Winner of the 2017 Monadnock Essay Collection Prize
judge of the 2017 Monadnock Essay Collection Prize
The winner is She Lived, and the Other Girls Died: Essays, a compelling coming-of-age memoir in six parts that opens in the blue-collar city of Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1974, when the six-year-old protagonist, shuffled among various caretakers, first hears the word ‘Watergate,’ and chronicles her adventures, misadventures, shifting perspectives and gradual loss of innocence during the tumultuous 1970’s and ‘80’s. When she is nine the girl and her family move from Jack Kerouac’s Lowell to Andover, Massachusetts, only five miles in distance but a world away in terms of demographics and values; five years later it’s on to the posh lakeside town of Gilford, New Hampshire, and finally, to an all-women’s Catholic college in Nashua, New Hampshire. At each stop the narrator portrays herself as both outsider and insider, struggling to find her place in her school, her town, her world. Along the way we meet fascinating characters, among them the girl’s parents, who in middle age plunge into the world of disco dancing; a brilliant, cross-dressing eight-year-old boy who channels the Olympic gymnast Nadia Comăneci; the troubled, adulterous eighth-grade English teacher whose hero is Erwin Rommel, the Nazi general who plotted to kill Hitler; and the high school classmate who drives a Mustang and is dating a 25-year-old married man. Our narrator portrays each of these flawed, complex individuals unsparingly but with great empathy.
The book ends with a riveting coda, as the narrator, now in her 40’s, married, with a young child, takes a terminally ill friend on a road trip through Vermont and New Hampshire ending at Santa’s Land, a closed and decaying theme park, before she flashes back to 1977, where a little girl, ‘…from her bedroom in Lowell, Massachusetts, surrounded by the crumbling remains of a glorious planned city of industry and prosperity, will nonetheless be raised to believe that she can do anything, be anything.’ The entire manuscript is infused with a generosity of spirit that is most refreshing in these difficult times in which we live.
Kirsti Anne Sandy teaches creative nonfiction, memoir, and narrative theory at Keene State College in Keene, New Hampshire, where her students inspire and motivate her every day. Her work has appeared in The Boiler, Under the Gum Tree, Natural Bridge, and Split Lip, among other journals, and she was the recipient of the Northern New England Review’s 2017 Raven Prize for Creative Nonfiction. She lives on a hill overlooking the mountains of Vermont with her husband, daughter, and, at last count, twenty-six pets (her daughter counts each fish individually.) She started She Lived, and the Other Girls Died in 1994, when she was a student in Doug Hesse’s and David Foster Wallace’s creative nonfiction workshop. This is her first book.