Lidia Yuknavitch is a successful author now. Well-respected in literary circles. But there was a time in her past when she was a misfit.
I’d say I’m a misfit partly because of the things that happened to me, and partly from things that come from the inside out.
Hardwiring, if you will.
She had had a tough life. Stormy childhood with an abusive father and bickering parents. Two bad marriages of her own. My her own admission her life took a nosedive when her daughter was a stillborn. She began substance abuse. Rehab. Was arrested. Incarcerated. Slowly and steadily she put her life back together again.
Her dream of becoming a writer slowly began to come true when she was in her early thirties. Lidia sent a short story “The Chronology of Water” about how her daughter’s death nearly killed her and saving her father from drowning even though he had abused her sister and her. She sent the story for admission to an MFA course at Columbia University, to the hiring committee at a tenure-track teaching position in writing at San Diego State University; to Literary Arts in Oregon as a writing sample for a grant; and to Poets & Writers as a writing sample for the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award. Lidia struck gold. She won all four. She had to reject the MFA as a job is what she needed.
The Poets & Writers Award gave her the opportunity to go to NYC to meet editors and writers. Lidia chose to meet Carole Maso, Peggy Phelan, Lynne Tillman, and Eurydice.
These now over fifty-year-old women writers were so intelligent, so creative, so gorgeous and present in their own minds and bodies. …These women were so alive in their minds. Maybe it sounds weird but I’d never experienced that before.
Since then she has gone on to win awards and publish many notable books of her own such as The Small Backs of Children and The Book of Joan. She returned to school and studied for her PhD. She began teaching once more. She also got married once more and has a son.
It was almost as if my life was moving to that foreign word, successful.
Lidia Yuknavitch gave a TED Talk in February 2016 on “The Beauty of Being a Misfit”. It was later converted into a book, published by Simon & Schuster — The Misfit’s Manifesto. It includes testimonies of other people whom society would consider as “misfits” but Lidia discovers live life on the edge but in their own wacky way are fulfilling and rewarding.
A conversation between Kit De Waal and Lidia Yuknavitch would be promising. There are so many points of common interest apart from which they too come across as women who are “so alive in their minds”.
The Misfit’s Manifesto is an absorbing book, at times terrifying for the experiences Lidia Yuknavitch shares, while filled with hope and optimism.
Lidia Yuknavitch The Misfit’s Manifesto TEDBooks, Simon & Schuster UK, London, 2017. Hb. pp. 150 Rs 350
29 April 2018