What do you do when you are expelled from high school, shunned by all your friends, made to leave your mother’s home, and kept hidden from sight in your father’s house all because you were a sexually naïve 16-year-old, pregnant by a college boy who wasn’t all that interested in you anyway?
That’s the question that Meredith Hall, assistant director of the composition program at UNH, answers in her moving memoir “Without a Map.” Hall was awarded the 2005 Gift of Freedom Award for her creative nonfiction from A Room of Her Own Foundation. The $50,000 award is the most significant literary grant of its kind in the country. She also received the 2005 Pushcart Prize, and her essay “Shunned” was named a notable essay in The Best American Essays 2005. Hall will be in Riverrun bookstore to sign copies of the book on Thursday, May 3rd.
“I didn’t make this plan. I wake up sometimes and want to crawl out of my life” (Without a Map 60). In this memoir, Hall narrates this bittersweet tale of loss. After childbirth, her baby was put up for adoption so fast; she never had even a glimpse of him. She finished high school at a nearby boarding school, then soon wandered to Europe and eventually found herself just walking, alone, from country to country.
In India, she runs out of money quickly and sells her clothing and blood so that she can buy food. “The nights are very cold. I have no jacket, no sweater, no shoes” (113). After traveling to the Middle East and suffering the indignities of loneliness and poverty, which include selling her blood, she returns to the United States. She creates a new life out of her still-palpable grief. Finally, she can forgive her parents, who never offer an apology. She then receives a visit from her 21-year-old son, whom she had put up for adoption. He grew up in an atmosphere of abuse and scarcity. Making peace with him was deeply healing. This painful memoir builds to a peaceful resolution, as Hall comes to grips with her aging, the complexities of forgiveness, and the continuity of life.
Hall was the only full-time non-traditional student when she attended Bowdoin College on a full scholarship. She graduated summa cum laude in 1993 at the age of 44 and then earned her master’s in creative writing from UNH in 1995. Hall has been the assistant director of UNH’s composition program since 2003 and has been teaching writing at UNH since earning her masters.
Aside from her memoir, her work appears in Creative Nonfiction and two anthologies, In Fact: Best of Creative Nonfiction and True Stories from the Midlife Underground.
The book signing begins at 7:00 PM on May 3rd at RiverRun Bookstore, located at 20 Congress Street, Portsmouth NH 03801. For more information on the event, call (603) 431-2100.