The Glass Castle

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Glass Castle
First hardcover edition (2005)
AuthorJeannette Walls
Cover artistRodrigo Corral
CountryUnited States
Publication date
March 2005
Media typePrint & E-Edition
Preceded byDish: The Inside Story on the World of Gossip 
Followed byHalf Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel 

The Glass Castle is a 2005 memoir by American author Jeannette Walls. Walls recounts her dysfunctional and nomadic yet vibrant upbringing, emphasizing her resilience and her father's attempts toward redemption. Despite her family's flaws, their love for each other and her unique perspective on life allowed her to create a successful life of her own, culminating in a career in journalism in New York City. The book's title refers to her father's ultimate unfulfilled promise, to build his dream home for the family: a glass castle.

The Glass Castle has received broad readership and positive critical feedback for Walls' balanced perspective on the positives and negatives of her childhood.[1][2][3] It has been used in North American grade school curriculum, leading to some controversy, as The Glass Castle was listed No. 9 on the Office for Intellectual Freedom's list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books in 2012.[4] Noted reasons for challenging the book include its "offensive language" and being "sexually explicit".[4]

The memoir spent over 260 weeks in hardcover on The New York Times Best Seller list, and it remained on the paperback nonfiction bestseller list until October 10, 2018, having remained for 440 weeks.[5][6][7] By late 2007, The Glass Castle had received many awards, including the Christopher Award, the American Library Association's Alex Award (2006), and the Books for Better Living Award.[8]

The Glass Castle was adapted as a feature film, released in the summer of 2017, starring Brie Larson as Jeannette Walls.[9]


The Glass Castle is Jeannette Walls' memoir of her childhood to adulthood, documenting how her parents both inspired and inhibited her life. The book is told in five parts. The first part, "A Woman On the Street", documents her conversation with her mother, Rose Mary, who was squatting in an abandoned apartment in New York City, which pushed her to tell the truth and write this memoir.

Part Two, titled "The Desert", covers young Jeannette Walls living with her parents, Rex and Rose Mary, and her siblings Lori, Brian, and Maureen. Walls opens with her first memory, which takes place when she is three years old and is living in a trailer park in southern Arizona. She is engulfed in flames when attempting to make hot dogs over the stove, resulting in her going to the hospital and receiving skin grafts on her stomach, ribs, and chest. Due to fear of the mounting medical bills as well as skepticism of modern medicine, Rex takes Jeannette out of the hospital without permission or paying. A few months later, the children are woken up in the middle of the night and are told they are "doing the skedaddle" (skipping town). Their parents' nomadic lifestyle imposed by their avoidance of financial responsibilities results in the family frequently moving about to locations in various states including Nevada, Arizona, and California. As Jeannette grows older, she is more aware of Rex's alcoholism and its consequences. For her 10th birthday, she asks him to stop drinking, which he successfully does for a few months. Following his relapse, Rose Mary decides that since they have no money it is time to move again, and she takes the family to their paternal grandparents in Welch, West Virginia.

Part Three, titled "Welch", covers approximately a seven-year period and documents Jeannette and her siblings' shifting perspectives on life with their parents from being one of adventure and whimsy to abuse and brokenness. While in Welch, the Walls children face bullying, sexual abuse, and hunger. Ultimately, Lori and Jeannette hatch a plan for Lori to move to New York City, with Jeannette following shortly thereafter. Eventually, Lori moves, and Jeannette joins her shortly before finishing high school.

In Part Four, "New York City", after experiencing the freedom and safety gained from no longer living with her parents, sister Lori offers to help siblings Brian and Maureen move to New York City. Three years after all the children have left Welch, Rose Mary and Rex decide to move to New York City. With little money, the parents fall behind on rent and become homeless. They find themselves at home amongst squatters in an abandoned apartment, and the Walls children discover who they are. Years later, Rex calls Jeannette and tells her that he is dying. A few weeks after they had met and talked about their adventures and struggles, he dies of a heart attack.

Part Five, titled "Thanksgiving", takes place five years after the death of Rex when the family gathers for Thanksgiving at Jeannette's country home where they toast to Rex.


The Glass Castle was positively reviewed by The New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, Entertainment Weekly, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, among others.[10][11][8] However, several school districts have found the book's inclusion in syllabi to be controversial.[12]

In The New York Times Book Review, critic and novelist Francine Prose wrote, "The autobiographer is faced with the daunting challenge of ... attempting to understand, forgive and even love the witch ... Readers will marvel at the intelligence and resilience of the Walls kids."[13]

A review in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution compared Jeannette Walls to renowned 19th-century writer Charles Dickens, saying that "Dickens's scenes of poverty and hardship are no more audacious and no more provocative than those in the pages of this stunning memoir."[14]

The Glass Castle spent more than seven years on the New York Times bestseller list and has been translated into 31 languages.[15][16] In 2006, the memoir peaked on the list at No. 10; however following the release of the film adaptation in 2017, the book became a No. 1 New York Times paperback nonfiction best seller and held that position for 15 weeks.[17][18] As of 2017, the book had sold more than 5 million copies.[19]


The Glass Castle has received the following accolades:


The Glass Castle has also been the subject of public criticism, most notably in high school English classes.[23][24][25]

According to the American Library Association, The Glass Castle was the seventeenth most banned and challenged book in the United States 2010 and 2019[26] and the ninth most challenged book in 2012.[27] The book has been challenged due to offensive language and being sexually explicit.[27]

In 2012, in Traverse City, Michigan, West Senior High School's 9th grade honors English class removed the book due to its "explicit language and references to child molestation, adolescent sexual exploits, and violence."[12][28] It has since been returned to the curricula after the school board reconsideration committee voted to maintain the book.[29][30]

In 2017, the book was again challenged in Marshfield, Wisconsin, resulting in the National Coalition Against Censorship defending it, stating that discussing its themes including "poverty, hunger, bullying, assault, and alcoholism" will benefit the students.[31] On March 1, 2017, the committee reviewing the case voted unanimously to recommend keeping the book in the sophomore English curriculum.[32][33][34]

Film adaptation[edit]

Paramount bought the film rights to The Glass Castle,[35] and in October 2015 announced that actress Brie Larson would play Jeannette Walls in the movie adaptation.[36] In August 2014, it was announced that Destin Daniel Cretton was set to direct.[37] Naomi Watts and Woody Harrelson were cast as Rose Mary and Rex Walls, respectively, with Gil Netter producing. Filming began May 20, 2016, in Welch, West Virginia. The film was released August 11, 2017, to mixed reviews praising the performances while noting the film's overall uneven tone. It holds a 51% rating on[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bender, Melissa (April 2018). "Dysfunctional Family Values: United States Memoir in the Neoliberal Age". The Journal of Popular Culture. 51 (2): 534–549. doi:10.1111/jpcu.12654.
  2. ^ Bartkevicius, Jocelyn (2006). "Review of The Glass Castle". Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction. 8 (1): 150–152. doi:10.1353/fge.2006.0001. ISSN 1522-3868. JSTOR 41938857. S2CID 110724070.
  3. ^ "Book Marks reviews of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls". Book Marks. Retrieved January 22, 2024.
  4. ^ a b admin (March 26, 2013). "Top 10 Most Challenged Books Lists". Advocacy, Legislation & Issues. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  5. ^ "Best Sellers March 18, 2012". The New York Times Best Seller list. March 18, 2012. Retrieved March 18, 2012.
  6. ^ Susan Harrison Wolffis (June 3, 2008). "Best-selling author to speak in Fremont". The Muskegon Chronicle.
  7. ^ "Paperback Nonfiction Bestseller List, October 10 2018". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 3, 2019. Retrieved January 11, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Walls, Jeannette (October 6, 2009). The Class Castle. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781439156964.
  9. ^ Cretton, Destin Daniel (August 11, 2017), The Glass Castle (Biography, Drama), Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts, Ella Anderson, Lionsgate, TIK Films, Netter Productions, retrieved May 15, 2021
  10. ^ THE GLASS CASTLE | Kirkus Reviews.
  11. ^ "The Glass Castle". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  12. ^ a b Doyle, Rober (2012–2013). "Books Challenged or Banned in 2012–2013" (PDF). Illinois Library Association.
  13. ^ Francine Prose, "'The Glass Castle': Outrageous Misfortune", The New York Times Book Review, March 13, 2005.
  14. ^ Changnon, Greg (June 26, 2005). "Books: The Reading Room: A Guide for Book Clubs: An affectionate look at family's dysfunction". Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (GA). p. L9.
  15. ^ University, Neumann. "Author of The Glass Castle to Speak on "Facing Your Fears"". Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  16. ^ Witchel, Alex (May 24, 2013). "How Jeannette Walls Spins Good Stories Out of Bad Memories". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  17. ^ McDowell, Laura-Blaise (August 16, 2017). "'The Glass Castle' Hits No.1 on USA Today Bestseller List". Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  18. ^ "Paperback Nonfiction Books – Best Sellers". The New York Times. July 23, 2017. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  19. ^ Cadden, Mary. "Book Buzz: Memoir 'The Glass Castle' cracks No. 1 ceiling". USA Today. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  20. ^ "The Glass Castle: A Memoir | Awards & Grants". American Library Association. September 10, 2009. Retrieved June 20, 2021.
  21. ^ "The Glass Castle". Goodreads. Retrieved June 20, 2021.
  22. ^ "The Glass Castle: A Memoir | Awards & Grants". Office of Intellectual Freedom. July 9, 2009. Retrieved June 20, 2021.
  23. ^ Doyle, Robert (2012–2013). "Books Challenged or Banned in 2012–2013" (PDF). Illinois Library Association.
  24. ^ Chana, Jas (June 27, 2016). "After Parents Censor, Student Drafts Petition In Defense of 'Glass Castle'". National Coalition Against Censorship. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  25. ^ Zuckerman, Josh (February 17, 2017). "NCAC Defends the Glass Castle over Concerns of 'Disturbing' Content; UPDATE: Review Committee Votes in Favor of Keeping the Book". National Coalition Against Censorship. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  26. ^ Office of Intellectual Freedom (September 9, 2020). "Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books: 2010–2019". American Library Association. Retrieved June 20, 2021.
  27. ^ a b Office of Intellectual Freedom (March 26, 2013). "Top 10 Most Challenged Books Lists". Office of Intellectual Freedom. Retrieved June 20, 2021.
  28. ^ Walton, Michael (December 4, 2012). "Assigned reading draws complaint". Traverse City Record-Eagle.
  29. ^ Walton, Michael (August 19, 2014). "TCAPS board votes against memoir's removal". Traverse City Record-Eagle. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  30. ^ ""Glass Castle" Stays in Traverse City Schools After KRRP Letter". National Coalition Against Censorship. December 14, 2012. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  31. ^ Zuckerman, Josh (February 17, 2017). "NCAC Defends the Glass Castle over Concerns of 'Disturbing' Content; UPDATE: Review Committee Votes in Favor of Keeping the Book". National Coalition Against Censorship. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  32. ^ Anderson, Jonathan. "'Vile' and 'disturbing?' Book OK'd for high school". Marshfield News-Herald. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  33. ^ Chana, Jas (June 27, 2016). "After Parents Censor, Student Drafts Petition In Defense of 'Glass Castle'". National Coalition Against Censorship. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  34. ^ Zuckerman, Josh (February 17, 2017). "NCAC Defends the Glass Castle over Concerns of 'Disturbing' Content; UPDATE: Review Committee Votes in Favor of Keeping the Book". National Coalition Against Censorship. Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  35. ^ "Pitt's Plan B inks deal with Paramount". M & C News, Jun 23, 2005. Archived from the original on December 5, 2008.
  36. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (October 9, 2015). "Brie Larson Replaces Jennifer Lawrence In 'The Glass Castle' For 'Short Term 12' Director Destin Daniel Cretton". IndieWire.
  37. ^ "Jennifer Lawrence's 'Glass Castle' Gains Momentum at Lionsgate". Variety.
  38. ^ "The Glass Castle". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 12, 2018.

External links[edit]