Lidia Yuknavitch

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Lidia Yuknavitch
Yuknavitch in 2012
Yuknavitch in 2012
BornLidia Yukman[1]
(1963-06-18) June 18, 1963 (age 59)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
OccupationWriter, educator
Alma materUniversity of Oregon

Lidia Yuknavitch (/ˈjknəvɪ/ YOOK-nə-vitch;[2] born June 18, 1963)[3][4] is an American writer, teacher and editor based in Oregon. She is the author of the memoir The Chronology of Water, and the novels The Small Backs of Children, Dora: A Headcase, and The Book of Joan. She is also known for her TED talk "The Beauty of Being a Misfit", which has been viewed over 3.2 million times, and her follow-up book The Misfit's Manifesto.[5]

Early life[edit]

Yuknavitch was born Lidia Yukman in San Francisco, California.[6] She grew up in a home where her father verbally, physically, and sexually abused her and her sister, and her alcoholic mother did not intervene.[7] As a teen, she was noticed by a "caring and methodical coach," who helped her move towards her dream of becoming a competitive swimmer.[8] The family moved to Florida for additional training, and Yuknavitch began abusing alcohol.[8]

Yuknavitch relocated to Texas after high school, where she attended Austin Community College on a swimming scholarship. While attending college, she worked as a receptionist at the University of Texas at Austin.[9] Yuknavitch had hopes of qualifying for the United States Olympic swimming team,[10] but the boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow and her own drug and alcohol abuse ended her competitive swimming career.[7]

Yuknavitch moved to Eugene, Oregon, after she lost her scholarship, where she enrolled in the University of Oregon.[10] There, she was one of the editors of Two Girls Review,[11] which later became 2 Gyrlz Performative Arts. She received her PhD in English literature from the University of Oregon.[12]


In 1987–1988, Yuknavitch, then known as Lidia Yukman, collaborated with a novel-writing class at the University of Oregon taught by Ken Kesey that produced the book Caverns. Although the group of novelists, collectively named "O. U. Levon", are often described as graduate students, Yuknavitch was not actually in graduate school at the time.[4]

Her work has been published in Guernica, Ms., The Iowa Review, Zyzzyva, Another Chicago Magazine, PLAZM, The Sun,[13] Exquisite Corpse, and TANK.[14]

Yuknavitch is associated with fellow Oregon writers Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote the introduction to her novel Dora: A Headcase,[15] Chelsea Cain, who wrote the introduction to The Chronology of Water,[10] Monica Drake, Cheryl Strayed, and Tom Spanbauer.[16] Yuknavitch introduced Spanbauer at the launch for his book I Loved You More at Powell's Books in Portland.[17]

Yuknavitch's 2011 memoir, The Chronology of Water, has developed a cult following, and it was noted in a Huffington Post book review that two years after being published, the book "keeps popping up on blogs and social media feeds".[18] She said she started writing the book as a kind of dare after talking to Chuck Palahniuk about memoir at the end of a meeting of their writers' group.[19] The title comes from a short story Yuknavitch wrote in a writing workshop with Diana Abu-Jaber.[19] The photograph on the book jacket depicts a naked woman in the water. Yuknavitch and her publisher opted to wrap the book in a "belly band" in order to cover the woman's breast. Yuknavitch wrote about this decision in The Rumpus.[20]

Dora: A Headcase, is Yuknavitch's novel about "Dora", the subject of a famous case study by Sigmund Freud.[21] The subject of the study had lost her voice. Yuknavitch wrote that she wanted to "give Dora back her voice and 'talk back' to Freud."[22] In 2014, the book was optioned for a movie by Katherine Brooks.[21]

The Small Backs of Children, published in 2015, was praised by Kirkus Reviews, in which it was called a "brave and affecting novel."[23]

Random House published Yuknavitch's first short story collection, Verge, on February 4, 2020.[24] Yuknavitch read one of the stories, "Street Walker," on the December 10, 2019, episode of the Lit Hub/Podglomerate Storybound podcast, accompanied by original musical composition from the band Whiston & Warmack.[25][26]

Personal life[edit]

Yuknavitch has been married to men three times and has also had relationships with women, including Kathy Acker.[27] She lives in Portland, Oregon with the filmmaker Andy Mingo and their son, Miles.[14] Mingo and Yuknavitch are the editors of Chiasmus Press, a "micro indie press."[28]

Yuknavitch teaches writing, literature, film, and women's studies and is on the MFA faculty at Eastern Oregon University.[10][29] She has also taught at Mt. Hood Community College.[16]


  • Verge: Stories. Riverhead Books. 2020. ISBN 9780525534877.
  • The Misfit's Manifesto. TED Books. 2017. ISBN 978-1-5011-2006-0.
  • The Book of Joan. Harper. 2017. ISBN 9780062383273.
  • The Small Backs of Children. Harper. 2015. ISBN 9780062383242.
  • Dora: A Headcase. Hawthorne Books. 2012. ISBN 978-0-9838504-7-2.
  • The Chronology of Water. Hawthorne Books. 2011. ISBN 978-0-9833049-0-6.
  • Real to Reel. Fiction Collective 2. 2003. ISBN 978-1-57366-107-2.
  • Allegories of Violence. Routledge. 2000. ISBN 978-1-136-70713-1.
  • Liberty's Excess: Fictions. Fiction Collective 2. 2000. ISBN 978-1-57366-084-6.
  • Her Other Mouths. House of Bones Press. 1997. ISBN 9780965666503.
  • Caverns. Penguin Books. 1990.


The Small Backs of Children
The Chronology of Water

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ "The Birth of Lidia Yukman". California Birth Index. California Vital Statistics. Retrieved November 9, 2018.
  2. ^ "Lidia Yuknavitch on "The Book of Joan: A Novel" at the 2017 AWP Book Fair". YouTube. Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  3. ^ "Happy Birthday Lidia Yuknavitch". Pank Magazine. June 18, 2011. Retrieved March 13, 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Lidia Yuknavitch is O.U. Levon: Remembering the Caverns Crew and Ken Kesey's Kindness". Theodore Carter. July 28, 2014. Retrieved September 25, 2015.
  5. ^ Korfhage, Matthew (October 31, 2017). "Portland Author Lidia Yuknavitch Wrote a Manifesto for the Misfits of the World". Willamette Week. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  6. ^ "Q&A with author Lidia Yuknavitch". Financial Times. London: The Nikkei. February 16, 2018. Archived from the original on November 9, 2018.
  7. ^ a b Koven, Suzanne (2013). "Writing From the Body: Memoirs By Women". Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction. 15 (1): 178–181. doi:10.1353/fge.2013.0487. S2CID 109961495.
  8. ^ a b Spendl, Lana (2011). "The Chronology of Water". Indiana Review. 33 (2): 173–174. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  9. ^ "Coastal Craft: Lidia Yuknavitch". TinHouse. September 22, 2016. Archived from the original on April 22, 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d "The Chronology of Water: Lidia Yuknavitch". Hawthorne Books. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  11. ^ "Lidia Yuknavitch". Baker & Taylor Author Biographies. January 5, 2000. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  12. ^ "An ABR Interview with Lidia Yuknavitch". American Book Review. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  13. ^ Yuknavitch, Lidia (June 2012). "The Unspeakable Things Between Our Bellies". The Sun (438). Archived from the original on September 26, 2015. Retrieved September 25, 2015.
  14. ^ a b "About Lidia". Corporeal Writing. Archived from the original on September 25, 2015. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  15. ^ "Dora: A Headcase". Hawthorne Press. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  16. ^ a b Baker, Jeff (June 25, 2010). "Chuck Palahniuk, Chelsea Cain and the Hottest Writing Group in Portland". The Oregonian. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  17. ^ "Lidia Yuknavitch's Introduction of Tom Spanbauer at Powell's Books on the Event of his Book Launch for I Loved You More". Hawthorne Books. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  18. ^ Stivers-Isakova, Valerie (February 13, 2013). "Review: Lidia Yuknavitch's The Chronology of Water -- A Body Memoir Gone Viral". The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  19. ^ a b Carpenter, Kasey (June 6, 2011). "There's a Naked Woman Inside". The Cult (The Official Fan Site of Chuck Palahniuk). Archived from the original on September 25, 2015. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  20. ^ Yuknavitch, Lidia (February 16, 2011). "About a Boob Or The Hermeneutics of a Woman's Body". The Rumpus. Retrieved September 24, 2015.
  21. ^ a b "Scoop: Lidia Yuknavitch's Movie, Jerry Seinfeld's Meal". Willamette Week. January 29, 2014. Retrieved September 25, 2015.
  22. ^ Foster, Jordan (July 27, 2012). "Take That, Sigmund! PW Talks with Lidia Yuknavitch". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  23. ^ Grossman, Miriam (July 2015). "The Small Backs of Children". Kirkus Reviews. 83 (13): 4.
  24. ^ "Verge". Penguin Random House. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  25. ^ "The Return Of Radio Theater". Radio Ink. October 22, 2019. Retrieved October 26, 2019.
  26. ^ "Introducing the Storybound Podcast". Literary Hub. October 22, 2019. Retrieved October 26, 2019.
  27. ^ Lary, Nina (2011). "The Chronology of Water". Bitch. 53: 63–64. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  28. ^ Yuknavitch, Lidia (May 2010). "Chiasmus Press". American Book Review. 31 (4): 6. doi:10.1353/abr.0.0138. S2CID 201765522. Retrieved September 25, 2015.
  29. ^ "Lidia Yuknavitch (non-fiction)". Eastern Oregon University. Archived from the original on September 25, 2015. Retrieved September 24, 2015.

External links[edit]