My Unsentimental Education
by Debra Monroe

University of Georgia Press, 2015. ISBN 978-0-820-34874-2.
Reviewed by Trilla Pando
Posted on 09/16/2015

Nonfiction: Memoir

It's not an unusual story. A mid-twentieth century family has low aspirations for themselves and even lower for their daughters. Get married. Find yourself a good man who will take care of you. The standard high school graduation present—a typewriter. Mine was. So was Debra Monroe's. A girl needs to learn to type so if she has to work when she finishes having the babies. The end.

But not for Monroe.

"Sometimes you go sideways or down before you go up," Monroe says. She certainly did. Sideways, down, up, and around in circles as she moved through her life. Always, always with her eye on up. I practically became dizzy with the adventures, the wins, the setbacks. Still, like Monroe, I kept going.

A great story teller, Monroe picks her tales so that her narrative stays fast moving and upbeat even through the drinking, the pot, the rough times with parents, and the rougher ones with spouses.

How could this story ever have a happy ending? I'll tell you and I'm not giving it away—the author's biography also tells us. Today, that once erratic, troubled high schooler is using her typing skills to write books. And more, as an MFA professor she teaches others to get their own words down.

I knew Monroe's had brought her life to an even keel because several years ago I read her moving account of adopting her daughter in her memoir, On the Outskirts of Normal. I recommend that book as a companion to this one. They complement and don't repeat.

Winner of many awards including the Flannery O'Conner Award for Fiction, Debra Monroe is the author of two collections of stories, The Source of Trouble and A Wild Cold State; two novels, Newfangled and Shambles; and a memoir. She teaches in the MFA program at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas and lives in Austin with her family. Learn more about her and her books on her website.

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