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Lou Jenkins is the award-winning author of
Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting
"If you combined the lyricism of Annie Dillard, the vision of
Aldo Leopold, and the gentle but tough-minded optimism of Frank
McCourt, you might come close to Amy Lou Jenkins.Tom Bissell
author of The Father of All Things
"Sentence by sentence, a joy to
Phillip Lopate, Author of
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Her Latest Book Project:
Live Through This
A Mother’s Memoir of Runaway Daughters and
A harrowing and deeply personal account of two young girls
who are determined to disappear—any parent’s nightmare—and the eventual
journey back to fierce mother-daughter love
In 2002 Debra Gwartney and
two of her daughters stirred listeners with their story
on National Public Radio's
This American life.
After an unhappy marriage and divorce,
Debra Gwartney moves halfway across the country, from Tucson, Arizona to
Eugene, Oregon, for a new job and what she hopes will be a new life for herself
and her four daughters. The two oldest, Amanda, 14, and Stephanie, 13, come to
blame their mother for the their broken family as well as their
displacement from Tucson, friends, and life as they know it. They hate the rain, the cold, their new school, and they are
angry- angrier than anyone knows.
Amanda and Stephanie run to
the grunge scene of their own city, then to San Francisco, then --they are so
gone their family can not even be sure they are still alive.
Nearly seven years later, the
starkly honest memoir
Live Through This: A Mother's Memoir of Runaway Daughters
and Reclaimed Love tells the larger story. This story of
gone-feral runaway daughters recounts unimaginable agony, forgiveness, and
While many parenting books champion smug how-to
advice about how a super parent can solve any problem, Gwartney's tale of ferocious love and ardent
efforts is void of any self-righteous advice.
It is an introspective, epic, and honest tale, beautifully told. This
Homeresque odyssey to reclaim a family is a study in unconditional love.
This mother, who searches for
a way to save her daughters and tries the few options available to her, is
unable to restore her family. She loves and mothers the daughters at home and
loves the daughters who reject her mothering as well as her very presence.
Gwartney's quiet strength and anguish seem to tremor on the page.
Live Through This
illustrates the complexity of lacerated relationships, which makes this literary
memoir essential reading for those who love rebels, runaways, and imperfect
Debra Gwartney is a faculty member at Portland State University where she
teaches nonfiction. AO readers and Gwartney fans will recall that she co-edited the acclaimed
Anthology, Home Ground : Language for an American Landscape,
Her short stories, personal narratives, essays, and
articles have appeared in numerous journals, anthologies, magazines, and newspapers. Debra is
a former reporter for The Oregonian, was a
nonfiction scholar at the Breadloaf Writers' Conference, and has received
fellowships from Literary Arts, Hedgebrook Writer's Colony, the Wurlitzer
Foundation, and the American Antiquarian Society. She lives in Western Oregon with her husband, the writer
Barry Lopez, and is the
mother of four daughters.
Explore Anthologies Debra Gwartney has contributed to: