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The Wrong Way to Save Your Life: Essays
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Harper Perennial 2017
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From an important new American writer comes this powerful collection of personal essays on fear, creativity, art, faith, academia, the Internet, and justice.

In this poignant and inciting collection of literary essays, Megan Stielstra tells stories to ward off fears both personal and universal as she grapples toward a better way to live. In her titular piece "The Wrong Way To Save Your Life," she answers the question of what has value in our lives—a question no longer rhetorical when the apartment above her family's goes up in flames. "Here is My Heart" sheds light on Megan's close relationship with her father, whose continued insistence on climbing mountains despite a series of heart attacks leads the author to dissect deer hearts in a poetic attempt to interrogate her own feelings about mortality.

Whether she's imagining the implications of open-carry laws on college campuses, recounting the story of going underwater on the mortgage of her first home, or revealing the unexpected pains and joys of marriage and motherhood, Stielstra's work informs, impels, enlightens, and embraces us all. The result is something beautiful—this story, her courage, and, potentially, our own.

Intellectually fierce and viscerally intimate, Megan Stielstra's voice is witty, wise, warm, and above all, achingly human.

"Stielstra is a masterful essayist."—Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist and Hunger

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Street Date:
08/01/2017
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780062429216
ASIN:
B01N01T83A
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APA Citation (style guide)

Megan Stielstra. (2017). The Wrong Way to Save Your Life: Essays. Harper Perennial.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Megan Stielstra. 2017. The Wrong Way to Save Your Life: Essays. Harper Perennial.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Megan Stielstra, The Wrong Way to Save Your Life: Essays. Harper Perennial, 2017.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Megan Stielstra. The Wrong Way to Save Your Life: Essays. Harper Perennial, 2017. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Date Updated:
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        Megan Stielstra is the author of Once I Was Cool and Everyone Remain Calm. Her work has appeared in The Best American Essays, the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Guernica, BuzzFeed, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She teaches creative nonfiction at Northwestern University.

      • name: Megan Stielstra
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From an important new American writer comes this powerful collection of personal essays on fear, creativity, art, faith, academia, the Internet, and justice.

In this poignant and inciting collection of literary essays, Megan Stielstra tells stories to ward off fears both personal and universal as she grapples toward a better way to live. In her titular piece "The Wrong Way To Save Your Life," she answers the question of what has value in our lives—a question no longer rhetorical when the apartment above her family's goes up in flames. "Here is My Heart" sheds light on Megan's close relationship with her father, whose continued insistence on climbing mountains despite a series of heart attacks leads the author to dissect deer hearts in a poetic attempt to interrogate her own feelings about mortality.

Whether she's imagining the implications of open-carry laws on college campuses, recounting the story of going underwater on the mortgage of her first home, or...

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fullDescription

From an important new American writer comes this powerful collection of personal essays on fear, creativity, art, faith, academia, the Internet, and justice.

In this poignant and inciting collection of literary essays, Megan Stielstra tells stories to ward off fears both personal and universal as she grapples toward a better way to live. In her titular piece "The Wrong Way To Save Your Life," she answers the question of what has value in our lives—a question no longer rhetorical when the apartment above her family's goes up in flames. "Here is My Heart" sheds light on Megan's close relationship with her father, whose continued insistence on climbing mountains despite a series of heart attacks leads the author to dissect deer hearts in a poetic attempt to interrogate her own feelings about mortality.

Whether she's imagining the implications of open-carry laws on college campuses, recounting the story of going underwater on the mortgage of her first home, or revealing the unexpected pains and joys of marriage and motherhood, Stielstra's work informs, impels, enlightens, and embraces us all. The result is something beautiful—this story, her courage, and, potentially, our own.

Intellectually fierce and viscerally intimate, Megan Stielstra's voice is witty, wise, warm, and above all, achingly human.

"Stielstra is a masterful essayist."—Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist and Hunger

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      • premium: False
      • source: Maris Kreizman
      • content: "The essay collection that I still think about the most, for its wit and its wisdom, is Megan Stielstra's masterpiece."
      • premium: False
      • source: Chicago Tribune
      • content: "I'm fascinated with the way kindness cancels out fear (and fear cancels out kindness), and Stielstra's essays wrestle with both."
      • premium: False
      • source: Amanda Fortini, Nevada Public Radio
      • content: "It's opened up my thinking about the personal essay. She has a knack for taking her personal, intimate stories and broadening them outward to consider how she fits in this larger project of humanity we're all engaged in. The book is genius."
      • premium: False
      • source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune
      • content: "Warm, funny and occasionally furious. . . Megan Stielstra maps essential questions about art and the self: questions about memory, assumption, love and fear. . . .Stielstra is an evangelist for story's power to transform lives. . . . Her sentences hum with the humor and asides of oral storytelling."
      • premium: False
      • source: National Book Review
      • content: "A star of the Chicago story-telling scene, Stielstra internalizes her engagement with the live audience and translates it to the page with a voice that is personal and candid, yet neither nostalgic nor self-referential. In the four parts of this collection, each devoted to a decade of her life, Stielstra segues between quotidian concerns and harrowing ones, like what objects to grab as she and her son narrowly escape their burning apartment building."
      • premium: False
      • source: Ploughshares    
      • content: "The author of the beloved Once I Was Cool returns this summer with a fresh book of essays on fear, and it couldn't be more timely. Stielstra's essays read like the conversations you want to be having with friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and strangers, but maybe—like me—you've been a little afraid to initiate. Like a good friend, Stielstra doesn't hold back on her love, wit, wisdom, and truth. . . . What I loved most about this book was how deeply I felt Stielstra's own heart thumping on every page. She taught me that the opposite of fear isn't courage. It's kindness."
      • premium: False
      • source: Chicago Magazine
      • content: "It's Stielstra at her best: wryly funny and brutally honest."
      • premium: False
      • source: Chicago Review of Books
      • content: "These essays—all centered on the subject of fear—are powerful, beautiful, relevant, raw, and important. In deeply intimate and personal stories, she invites readers on a journey through multiple neighborhoods, homes, writing programs, jobs, and beaches; through concert venues and dog parks; through offices and classrooms. Chicago is alive on the page—not just as a backdrop, but as an active agent on the choices and events in Stielstra's life. Her life has clearly been marked by the city, and she grapples every day with how to mark Chicago in turn—to make it better. This isn't her first collection, and how lucky we will be if it isn't her last."
      • premium: False
      • source: Kirkus (starred review)
      • content: "A life-enriching collection of essays by a conscientious writer and teacher who knows that asking the right questions is more important than having all the answers. . . . The author sounds like a marvelous teacher, and her collection offers plenty of teaching moments. In a style that is literary but never pedantic, Stielstra has crafted a collection that has such a sense of continuity that it could pass as a memoir."
      • premium: False
      • source: Publishers Weekly
      • content: "She has a flair for nostalgia and for cultural criticism that is never pretentious. Moreover, her take on going from her hapless 20s to her more sophisticated 40s is funny and smart. It is easy to connect with her experiences as she unabashedly relates embarrassing or discomfiting moments, whether it is digging through the trash for her retainer at Wendy's as a teenager or sleeping with a guy during her 30s 'who made me keep my socks on. He was afraid of feet.'"
      • premium: False
      • source: Booklist (starred review)
      • content: "For its wisdom and compassion, honesty and courage, Stielstra's stellar essay collection is a lifeline and a microscope, a means of examining the dread of whatever one finds daunting and a manner of exorcising demons through the sheer power of commitment and desire."
      • premium: False
      • source: Esmé Weijun Wang
      • content: "Reading this book is like listening to stories from a wise, compassionate, and irrepressibly funny friend—one who allows her empathy to fill every unflinching tale about how fear both plagues and saves us. Whether she's...
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        May 15, 2017
        Stielstra (Once I Was Cool) is an affable narrator in this sensitive and funny, if familiar, collection of personal essays. Perhaps best known for “Channel B,” a selection for the Best American Essays 2013 about struggling with postpartum depression, she returns with a book dedicated to a motley collection of topics, including aging, sex, race, writing, and her hometown of Chicago. Many of her essays focus on her roles as a writer and a mother, examining the joys and rigors of both. The title essay is a tender account of surviving a fire that ravaged Stielstra’s home. She has a flair for nostalgia and for cultural criticism that is never pretentious. Moreover, her take on going from her hapless 20s to her more sophisticated 40s is funny and smart. It is easy to connect with her experiences as she unabashedly relates embarrassing or discomfiting moments, whether it is digging through the trash for her retainer at Wendy’s as a teenager or sleeping with a guy during her 30s “who made me keep my socks on. He was afraid of feet.” This collection breaks no new ground, but it is a pleasant and brisk read. Agent: Meredith Kaffel Simonoff, DeFiore and Company.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        Starred review from June 1, 2017
        Perhaps not lifesaving, but a life-enriching collection of essays by a conscientious writer and teacher who knows that asking the right questions is more important than having all the answers.Stielstra (Once I Was Cool, 2014) has often performed her pieces as well as published them, and her strong sense of voice and engagement with her audience reflect that experience. She is an ardent feminist, but her pieces rarely seem exclusionary; they are not directed toward any particular gender, race, economic class, generation (though rites of passage in 21st-century bohemian Chicago figure heavily), or even political persuasion. The author wants people to communicate, to connect, and to face their fears, not only of each other, but the ones deep inside. When she was in the process of losing her job within the writing program at a college where she'd spent almost two decades, she writes, "I outlined a book proposal, a collection of essays about fear." That proposal became this book. So what is she afraid of? Writing. Those who might be offended by her writing. Not writing well enough. Falling in love. Getting married. Having a baby. Cancer. Men who grope. Her response to men who grope. Sex. Not enough sex. Sex with the strings of love attached. Mortgages. Property values. Her dad's heart and his hunting adventures in Alaska. Guns. When her young son asked what an essay is, she responded, "It's a kind of question." He responded, "Okay. Did you find the answer?" After having her baby, Stielstra asks, "How do you write about depression in a way that's not depressing?" Her own essay is the answer. She also maintains, "at some point, our education no longer belongs to teachers. It belongs to us." The author sounds like a marvelous teacher, and her collection offers plenty of teaching moments. In a style that is literary but never pedantic, Stielstra has crafted a collection that has such a sense of continuity that it could pass as a memoir.

        COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        July 1, 2017

        Still shots and picture postcards created with words make up this collection of personal essays about fear. Stielstra (creative nonfiction, Northwestern Univ.; Once I Was Cool) confronts her dread and distress: overdue bills, economic declines, apartment fires, pregnancy scares, presidential elections, and writing. One episode recalls a childhood memory of catching a bucket of frogs and kissing each one, expecting a prince. Key to Stielstra's life stories is her father's instruction: "jump." Her memories range from jumping from a tree house, snarling weenie dogs, and, every child's dread, the lost retainer. Digressions include her interest in dissecting animal hearts and numerous stories about her sexual adventures. The struggle with postpartum depression and the emotional strength of a loving husband are additional themes. Stielstra is also a longtime company member of 2nd Story in Chicago, a collective of story-makers and -lovers working together to build community through the power of storytelling. Kudos to Stielstra for making her fears public and acknowledging that she may misremember. VERDICT Readers are welcome to exult or sneer at Stielstra's behavior; she appears to be okay with either.--Joyce Sparrow, Kenneth City, FL

        Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from August 1, 2017
        There may be a wrong way to save your life, but there is no wrong way to appreciate this book. As a memoir? Yes: ambivalent pregnancy tests in Italian youth hostels, wistful star-gazing on a Michigan lake. As a treatise on twenty-first-century feminism? Of course: contemplating privilege as a white woman wary of criticism and irrelevance. As a probing series of essays on fear, motherhood, career, and relationships? Without a doubt. Stielstra brings all her selves to the table and in doing so provides a crystalline haven of acceptance and safety to anyonewife, mother, educator, lover, writerwho is both present in every moment and wondering how she arrived at any particular juncture in time. Stielstra has both questions and answers. Is my writing good enough? Am I loving and loved, loyal and worthy? The answers have been amassed over the years, but more questions crop up for every one that's resolved. For its wisdom and compassion, honesty and courage, Stielstra's stellar essay collection is a lifeline and a microscope, a means of examining the dread of whatever one finds daunting and a manner of exorcising demons through the sheer power of commitment and desire.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2017, American Library Association.)

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