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The House That Made Me: Writers Reflect on the Places and People that Defined Them edited by Grant Jarrett

Carefully curated essays take on the concept of home from varied points of view.

house made me

The House That Made Me collects essays by 19 writers reflecting on their childhood homes (or whichever home each writer has found most influential). Editor Grant Jarrett developed the idea for this anthology while contemplating his own first address via Google Earth, and he directs the contributors to that software. While the majority of essays hew close to Jarrett’s initial notion, some also riff on the concept: Roy Kesey considers those who view our homes from above, including birds, spies, angels, gods, astronauts and children climbing on roofs, as he once did.

The resulting assembly of voices offers a range of approaches and backgrounds: Kris Radish’s nostalgia for an idyllic rural community; Patricia Jabbeh Wesley’s attempts at home-building in Liberia just before civil war erupted; and the juxtaposition of Pamela Erens’s privileged upbringing on the lake in Chicago and Jeffery Renard Allen’s difficult one in that same city’s Southside. Justine Musk writes of the possibility that “a person has two homes: the place where you were born (literally, not metaphorically), and the place that fits your soul.” As she works to leave her small Canadian hometown for Los Angeles: “It’s that sense of not-belonging that can become, slowly and over time, its own kind of belonging.” While each essay is a worthy and thought-provoking piece of craft, the true achievement is in the sum of these parts, a chorus of diverse experiences that work together to define “home” in all of its possibilities.


This review originally ran in the April 22, 2016 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish news.


Rating: 8 parachutes, for its matching my personal obsessions, these days.

One Response

  1. […] help or confuse our recollections of the houses we grew up in? (Much more on this topic lies within The House That Made Me, which I recommend if this subject interests […]

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