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Author: Ehrenreich, Barbara Biographee: Ehrenreich, Barbara
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Class: Biography
Age: Adult
Language: English
LC: PS3555.H
Print Run: 50000
ISBN-13: 9781455501762
LCCN: 2013038766
Imprint: Twelve
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pub Date: 04/08/2014
Availability: Available
List: $26.00
Physical Description: xiv, 237 pages ; 24 cm H 9.5", W 6.5", D 1", 0.99 lbs.
LC Series:
Brodart Sources: Brodart's Insight Catalog: Adult
Brodart's TOP Adult Titles
Bibliographies: Los Angeles Times Bestsellers List
New York Times Bestsellers List
New York Times Bestsellers: Adult Nonfiction
Public Library Core Collection: Nonfiction, 15th ed.
Awards: BookPage Best Books
Library Journal Best Books
Library Journal Starred Reviews
Publishers Weekly Starred Reviews
Starred Reviews: Library Journal
Publishers Weekly
TIPS Subjects: Writing/Journalism/Publishing
Political Science
Biography, Individual
BISAC Subjects: BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Personal Memoirs
LC Subjects: BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Personal Memoirs
Ehrenreich, Barbara
Philosophy and religion, Biography
Self-actualization (Psychology), Biography
Women authors, American, Biography
SEARS Subjects: American authors, Biography
Ehrenreich, Barbara
Philosophy and religion, Biography
Self-realization, Biography
Reading Programs:
Brodart's TOP Adult Titles | 01/01/2014
Returning to a journal she kept as a teenager while questioning the truth about everything, middle-aged Ehrenreich embarks on a journey to retrace her steps and continue her investigation as the atheist faces unexplainable events and deals with the shocking repercussions of what she discovers about the meaning of life. 256pp., 50K, Auth res: VA, Tour
Starred Reviews:
Library Journal | 04/15/2014
Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed) offers a deeply personal look at her search for the truth about life and spirituality. Occasionally brutal in its introspective honesty, this book reveals the alcoholic dysfunction of her parents' relationship and how it affected her growth and beliefs. The author's family's staunch atheism often made Ehrenreich the outsider as a child, but also gave her the tools and freedom to question everything around her, including religion. She dabbled in multiple faiths before settling into atheism herself, but throughout her teen years, she had dissociative "mystical experiences" that she eventually self-diagnosed as a psychological disorder. It wasn't until midlife that she returned to her quest for meaning and attempted to describe her experiences as something more than lapses into mental illness. VERDICT Emotionally evocative, at times disturbing, Ehrenreich's work is engaging and invites--no, demands that its readers question the world around them and everything they believe about it. The author's rational approach to researching "religious experiences" similar to her own, her mission to find an answer to: "Why are we here?" is profoundly relatable to those who have asked similar questions, who have wondered at humanity's purpose, and who have probed at the presence of the Other. Part memoir, part mystical journey, this is essential for anyone with an interest in religious studies, contemporary history, or memoir and biography. Crystal Goldman, San Jose State Univ. Lib., CA. 256p. LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2014.
Publishers Weekly | 01/20/2014
Based on a notebook she started when she was 14 after a series of puzzling "dissociative" episodes that verged on the mystical, Ehrenreich, best-known for her polemics on issues of social justice (Bright-Eyed; Bait and Switch), fashions an intensely engrossing study of her early quest for "cosmic knowledge." As a child of an upwardly mobile scientist father who had started as a copper miner in Butte, Mont., and a resentful mother of thwarted ambitions, both of whom were fierce atheists sliding into alcoholism by the mid-1950s, Ehrenreich moved constantly, eventually landing briefly in Lowell, Mass., where her first mystical experience occurred, then to Los Angeles. Smart in math and science, non-believing and obedient to her father's instruction to ask always why, Ehrenreich was resolved not to turn out like her mother, yet she could not quite be the scientist of her father's dreams because she was a girl; the out-of-body incidences when "the trees step out of the forest" were more exhausting than frightening, but kept goading her to delve deeper into mortality and meaning as she gained maturity as a scientist and a creature of value separate from her parents. Using her journal extracts as a point of departure, Ehrenreich returns with vigor to her youthful quest, enlisting all of her subsequent scientific training to find an explanation for what had occurred to her as a girl, yet offering only a glimmer in her wise and tolerant later years of a possibility of a "living, breathing Other." (Apr.). 240p. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2014.
Journal Reviews
BookPage | 04/01/2014
Barbara Ehrenreich and her younger sister are very close. But her sister really, really does not like the title of Ehrenreich's new memoir, Living with a Wild God. "She thinks I'm being too soft on theism in this book. She's like, how can you write a book with God in the title! It was hardcore, the atheism we came from," Ehrenreich says with a bemused laugh during a call to her home in Alexandria, Virginia, where she moved some years ago to be near her daughter and grandchildren. Readers of Ehrenreich's earlier books--Nickel and Dimed, Bait and Switch or Bright-Sided, for example--know her to be a smart, funny, opinionated progressive voice. Her fascinating new book--her most personally revealing work so far--almost inadvertently points to the sources of both her rigor and her passion. Ehrenreich accepts a challenge from her younger self to explore the "uncanny" mystical experiences of her youth. Ehrenreich, who has described herself as a fourth-generation atheist, was the child of parents raised in radicalized mining families of Butte, Montana. Her parents, we learn, eloped in their teens and eventually became successful and admired community members. "They were smart," Ehrenreich says. "They were unusual in their upward mobility. They encouraged reading, inquiry, curiosity. But they had problems. My father had the drinking problem first. And my mother didn't like me. This would make no sense in today's child-raising discourse, because we now have these artisanal project children, where we constantly think about their feelings and challenges. My mother's belief was do something useful or get out of the way. My parents imbued me with a firm, dogmatic atheism and rationalism." This is the crux of the story Ehrenreich explores in Living with a Wild God. Sometime around the age of 13, she began to have strange experiences of the ineffable. "In these episodes of disassociation as a teenager, I could not look at a chair and see a chair. I saw something else, unnamed, unaccounted for, something beyond language," Ehrenreich says. At the same time, as a rationalist, she pondered the meaning of a life that ended in death in a cooly "solipsistic" manner. For a decade or so, starting when she was 14, she kept an episodic--and remarkably articulate--journal of her thoughts and observations about this dilemma, which she called "The Situation." Her seemingly mystical experiences culminated in a vividly described, ecstatic, hallucinatory morning in Lone Pine, California, after a ski trip with her brother and a friend. For years, as she battled with her parents, went off to Reed College, earned a Ph.D. in cellular immunology from Rockefeller University, and then made a U-turn into social activism and a career as a writer, Ehrenreich explained these teenage episodes to herself as a kind of temporary insanity. But about five years ago she decided to write "a massive, sweeping history of religion, the rise of monotheism, which I do not applaud." Ultimately that big idea didn't work, but Ehrenreich did have the journal of her younger self wrestling with big thoughts. And, it so happens, in that journal her younger self threw down a challenge in July 1958 to her future self, writing: "What have you learned since you wrote this?" "I think there was a little bit of a secret polemic here," Ehrenreich says of her interest in writing about the struggles of her younger self. "Which is that I think that there is a narrative trend, certainly in mainstream American fiction, of maturing, of growing beyond whatever you were in your youth and coming to a more reflective and socially responsible state. I find that kind of repellant. I have respect for the child and the teenage persons of myself. I undertook this... Review exceeds allowable length. Alden Mudge. 256pg. BOOKPAGE, c2014.
Kirkus Reviews | 01/15/2014
In 1959, the 16-year-old author had an ineffable vision, which she here contextualizes and attempts to understand. Ehrenreich (Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, 2009, etc.) returns with a personal chronicle, a coming-of-age story with an edge and a focus: Who am I? What does any of this mean? In 2005, a Florida hurricane destroyed most of the author's papers in her Florida Keys home, but one surviving document was her girlhood diary (kept somewhat regularly from 1956 to 1966). She transcribed that diary and alludes to and quotes from it throughout this account of a dawning consciousness. Ehrenreich came from a line of atheists--and remains one herself (at least in any conventional sense). Throughout, she dismisses monotheism and conventional religions, though, by the end, she's professing a sort of polytheism that acknowledges experiences that so far escape scientific detection and definition. She writes about her troubled family (her father died of Alzheimer's, her mother of an overdose), her childhood loneliness (the fate of many a bright youngster), her girlhood decision to pursue the why of life, and her journey from solipsism to social activism in the 1960s and beyond. She discusses only briefly her two broken marriages and children. Of most interest, of course, is that 1959 experience in Lone Pine, Calif., where, after spending the night in a car, she went for a walk at dawn and saw "the world [had] flamed into life." A talented student (co-valedictorian in high school), especially in the sciences, Ehrenreich studied chemistry and physics in college and graduate school, a career path she abandoned during the era of Vietnam and civil rights. But ever resting like a splinter in her mind: that Lone Pine experience. A powerful, honest account of a lifelong attempt to understand that will please neither theists nor atheists. 256pg. KIRKUS MEDIA LLC, c2014.
Library Journal Prepub Alert | 10/28/2013
A New York Times best-selling author perhaps best known for Nickeled and Dimed, Ehrenreich set out to reconstruct a quest she made as an adolescent, laid out in an old journal she discovered. Her youthful goal of understanding the truth of the universe--ambitious plan--took her through the study of science and several heightened experiences she has come to regard as mystical. The adult Ehrenreich, an atheist and rationalist, was brought to the edge by this consideration of her adolescent self and shares her tumbled thoughts in a book that is part memoir and part philosophical musing. Read it to watch her mind work; with a 50,000-copy first printing. 256p. LJ Prepub Alert Online Review. LIBRARY JOURNAL, c2013.
Review Citations
New York Times Book Review | 04/27/2014