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My Favorite Memoir

I read a lot of memoirs. In the last few years I have been very much taken by Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking, Keith Richards’ Life, and Patty Smith’s Just Kids.

But my favorite memoir right now is Everything I Never Wanted To Be by Dina Kucera (Dream of Things, 2011).

Everything I Never Wanted To Be grabbed me from page one and never let go until the last word. Dina’s voice is so powerful, clear, and natural that I felt she was talking directly to me in my living room – the same feeling I had while reading Keith Richards’ and Patty Smith’s memoirs.

Her story of her own alcoholism, her daughters’ alcoholism and addiction made me cry, wince, laugh, shake my head in disbelief – the emotions just kept coming as I read.

And although we come from very different backgrounds – she grew up in a trailer park, left school after ninth grade, worked for years as a grocery store checker – we both ended up writing memoirs about how the bad things in our lives inspired us to live better lives day by day. Dina now works as a stand-up comic, proving the truth of Norman Cousins’ theory of the healing power of laughter.

I also relate to her description of her daughter Carly’s heroin addiction, about how it changed her, how it made her a different person piece by piece. I found that bipolar disorder did the same thing to my son, Paul, until I didn’t know him anymore, that he was a different person from the one I raised, and that I wasn’t sure I even loved him anymore.

But, as we both discovered, that love never goes away. It’s what keeps us going. Dina shows how all the pain in her heart made her heart stronger and more open to anything coming her way.

Everything I Never Wanted To Be is a must-read for parents and teenagers. It is a life-changing experience, and it will inspire you never to give up.