Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Girl Named Zippy: Girlhood in small-town America

A Girl Named ZippyA Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I must say that it is refreshing to read a memoir in which the author does not grow up in a dysfunctional family or face overwhelming odds in his or her life.

This is the story of a normal, small-town childhood. Zippy was an odd little creature of a child, but I found her adventures to be amusing and the descriptions of her family and neighbors to be well drawn.

I grew up in a suburb rather than a small town, one year before Haven Kimmel, so I could relate to the cultural references. (Although I've never had a lemon phosphate in my life, and I don't even know what that is!)

The book had several memorable passages, such as "Dad had a way of emphasizing certain words that was like Winnie-the-Pooh gone bad," or "it's hotter than billy-be-doggone bangtree outside."

It makes me realize how much excess our children are growing up with to read about how special that one Christmas present was, or how much Kimmel coveted her friend's small jewelry box from Acapulco (lined with red velvet and covered with little shells).

Kimmel writes about viewpoints and experiences that feel so genuine--like how she didn't really believe in Jesus, but she wanted him to be her boyfriend instead. Or how she intuited that the music teacher was hurting, or threatening to hurt her best friend when he gave her private lessons after school, so she insisted on staying there with her friend.

This was definitely a book worth reading. The only reason I am not giving it four stars is that I was ready to be done with it at the end, so I could move onto something that moved on a little more quickly. The chapters did not really connect to each other in any way; it was like a series of short stories about small town life. And I'm not really a fan of short stories. The book left me wondering what happened to her parents and brother, in particular, all complex and sad characters in their own way. Her sister, I have no doubt, has probably lived a happy life.

P.S. I have just read that Kimmel wrote a Zippy Part 2 book, in which I might find out the answers to my questions. I will take a break and then read that one, too, sometime in the next year. Maybe my questions will be answered!

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