|A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland Indiana
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When Haven Kimmel was born in 1965, Mooreland, Indiana, was a sleepy little hamlet of three hundred people. Nicknamed "Zippy" for the way she would bolt around the house, this small girl was possessed of big eyes and even bigger ears. In this witty and lovingly told memoir, Kimmel takes readers back to a time when small-town America was caught in the amber of the innocent postwar period–people helped their neighbors, went to church on Sunday, and kept barnyard animals in their backyards.
Laced with fine storytelling, sharp wit, dead-on observations, and moments of sheer joy, Haven Kimmel's straight-shooting portrait of her childhood gives us a heroine who is wonderfully sweet and sly as she navigates the quirky adult world that surrounds Zippy.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
- A Wonderful Memoir Seasoned Liberally with Gentle Humor
OK - this is only the second of Haven Kimmel's books that I've read - and I have to say that she's rocketing to the top of my favorite authors chart. "The Used World" was the first book of hers that I read and loved and now I can say that I like her fiction AND non-fiction.
I remember when "A Girl Named Zippy" came out...with that title and with that cover? Who could miss it? At the time, I dismissed it, I'm not sure why. Probably? Because the word Zippy was in the title. Foolish me!
"Not long ago my sister Melinda shocked me by saying she had always assumed that the book on Mooreland had yet to be written because no one sane would be interested in reading it. "No, no, wait," she said. "I know who might read such a book. A person lying in a hospital bed with no television and no roommate. Just lying there. Maybe waiting for a physical therapist. And then here comes a candy striper with a squeaky library cart and on that cart is only one book - or maybe two books: yours, and Cooking with Pork. I can see how a person would be grateful for Mooreland then."
Count me as grateful and/or insane. Though I probably never want to live in Mooreland, Indiana (population 300), I certainly enjoyed Kimmel's lovingly drawn memoirs of her childhood there.
Back to the cover of the book, by the way? On at least my copy, it features a...striking picture of a child, I assume Haven Kimmel, which inspires one of the best quotes of the book. "When my mother first saw me in the hospital she looked up with tears in her eyes and said to my father, "I'll love her and protect her anyway."
This book is filled with a mix of very funny, very sad and sometime incredibly poignant stories. One passage might make me laugh out loud, and the next may have me silenced by its loveliness. After her father gives her a single egg as a reminder of a lost beloved pet, "I put it in the refrigerator, on a nest made out of a blue handkerchief. Over the next few days and weeks I took it out and looked at it many times, but I didn't know what to do with it. I kept it so long that whatever was inside it completely dried up, and finally it was so light and insubstantial in my hand that it seemed barely to exist. It was just a sigh of a thing."
I am far from a small town person, but one senses the love and nostalgia in Kimmel's words that make a town with an unchanging population of 300 sound not too bad.
"When I think of getting up for church, it is always winter in our house, but when I think of the actual walk, a small town block - our house and yard and the house and yard of Reed and Mary Ball, who never ever left their front porch - it is always a perfect summer day that will wither in my absence."
It's that mixture of seeing with adult and child's eyes simultaneously, and the acknowledgement of the eccentric things that are our memories that I think I appreciated the most. A mixture seasoned liberally with gentle humor.
"Yes, like a Shrine." As far as I knew, Shrines wore absurd hats and drove miniature cars in circles during the Mooreland Fair Parade, and were praised, inexplicably, for burning children."
Towards the end of the book, I finally caught on to the fact that Kimmel grew up in extremely poor circumstances. It's not that she tries to hide that fact...it's that nothing is written in a way to inspire pity or awe or sympathy. She lays the facts out, but then puts the focus on that which in her life was the most positive. The things didn't matter...the people mattered.
"When he (her father) was at the wheel, everyone else could sleep because he never would. In short, he was what it meant to be a father and a man in 1971. Up against his power I could see none of his failings."
And "Even though my mother almost never left the couch, she was a woman of many gifts, my favorite being her ability to make anything she was eating crunch. I still don't know how she did it, and I tried to stump her with a wide variety of foods. "Aha! Try these raisins," I would say triumphantly. And she'd put a couple of raisins in her mouth and crunch, crunch, crunch. She could make them sound like corn nuts."
The love that Haven Kimmel has for her family, and the appreciation she seems to have for the gift that was her childhood comes shining through this memoir. I see that she wrote a second non-fiction book about her mother...and I am adding that to my wish list as we speak. I'm looking forward to another trip to Mooreland...in a literary way....more info
- A Wonderful Memoir, No Matter Your Perspective
"A Girl Named Zippy" has been called a love letter to a town - and the story of a happy childhood.
These might not be the first thoughts that come to every reader's mind.
Zippy's town is small and backwards, with a postmaster who won't allow people to subscribe to magazines because he thinks they should have to buy them at the drugstore in front of everyone.
As for her happy childhood, Zippy's tales are fraught with physical peril, angry and abused domestic animals, and terrifying adults, including mean teachers and the old lady across the street who wishes Zippy were dead.
On the other hand, Zippy has parents who love her and appreciate her keen intelligence and insight. She has dear friends. She has routines and comforts. She has a near-perfect bicycle.
What does seem to come to the minds of many readers is that "A Girl Named Zippy" is heart-warming, touching, deep, and lovely. Whether that's because it is a love letter about a happy childhood, or a tale told by a sensitive child who feels things deeply and sees the peccadilloes of her town and its people, isn't important. It's not what is said about this autobiography that matters, it's what it contains.
"A Girl Named Zippy" is wonderful, no matter your perspective.
- Just What I Needed ....
I just picked this book up at a rummage sale. Whoever donated it to the sale has my undying gratitude because this book was the sweetest and funniest book I have read in quite some time. I am a fan of memoirs and biographies but this one is so unlike any others that I am now hooked on Kimmel's writings. I want more Zippy!
Like Zippy, who is four years older than I am by the way, I grew up in a small midwestern town but not as small as hers! I would be considered big city girl in comparison! But the midwestern attitude is so familiar that reading this book was like traveling down memory lane for me! She's the youngest in a family of three kids. Her older brother and sister were already in Junior high by the time she arrived. Her mother refers to her lovingly as an "after thought." That is how the book started out (well, almost). Named Haven at birth, her dad decided to call her Zippy since she could never sit still. You can say that her memories of childhood reeked of love, laughter and cigarettes.
Zippy is precocious. Zippy is curious. Zippy is Zippy, a character that you will never forget. My favorite part is the scene where her sister told her that she's adopted. Outraged, she stomps in and asks her mother if that's true. Her mother stops reading for a moment and says, yes, you are. A band of roving gypsies with a pack of wolves that stand up and preach during a full moon came through the area. The whole conversation had me repeating it to my husband as it was so hilarious and something exactly like what my father would spin out to me when I was a child.
I haven't raved about a book in a real long time though I have read lots of really good books ~~ but this book is something I am going to urge my book club to read sometime in the next year. It is something I think we'll enjoy because not only is it funny and engaging, but it talks about a childhood that is now lost in the mists of time. Building your own bike? Who does that anymore? There are many instances in this book that I remember doing as a kid or have heard my parents do when they were kids. I know that Christmas is more different today than it was in the early 70s. It seems to be a simpler time back then even though it was harder especially after the Vietnam War ended. It was a time of change but Zippy had a happy childhood and those memories are funny and bittersweet.
This book comes highly recommended. If you need a laugh, this book is a good place to get one! It is just a really good read and perfect for a summer read!
- Funny, easy reading.
Great book and love the chapters as complete stories within. Makes it a nice pick up anytime book. Very good reading. Funny....more info
- Three cheers for Zippy
Zippy was loaned to me. After I read it, I knew I needed it in my house to savor as needed. The occasion and content of Zippy's first words are priceless, and I'm trying to memorize them. There's no self pity, no self-righteousness or judgment in this story of a self-possessed child sailing through what to others might be considered a precarious childhood. And it made me laugh, again and again....more info
- 'Zippy' is a true winner; give this one a shot!
When I first got this book, I was a little apprehensive about the "droll and distinctive" look at the "smallness of a rambunctious yet thoughtful child's world." A few pages into Zippy's series of essays about her childhood, her family, and her town, I was completely hooked. Kimmel just lets facts drop, never finding the need to over-explain a situation or force the reader to a conclusion (it takes a few hints for the reader to figure out her family is Quaker). I loved the style, and I laughed out loud and fondly remembered my own childhood at many junctures.
This is a book that has wide appeal across generations. I loved it as a twentysomething, and I gave it to my friends, my parents, and my grandparents this past Christmas, and they all adored the stories, too. It's rare that I find a book that I can share with people of every generation with such success.
Take a chance on the stories of Zippy and you will not be disappointed. Be prepared to order a few extra copies to share....more info
I laughed so hard. It was so nice to read a memoir that was NOT depressing. Nothing too terribly horrible marred the past of the author and when there are a few set-backs and road-blocks, she chooses to tackle them with humor and a positive attitude. I am amazed at the detail with which she is able to recall and relate to the reader the childhood exuberance and eccentricities we all had but easily forget. Great read!...more info
- I liked reading a memoir that was just plain fun
I was able to laugh through this memoir..I have since picked up her second memoir and I am saving that for a rainy (or snowy) day when I can kick back and read it all day long-...more info
This book was recommended at a writer's conference I attended recently....What a great read!....It is amazing how real this writer can make the events she describes in her book, particularly since she is recording her memories from childhood....She manages to maintain a childlike voice and perspective which makes it even better....The book is full of great vignettes that range from funny to bittersweet....I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves good writing and wants to be thoroughly entertained with crisp, authentic stories of childhood innocence.....Sarah...more info
- Fun...nostalgic book
Zippy is the equivalent of A Christmas Story from a girl's perspective.
It's enjoyable....more info
- Sweet, thoughtful memoir
This is the story of Zippy, an imaginative, precocious girl who grew up in the small town of Mooreland, Indiana during the 1960's and 1970's. She tells stories about her family members, childhood friends, eccentric neighbors, and various pets. Through it all, Zippy has a resilience of spirit and a positive attitude that shine through, even in situations that otherwise may not be ideal.
This book is unusual in that it is written with a child's voice, but is interesting and humorous to adults. Haven Kimmel is really able to capture the feeling of being a child, and how even the most minor of events can have major importance. While reading this book, I found myself reciting several sweet and funny passages out loud to various family members. I loved how Zippy shared the stories of the first memory she ever had, the first time she thought about family genes, and the first time she thought about the passage of time. The book is written in very simple prose, but has depth to it as well.
I highly, highly recommend this book. It was an absolute joy, and I loved every minute of it. Do not miss this one!!!!...more info
- Stories of cruelty to animals
I got a third of the way through this book and had to stop. Kimmel describes the way her family and her neighbors treat animals as if it is amusing. But it's actually just disturbing....more info
- Unhappy childhood?
I thought it was a very interesting volume, and I liked her writing style immensely.?
?? I found myself feeling terribly sorry for Zippy's most unhappy childhood. But fortunately, she was so unaware of how limited and stifling her life was in that near poverty-like home front, that I think she was probably basically a happy kid.? I can't imagine what it would have been like to have such a completely inattentive mother...who pretty much did nothing but sit on a couch in a shabby house and read incessantly ...while Zippy had to make her own way, sleeping in a (oh, my God) sleeping bag on the couch year after year!? No wonder she was so impressed with GOOD smells and clean homes on the rare occasions she got to visit them.? And, it broke my heart when she learned of her little friend's apparent run-in with a pedophile (the music teacher), and yet in Zippy's naive and innocent way, took it upon herself to find a way her friend was never left alone with him again! Ms. Kimmel wrote from the perspective of her own knowledge (or lack of) and being age specific, it made me very curious to find out more about Zippy as a young and grown adult, once she got to witness the real world, hopefully well outside of her small hometown. (Maybe she will write another book following up on those early years.)
??? Having myself been raised by both parents who not only adored their 3 kids, but encouraged our every effort every minute of our childhood, I'm particularly sympathetic with a child who is born into such a pathetically disinterested environment, but, I also felt, from her writing, she had to have managed to turn out pretty special!? There were numerous times, she brought up specific events, perhaps HOPING her parents and those who effected her childhood in whatever way they did, would read them and feel the shame they should feel for their behavior. (Perhaps that was wishful thinking on MY part.)?
?? I have a tendency to read too much between the lines sometimes, and I may be guilty of that this time as well.? But, suffice it to say...I would highly recommend this book to anyone.
N. R. Nielsen...more info
- i loved zippy!
the funniest memoir i've read so far. there is so much humor, truth, some heartbreak and innocence. she retained the child's voice and innocence while telling her story. wonderful! kimmel managed to capture the early 70s and its feelings as well. i laughed out loud quite a few times while reading. enjoy!...more info
- The humor is just skin-deep
Imagine you find a shoe box full of pictures of your childhood, more or less in chronological order, and each photo triggers a memory. Then you decide to write down those memories, and your humorous tone is so sharp that your narrative ends up being quite serious.
Well, that's A Girl Named Zippy. At first it was easy to just be taken by the comical and self-deprecating observations of Haven Kimmel, but there is more down there. The humor is just skin-deep.
This book reminds me of a comment i heard once about the paintings of Joan Mir¨® (http://www.euroresidentes.com/pintores/miro.htm). Someone said "A five-year-old can paint like that". And maybe so, but the amazing thing is that Mir¨® wasn't five when he did them. Haven Kimmel writes in an effortless, simplistic manner that is FAR from being simple. I found that amazing. ...more info
- Delightful and witty!
This book is a fascinating escape; it brings the reader back to childhood and also reminds us of questions we have long since given up asking. A great hammock swinging summer read! ...more info
- A quick read that ran out of ZIP at the end
I confess that I read this book in a few shourt hours. Fascinating. The author has captured her voice as a child admirably. The first half of the book is suprising clever and I found myself laughing outloud often, but by the end, the stories began to feel a little too over the top, like the author was trying too hard to be sensational... instead of just being her clever like she was in the beginning. Still, an awesome book. ...more info
- Dead ON
Growing up 3 miles away from Mooreland, Indiana in a just as small town called Losantville I would have to say I am an expert when it comes to saying how dead on this book really is. I actually even lived in Mooreland across from the mayor of the town for a brief period of time. People might think Haven's descriptions of the people there can be a bit harsh but I will tell you that there were people there like that and there still is. The same people actually...other than the ones that have passed.
For anyone who has ever lived in a small town this book is a look into all our lives. Great job Haven!...more info
- Ignore the book cover !
This is a good summer read with some sweet memories of "the good old days." Pick it up or put it down as you will, the characters (they live right in your neighborhood or under your roof) are easy to remember. And, while it seems to be a bit fluffy it does give the reader a good glimpse inside the life and love of a 60's family, warts and all! ...more info
- Love this little book
I was not impressed by the premise of this little book and expected very little. I was so pleasantly surprised. It is beguiling and written with such soul. The story is told in short, but wonderful prose. I highly recommend it....more info
- A Girl Named Zippy
Cute and thoughtful. An easy read that makes you remember how things were different way back when....more info
- Very funny!
Who would have thought the adventures of a small girl in a small town could be so funny. People often accuse me of not getting their jokes or not laughing at things they think are funny, but this book actually made me laugh so hard tears were coming out of my eyes. It's great. Read it! Then get the sequel....more info
- Another lovely Hoosier memoir
I am originally from NW Indiana, so Mooreland is too far away from my childhood. But I enjoyed this easy read, the beautiful prose, and how the author wrote from a young girl's perspective.
She loved and adored her family, although her father's gambling and her mother's depression were hardly touched but maybe that is why Kimmel wrote a second book. Depression in the 1960s was stricly a woman's problem and of no concern to men and thus of no value to society.
Zippy was the youngest of three children. Her two older siblings were years older than her. She learned to admire them from a young age.
Smalltown life is wonderfully depicted in this little book. Ignorant farmers, arrogant Californians, mean old ladies lurking behind dark curtains (at least that is from a child's mind) all come to life here.
Because there was no epilogue in the end, the book leaves us wondering what happened to all the characters. Where did Dana go? What happened to Julie? How are her parents now, if they are still around? Did her brother follow ministry? There are so many questions left unanswered. ...more info
- Zipped right through it!
It was a required read for our book club. Can't say I would have picked it on my own. Felt like reading someone's journal although I liked the style of writing, you could visualize every event. It was a nice finish to our reading season, we take the summer off. I would recommend it to certain individuals but not everyone.
- I love Zippy!
This was a light hearted and hilariously funny book. It is refreshing every once in a while to read a story that doesn't have murder, major drama, or psychological problems. Zippy's story is from a small town where something you and I take for granted every day is described in a way to make you laugh and appreciate the small things in life. I bought the next Zippy book afterwards and loved it just as much....more info
- You won't be sorry...
I had heard good things about this book, so I bought it. I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting and was disappointed that it had to end. I went from laughing so hard I had to get out of bed where I was reading because I thought I would wakeup my husband, to shedding some tears over a passage where "Zippy" describes her dad as what a man and a father should be during the '70's. That line was such a tribute in and of itself. Again, I don't like to give away the entire book, as some reviewers do, but I will say to get this book, read it, and enjoy it as much as I did....more info
- Poignant and Funny!
A Girl Named Zippy is a wonderful and poignant memoir. It's quite obvious that Haven Kimmel came from a family with it's fair share of problems and hardships, but this memoir is not a pity fest but a loving and glowing story of growing up poor in the Midwest. Called Zippy because of her speed in getting around, Haven is a young girl with a wonderfully skewed view of the world. How Kimmel was able to tell this story all through a child's eyes and voice is remarkable. In today's world I have no doubt that she would be labeled ADHD, and probably medicated, but back then she was just a rambunctious child. I am about 10 years older than Kimmel, but so many of her observations reminded me of my own family and growing up relatively poor in the late '50's early '60's. Her story of being told she was adopted (by her older siblings of course) was laugh out loud funny and reminded me of that same cruel story we told my younger brother. Everything in this book rang true and I loved her memories and the fact that there was no finger pointing. She was an obviously loved child and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book so much that I have already bought the sequel, She Got Up Off the Couch. I can't wait to get to it....more info