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What does it mean to belong? In a place? With a person? To a family? Where do our senses of security and survival lie? I Don't Belong Here ruthlessly investigates alienation during moments of transit and dislocation and their impact on women’s identity. These twenty essays—ranging from conventional to lyrical to experimental in form and structure—delve into the root causes of personal uncertainty and the aftershock effects of being a woman in an unsafe world. Provocative, authentic, intimate, and uncompromising, author Melissa Grunow casts light on the unspeakable: sexuality, death, mental illness, trauma, estrangement, and disillusionment with precision and fortitude.
“The greatest challenge for a writer is to appear emotionally naked on the page and make that seem completely natural. Melissa Grunow does this with audacity, aplomb, and grace. Grunow illuminates 21st century issues regarding sex, body image, emotional stability, and self-realization with a fearlessness that few others can match. This is a book whose moment in history is exactly now.”
–Sue William Silverman, author of The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew
“In these wise essays, Melissa Grunow brings to light the hidden, the forgotten, and the discarded days. Her agile sentences and fearless gaze reveal insights that reach past easy epiphany and toward a rare clarity that is a searching delight to read.”
–Sonya Huber, author of Pain Woman Takes Your Keys, and Other Essays from a Nervous System
“Melissa Grunow's I Don't Belong Here is a collection of deeply insightful, personal essays written with both a clear eye and a canny pen. Artfully written, the essays do almost all of the things an essay can do–there is, in the pages of this book, a master class on formalism in creative nonfiction. All of that art is brought to bear on Grunow's unsugared understanding of her life and her experiences; an understanding that is often difficult but never uncomfortable. Like all good literature, it leaves the reader with a greater understanding of what it means to be human.”
–Sarah Einstein, author of Mot: A Memoir
“Melissa Grunow's prose is a dazzling display of pathos, humor and everything in-between—like life itself. Landing somewhere between Sloane Crosley and Megan Stielstra—with a dash of David Sedaris—Grunow is a bold new voice for our time and to be savored by all. We can all see slivers of ourselves in varying degrees throughout these pages. For better and for worse.”
–R.J. Fox, author of Awaiting Identification
“With disarming candor and unflinching excavation of self, Grunow has crafted a remarkable meditation on the concept of home. Her memoir plumbs our need for belonging in our structures, our communities, our professions, our relationships, and pivotally, our skins. This is a stand-out, coming-of-age tale for all of us who are discovering that ‘growing up’ is a lifetime endeavor.”
–Tabitha Blankenbiller, author of Eats of Eden: A Foodoir
“Melissa Grunow is a survivor. The essays in I Don’t Belong Here sing with a fierce and hard-won wisdom. In 'Before and After,' Grunow writes, 'Sometimes the world is one fire. Sometimes the world is under water.' Her sharp-eyed prose charts a course between these worlds, delivering us through pain and loss into a place of her own making, a place in the sun.”
–Susan McCarty, author of Anatomies
“In I Don’t Belong Here, Grunow turns her unflinching lens on the countless steps we take away from ourselves in an effort to form human connections, even closing our eyes to the way familiarity masquerades as love. Without remorse or self-pity, she shows how we cry, curse, and claw our way back, her lyrical prose an anthem to forging her rightful place in her own life.”
–Angela Amman, author of Nothing Goes Away: Short Stories
“Betrayed, beset, harried, and persecuted—to be female. This work stands testament to the war on women, where they are surrounded but enduring and winning the fight.”
–Jason Arment, author of Musalaheen: A War Memoir
“In these honest, moving essays, Melissa Grunow bravely confronts ‘the woolly mammoth’ of fear and mental illness and recovery. Reading these fiercely candid and endearing essays made me even more convinced that speaking one’s truth is always the best response.”
–Kelly Fordon, author of Garden for the Blind
“Intimate. Beautifully written. Honest. Melissa Grunow's essays are written with such a personal finesse that at times it feels as though you've stumbled upon private writings. Her fearlessness is captivating and addicting.”
–Bryce David Salazar, author of She Sees Metaphors
“These incisive essays hover on the border of escape and endurance. Melissa Grunow explores the essential yearnings we all carry with us, even when we tell ourselves we can leave them behind and start over.”
–Leigh Stein, author of Land of Enchantment
“Reading these essays is like grabbing a drink with a dear friend for a much-needed session of tender friendship, brutal frankness, and fixing old wounds. Grunow’s courageous vulnerability vibrates through this book.”
–Ming Holden, author of Refuge
"I break a rule when I’m writing: I don’t think about audience. If I did, I would never be able to really dig into the darkest depths of what it is that I’m writing about."
"Feeling isolated (whether it be self-inflicted or socially constructed) is both comforting and maddening. I could scream, or I could write about it. For me, it didn’t feel like I had any other choices. I had to write this book. I had to tell these stories."
"There is a war on women in this country, and anyone who denies that simply isn’t paying attention."
"My advice for other women, particularly young women, who are writing personal essays or memoir is to prioritize your commitment to craft and to the truth. If you constantly worry what people might think when the work is published, then you’re never going to finish it."
"Grunow has used the titles and content of these essays to weave her collection together, all under the umbrella of the “otherness” she feels and how that has affected her at various points in her life."
"Her lyrical vulnerability transports the reader to a place of complete and utter empathetic understanding."
"Grunow’s collection certainly isn’t for the faint of heart; there’s plenty of grit, sorrow, and a hefty dose of fierce determination—all aspects of being a female in modern America."
"This book is a powerful tool that creates a strong awareness of how our indifference, violence, and rejection can hurt others and rob them of their humanity."
"Grunow is proficient at dropping loaded sentences within a larger narrative. While reading a tightly constructed essay, you’ll get walloped with a line that takes you a minute to digest, causes you to reflect, to pause for meaning."
"Grunow’s writing is rich, lyrical, and draws parallels that one would never even think of, making for a savory reading experience."