jennifer gonnerman

Vicarious MFA: Family Time!

Books read since last post: Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje and Life on the Outside by Jennifer Gonnerman.

Michael Ondaatje

Michael Ondaatje

In Non/Fiction we discussed Running in the Family, a beautiful memoir of Michael Ondaatje’s unbelievably lush, gin-swilling family who lived on Ceylon, an island off the coast of India. Some people in class were disappointed/confused that Ondaatje didn’t really approach the whole colonialism aspect of a British family living in India and having servants. Most people didn’t care that much because they were distracted by the beauty of the book. Each chapter reads like a prose poem and there’s no overt narrative arc. It’s more like a book of poetry masquerading as a memoir.

For The First Book seminar we read Jennifer Gonnerman’s Life on the Outside, a ridiculously impressive book about Elaine Bartlett, a woman

Elaine Bartlett (Photo by Heather Conley)

Elaine Bartlett (Photo by Heather Conley)

who was sentenced to 25 years of jail time under the Rockefeller Drug Laws after being set up by a drug dealer working for the cops. The book focuses on the Bartlett family’s struggle to make ends meet before, during and after Elaine’s prison time. She served 16 years before being granted clemency in 2000. I can’t even begin to explain how well this book was written. The amount of information Gonnerman gets the reader to understand and remember about Elaine’s set up, her huge family, the Rockefeller drug laws, and the myriad complications before and after the jail sentence is nothing short of phenomenal. The Rockefeller drug laws were repealed by Gov. David Patterson last week and Elaine Bartlett’s story had an impact in that decision.

Read for Next Week:

Non/Fiction: Oh, wait, I forgot. Will update this later today.

The First Book: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides

And of course, workshop submissions.

Vicarious MFA / Comments Off on Vicarious MFA: Family Time!
April 3rd, 2009 / 10:55 am