If You Knew Then What I Know Now by Ryan Van Meter

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Synopsis

The middle American coming-of-age has found new life in Ryan Van Meter's coming-out, made as strange as it is familiar by acknowledging the role played by gender and sexuality. In fourteen linked essays, If You Knew Then What I Know Now reinvents the memoir with all-encompassing empathy—for bully and bullied alike. A father pitches baseballs at his hapless son and a grandmother watches with silent forbearance as the same slim, quiet boy sets the table dressed in a blue satin dress. Another essay explores origins of the word "faggot" and its etymological connection to "flaming queen." This deft collection maps the unremarkable landscapes of childhood with compassion and precision, allowing awkwardness its own beauty. This is essay as an argument for the intimate—not the sensational—and an embrace of all the skinned knees in our stumble toward adulthood.

Ryan Van Meter grew up in Missouri and studied English at the University of Missouri-Columbia. After graduating, he lived in Chicago for ten years and worked in advertising. He holds an MA in creative writing from DePaul University and an MFA in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa. His essays have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Indiana Review, Gulf Coast, Arts & Letters, and Fourth Genre, among others, and selected for anthologies including Best American Essays 2009. In the summer of 2009, he was awarded a residency at the MacDowell Colony. He currently lives in California where he is an assistant professor of creative nonfiction at the University of San Francisco.

 

About Ryan Van Meter

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Ryan Van Meter grew up in Missouri and studied English at the University of Missouri-Columbia. After graduating, he lived in Chicago for ten years and worked in advertising. He holds an MA in creative writing from DePaul University and an MFA in nonfiction writing from The University of Iowa. His essays have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Indiana Review, Gulf Coast, Arts & Letters, and Fourth Genre, among others, and selected for anthologies including Best American Essays 2009. In the summer of 2009, he was awarded a residency at the MacDowell Colony. He currently lives in California where he is an assistant professor of creative nonfiction at The University of San Francisco.
 
Published April 5, 2011 by Sarabande Books. 223 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Gay & Lesbian, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for If You Knew Then What I Know Now

Publishers Weekly

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In this moving debut, a collection of 14 linked essays, Van Meter charts the repercussions of growing up in Missouri with a secret. He delicately charts episodes from his youth, such as baseball pract

Apr 04 2011 | Read Full Review of If You Knew Then What I Know Now

Star Tribune

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Ranging from poignant childhood memories to the exploration of the origin of derogatory terms to humorous takes on dating, Van Meter's debut memoir about growing up gay in the Midwest appeals on many levels.

Jun 18 2011 | Read Full Review of If You Knew Then What I Know Now

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