Dimestore: A Writer’s Life


At the beginning of the memoir class I’ve been taking through my public library, the teacher suggested that we, you know, actually read a few memoirs, to get a feel of how they can be constructed or the different lenses by which an individual’s life can be seen through. I’ve only read a few in my life (Eat, Pray, Love by Liz Gilbert, Operating Instructions, by Anne Lamott). It was time to pick up another one.

I chose Dimestore: A Writer’s Life, by the novelist Lee Smith. Never heard of her? Me, neither. But it doesn’t matter. Her memoir recounting her childhood in Grundy, West Virginia (before “Appalachian Culture” was considered a cool thing), and her adulthood as a writer, teacher, wife and mother, stands on its own as a wonderful piece of writing.

Each chapter is a long essay concerning a certain time or phase in her life, beginning with “Dimestore”, in which she recounts her memories of her father’s dimestore in Grundy. “Recipe Box” circles around her mother in the kitchen, the food and friends that passed through it. “Kindly Nervous” explains the prevalence of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia in her family, including both her parents, and most tragically, her son Josh. There’s some darkness here, but she doesn’t dwell there-this book is mostly a celebration, of her heritage, of writing, of life itself.

If you’re interested in writer’s lives and how they’re formed and informed (as I am), check this one out.

(I already screwed up my “Master Plan” for Nablopomo; this piece was supposed to be posted on Wednesday under “Book or Movie Reviews”, and instead I did a writing prompt piece that was meant for Mondays. Oh well. I’ll get back on track for the rest of the week.) Happy Blogging!



3 thoughts on “Dimestore: A Writer’s Life

  1. My eldest struggles with severe mental illness, it isn’t pretty. Because he is only 10 there are relatively few diagnosis available, but whatever name you call it, it’s still heartbreaking. I’ll check out this memoir and see what insights she might have to offer.

    Liked by 1 person

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