-book-of-joan
Forrester doesn’t gloss over the difficult parts of her life, but rather tells stories of how that adversity formed a stronger
In Narrow River, Wide Sky, Jenny Forrester traces her journey from growing up in a trailer in a small, conservative Colorado town to becoming a college-educated, feminist writer, and how that changes her relationships along the way. This is a moving memoir about how the influence of family can remain long after people drift apart, and how one never truly forgets the circumstances of one’s childhood.
Forrester’s relationship with her mother forms the core of the story; the book starts with the reveal that the author lost her mother early in adulthood, then reflects back on their relationship during her early years. As a girl, Forrester grows up steeped in the mythology of the pioneers in a rural area where men hunt deer for food, neighbors concern themselves with who in the area might be sinning, and spanking is still a preferred parenting tool. These scenes truly read as if from a work of literary fiction, with an excellent sense of place that makes the town into a
Forrester brings narrative immediacy to the rifts between her parents that lead to their separation and her moving away with her mother and brother. She writes a series of scenes that tell a lot about her sibling relationship—warm at times, but often a source of secrets or even casual cruelty. It’s clear early on that Forrester was something of a square peg in her rural environs.
Forrester also shares her experiences with a number of men, from her dismissive and often abusive high school boyfriend to the more stable life she eventually finds with her husband. She writes of her experiences with drugs, with religion, and with her own political awakening. All of this ties back to how she and her brother grew apart in many ways and brings the memoir full circle.
Forrester doesn’t gloss over the difficult parts of her life, but rather tells stories of how that adversity formed a stronger individual and a strong writer.
The Kirkus Review. I'm so grateful for a good review! Love. "
NARROW RIVER, WIDE SKY
Author: Jenny Forrester
Review Issue Date: March 1, 2017
Online Publish Date: February 21, 2017
Price ( Paperback ): $18.95
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
ISBN ( Paperback ): 978-0-9970683-5-1
The landscape and culture of west Colorado are vividly evoked in an accomplished literary debut."How do we settle with ghosts?" Forrester asks in her finely etched memoir, which begins when she and her brother try to decide on their mother's burial site. "Where do we bury our mothers when there is nowhere we belong?" The author grew up poor: her family lived in a double-wide trailer after their father's "all-time best construction business" failed; and then, after her parents divorced, in a single-wide trailer in the small town of Mancos. Narrow-minded churchgoers pitied her mother and the two children as a broken family. Forrester was bullied at school, where bored students "learned through textbooks, rote memorization, and discipline with strict rules, straight lines, the Pledge of Allegiance, moral certainty, no discussions, no show and tell." Moral certainty was widespread in a town peopled by assorted religious fundamentalists and strident patriots. Mancos seemed like a place from which Forrester never would escape. In high school, she was promiscuous, ending up with Paul, as bigoted and controlling as her father had been. As a scholarship student at the University of Colorado, she faced "uncharted social terrain." She struggled academically, felt alienated from the school's sorority culture, gained unwanted weight, and discovered that she was pregnant. She had an abortion without anesthesia because she could not afford it. Much of the memoir focuses on Forrester's mother, struggling to support her children, navigating her own uncharted terrain as she trained to become an ESL teacher, and finally showing her daughter the understanding and support that she desperately needed. Throughout, the author reflects on the culture that shaped and, in many ways, oppressed her: "an American flag waving from the bracket by the trailer door and ranchers and Mormons and Masons and a Christianity based in western pioneer mythology and guns under the bed." A modest, thoughtful memoir that traces hard-won liberation from the past.
So grateful to be published in a new Lit Journal. Love to PomPom Lit!
"My socially conscious programming said Don’t call the cops. He left behind a knife – a hunting knife, fake bone hunting knife handle, fake hunting knife swirls on the sharp-enough metal, fake Celtic symbolism, but the sharp point and bloodying hunting knife edge are real."