The Boys of My Youth

The Boys of My Youth

by Jo Ann Beard

Other Format(Unabridged Library Edition)

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Overview

Beard writes with perfect pitch as she takes readers through one woman's life--from childhood to marriage and beyond--to memorably capture the collision of youthful longing and the hard realities of time and fate.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781478913887
Publisher: Blackstone Pub
Publication date: 06/14/2016
Edition description: Unabridged Library Edition
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 5.80(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 13 Years

Reading Group Guide

1. The thread that binds the stories is--despite the book's title--Beard's relationships with her female friends and relatives. Why do you think Beard called her book The Boys of My Youth?

2. Discuss the order of the stories. Did you like moving back and forth between Beard's adulthood and her childhood? How did it affect your reading of the childhood stories to know about Beard as an adult and vice versa?

3. How did you react to "Bulldozing the Baby," the story in which Beard's mother throws out her doll and then lies to Beard about it? Do you have similar childhood memories of knowing things that your parents didn't think you knew?

4. The publication in the New Yorker of the story "The Fourth State of Matter" marked a major turning point in Beard's career as a writer. She said in an interview: "It's painful to be a writer. . . . There's truly not room for everybody to make it -- all those writers working as secretaries. . . .The reason I made it is because I wrote a story with six murders it. . . . I haven't come to terms with that." Do you see evidence of Beard's ambivalence in the story itself?

5. "The Fourth State of Matter" was published in the New Yorker's special fiction issue, and many booksellers wanted to display The Boys of My Youth in the fiction section of their stores. What makes this book so much like fiction? How is it different?

6. How would you feel if a member of your family wrote a memoir in which she told personal stories about you and the other members of your family? Should a writer be able to publish stories that portray family members in an unflattering light? What if a family disagrees with the author's version of her life story?

7. Is it acceptable for a writer to take creative license in writing an autobiographical story, particularly if the story describes events from the author's infancy or early childhood?

8. From the information in various stories, piece together a picture of Beard's marriage. Why does the aftermath of the marriage seem to be more important to the author than the marriage itself?

9. Animals figure prominently in many of Beard's stories. What does her relationship with animals say about her? What is the role they play in her life?

10. Many reviews of The Boys of My Youth focused not just on the quality of Beard's writing but also on the content of her stories, with reviewers offering their own interpretations of Beard's childhood. Is it fair for reviewers to comment critically on Beard's life, or should they focus only on her prose style and narrative skills?

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Boys of My Youth 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jo Ann Beard's collection of autobiographical essays, The Boys of My Youth, is a look at real life events, some seemingly minor and others monumental, that teaches the reader to look back and remember the things that have shaped your life. She writes in a way that, no matter what the situation-tragic, silly, or otherwise-one can relate to what she's talking about. Whether the reader has been through the same thing or not, Beard brings the reader into the moment and makes him or her understand Beard's feelings. Her writing is honest and witty. I found myself laughing outloud and calling friends to read to them a specific section of an essay and end up reading the whole thing and sometimes others. Beard's essays range from devasting experiences to light-hearted memories of her youth, young adulthood, and beyond. Her voice and description bring not only humor and honesty to her essays, but also a vivid image of each scene that she is talking about. Beard's style of sectional writing and tying different scenes together at the end is so effective that as a reader, I never wanted to put the book down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just like my headline says, Beard captivates readers with a dual sense of self, luring them in with rich language and powerful descriptions. One of my favorites is: 'My aunt....grins..., big teeth in a friendly mouth.' Pick it up!
detailmuse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My mother is sewing a button on my father¿s shirt while he¿s still wearing it. ¿I was having this terrible feeling,¿ she says, ¿that she¿d be this forty-year-old woman, going around telling people that we took her d-o-l-l away from her.¿ She leans down to bite off the thread. My father tests his new button and it works perfectly. ¿In three days she won¿t remember she even knew that d-o-l-l,¿ he predicts.But of course Beard remembers, and tells, in this 1998 non-linear collection of linked personal essays. They¿re coming-of-age essays, where growing up is as likely to occur at thirty as at thirteen or three. Each age is rendered perfectly, as are the characters and the 1970s-80s period details of small-town Midwest.Among the boys of Beard¿s youth are Hal, that beloved d-o-l-l her mother¿s oldest sister bullies her mother into throwing away; teenage boys who mostly ignore her at backwoods parties; her father who drinks and disappears for weeks at a time; Eric: boyfriend, husband, ¿; and a school-shooter who kills Beard¿s colleagues in the University of Iowa physics department on a day she¿s gone home early to care for her aging dog. There are girls, too -- aunts and cousins; her older, nemesis sister; her mother who smokes on every page; a lifelong best friend she consults while writing these essays.I love these people and their settings, love Beard¿s writing and want more. I've just read her new novel In Zanesville, the first half of which feels exactly like these essays. I'm off to scour the Internet for anything else she's written.
SarahNeptune on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A dozen years after reading it, moments from this memoir still come back to me. Though it's been so long that I can't detail the specifics, I know loved it -- I'm pretty sure I devoured it and didn't want it to end. I don't know what I'd think of it if I re-read it now but it clearly has staying power.
literarygal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Best damn memoir I've ever read. Her essary, The Fourth State of Matter, makes me cry every time I read it.
magst on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It was a bit of a let down. I was more interested with the family/friends then with the author as a character. She didn't come through very well on paper.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Jamie Goodridge More than 1 year ago
a perfectly lovely heartbreak of a book. highly reccomended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Most interesting!