Little by Little: A Writer’s Education by Jean Little
Targeted at the children for whom she typically writes, Little’s autobiography is still a compelling read for adults. Her strength and perseverance is developed at a young age as she was bullied by other children because of her severely impaired vision.
The book could easily be maudlin or depressing, but instead it’s encouraging and inspiring. She raises important themes that everyone needs to discover, but unlike didactic books that tackle ideas like “being part of the popular crowd” in an eye-rolling way, it’s a natural extension of her experiences and is integrated into her overall story in a smooth way.
I’d recommend this to anyone who wants to become a writer – the encouraging aspects of her book especially shine from that angle.
Jean Little has led an extraordinary life. Nearly blind from birth, she had what her friends called “bad eyes”. Subjected to ridicule, rejection and bullying, she often withdrew into a world of her own—the world of her imagination.
But she still had to live in the real world, to struggle to make a place for herself, to find friends, even to attend regular classes. Encouraged by her parents, she began to write poetry and stories. By the time she was seventeen, her poetry had been published in a national magazine, and after that she never looked back.
Honest, moving and sometimes very funny, this is an unforgettable account of the joys and pains of childhood and growing up, of family and of love.
Beverly Cleary’s memoir A Girl from Yamhill, has a lot of similarities to Little’s memoir. They both overcame challenging childhoods to find success as authors. I preferred Little’s book just slightly (maybe it was my astonishment over how she became a writer with her vision problems), but Cleary’s is still in print and may be easier to find. Cleary also has a sequel, My Own Two Feet: A Memoir, which is supposed to be terrific as well. I hope to read it soon.
To see all the books featured in 31 Days of Great Nonfiction, go to the series page.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!