Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.
I’m pretty sure I originally picked up Alice, I Think because of the homeschooling angle. There weren’t (aren’t?) many books about homeschooling back in 2000 and I was definitely interested, partly because the topic was rare, and partly because, while I had spent my requisite 12 years in the public school system, my seven siblings had been homeschooled. (You can make of that fact what you will. You’re probably right.)
I loved the book, of course, and Susan Juby became one of those authors I followed, anxious to see what was coming next. Unsurprisingly, this turned out to be…more books that I loved. Another Kind of Cowboy? Bright’s Light? The rest of the Alice MacLeod series? Such great books. If you haven’t already, you need to read The Truth Commission immediately. Really.
Somewhere along the way I came across the essay she references below, “Directed Studies”, which tells a specific and highly personal story with which I totally connected, despite the difference in the details. Like her books, the Susan Juby in that essay comes across as honest and funny, clear-eyed but optimistic, able to articulate and share painful, embarrassing truths in a single bound. This is no small feat.
Thank you, Susan, for talking truth, bad 80s hair, identity, and the danger of peach wine coolers with me. If you wrote a “hauntingly elegiac volume that is mostly description of landscape” I would read it.
Always Something There to Remind Me
Please describe your teenage self.
I find this hard and sort of painful because my teen years were, well, hard and painful. I think by the time I hit fifteen or so, I looked okay on the outside, at least by the low standards of the 1980s. But inside I was a churning mess of anxiety and insecurity. This situation was exacerbated by the fact I had developed a serious drinking problem by the time I was thirteen.
I was one of those people who never ever went in public without makeup and hair done, clothes carefully chosen. It was all a camouflage for what I saw as a deeply flawed self. I was convinced that if anyone saw the unadorned me, they would run away in horror.
On a lighter note, I was a serious fashion experimenter in a time and town where that was unexpected and not terribly welcome. Not one 1980s trend passed me by! I wore: Madonna-esque bloomers and puffy blouses, satin blazers that hung to my knees, perms, faux punk looks, heavy metal looks, prep looks. Fashion filled in all the blank spaces for me. In spite of how messed up I was then, my adult self looks back and applauds my teen self for having the guts to experiment in the face of quite a bit of despair.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
When I was very young, I thought I could be anything. As I grew, that confidence was pounded out of me by my peers, my schools and my own bad choices. Those bad choices were legion―making them was basically my superpower. But here are some of the things I dreamed of being before I stopped dreaming: writer, lawyer, zoologist, professional dressage rider, fashion designer. Continue reading One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Susan Juby