Apr 3, 2010

An American Childhood

by Annie Dillard

I was first enthralled with Annie Dillard's writing when I read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. She has a wonderful way with words. Her phrases are so descriptive, so vivid you can practically feel them under your fingertips, smell and hear and sense. This book is a memoir of her youth, growing up in Pittsburgh. She brings alive so many things about being a child- finding wonder in every new discovery, exploring the neighborhood on bicycle, throwing snowballs at passing cars. Even the small, ordinary moments- sitting quietly in church, watching scenery pass by through the car window, take on significance when seen through her child's perspective. It feels like everything is here- how her family taught her to dance and appreciate good jokes, how she learned about the history of her town, the mysteries of boys in school, the private passions of collecting things.... I couldn't relate to everything she spoke of- I was always a total klutz at sports and dancing (the rules and timing still elude me) but the things I could resonated so deeply. Being enraptured by books, full of wonder at the world they opened. Her fascination with nature, collecting insects, examining rocks, wanting to see every thing up close and understand it. Her passion for words, and writing poetry (I wrote so many awful poems in high school, thinking they were the outpouring of my soul. Now they make no sense to me at all!) If you haven't read any works by Dillard, I'd encourage you to try An American Childhood. It's a bit slow to start, but soon you'll find something in the pages that brings up memories of your own childhood you'd almost forgotten. It did that for me.

I got this book from a thrift store, two copies actually, because I forgot I already had it when I picked the second one up! I read it for the 2010 TBR Challenge.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 255 pages, 1987

More opinions at:
A Los Alamos Girlhood
AP Lang & Comp
anyone else?


bermudaonion said...

I love memoirs, so I'd probably love this one.

Anonymous said...

Sounds enjoyable and I love that she grew up in Pittsburgh, somewhere I'm at least a little familiar with.

Gentle Reader said...

I loved both An American Childhood, and A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek--definitely love her use of language. I would encourage you to read her novel The Maytrees, too--really beautifully written :)