Jo Ann Beard

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Jo Ann Beard is an American essayist.


Beard was born in 1955, Chicago, IL. Beard graduated from the University of Iowa with a BFA and MA. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.[1]

She worked as an editor for a physics journal at the University of Iowa and was a colleague of the victims of the University of Iowa shooting, which became a subject for her work. Her writing has appeared in Tin House,[2] and The New Yorker.





The Boys of My Youth[edit]

The Boys of my Youth, Jo Ann Beard's memoir, focuses on the defining moments of her life, written with strong detail and captivating memories. Each chapter scans over a certain aspect, as she creates the sceneries and emotions to match. It's a personal narrative that gets a closer look on her feelings towards the things that had come and gone in her life like her friends, family, her favorite toy Hal, and of course, the boys. She manipulates imagery in such a way that makes the memoir more personal, relatable, and in many ways interactive. Her glances at different parts of her life are captivating, and are set into autobiographical essays about youth and adulthood. There is strong detail on the struggles of life, such as death, acceptance, divorce, and uncertainty, but she also justifies the pleasures, like friendship, relationships, childhood, and the beauty of memories. The book does not go in chronological order. She skips around in her life, grouping events that share a common theme or focus, and ties it together with its ultimate lesson or effect on her. It is fair to say that the memoir is just a story about a young girl in the midwest often finding herself stuck in her own mistakes and fears, but written in a way that can be reflective to many others in how she deals with them. Referring to the title, The Boys of my Youth, various crushes in her younger years play a large role in the book. There were the short-lasting relationships in dark bars, and longer relationships. This is a contrast throughout the book. She refers to small memories, like being in a parade as a little girl, and really important ones, like the murder case of six victims, where she was the friend of one of the victims and of the shooter. It just so happened that she left the school earlier than usual the day the event occurred. She talks about her emotional involvement in serious moments like this. There is the detailed background, and the forward, intentional feel to all of her stories. A few of her chapters have appeared in The New Yorker.

She starts the book by describing an incident from when she was young, about a family vacation. She describes how she isn't allowed to swim, and a group of teens go rushing by on a current and yell out for help, but she is dumbfounded and cannot help. The chapter ends with a teen shaking and saying that he thought his last memory would be her. She then moves on, explaining her relationship with her grandparents. Her grandmother remarries a year after the death of her maternal grandfather, to a man named Ralph. He slaughters livestock and she comes along with him on his trips. Her grandmother, on the other hand, she pities. She is a volunteer helper for the old and disabled. She cannot understand how they can live their boring lives without going insane. She doesn't understand how she voluntarily stays with them each summer. The next chapter explains her relationship with her older cousin, whom she calls Wendell. She obviously adores Wendell, based on the way she describes her grace and beauty while they are driving down the road, singing to the radio.



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