A Girl Named Zippy: Growing up Small in Mooreland, Indiana

Overview

When Haven Kimmel was born in 1965, Mooreland, Indiana was a sleepy little hamlet of three hundred people. Nicknamed "Zippy" for the way she would run around like a circus monkey, this small girl was possessed of big eyes and even bigger ears. In this lovingly told memoir, Kimmel takes readers back in time to when small-town America was still trapped in the amber of the innocent post-war period—people help their neighbors, go to church, keep barnyard animals in their backyards.

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Overview

When Haven Kimmel was born in 1965, Mooreland, Indiana was a sleepy little hamlet of three hundred people. Nicknamed "Zippy" for the way she would run around like a circus monkey, this small girl was possessed of big eyes and even bigger ears. In this lovingly told memoir, Kimmel takes readers back in time to when small-town America was still trapped in the amber of the innocent post-war period—people help their neighbors, go to church, keep barnyard animals in their backyards.

To three-year-old Zippy, it makes perfect sense to striek a bargain with her father to keep her baby bottle—never mind that when she does, it's the first time she's ever spoken. The words never stop once Zippy finds her voice, and it is a voice that Kimmel captures perfectly page after page. In her nonplussed family, Zippy has the ideal supporting cast: her beautiful yet dour brother, Danny, a seeker of the true faith; her sweetly sensible sister, Lindy, who wins the local beauty pageant; her mother, Delonda, who dispenses wisdom from the corner of the couch; and her father, Bob Jarvis, who never met a bet he didn't take. The world seen through Zippy's eyes is vivid and occasionally mind-boggling, especially when Zippy grapples with the meaning of time and has to go lie in a "worm hole" to recover.

Whether describing a serious case of chicken love, another episode with the evil old woman across the street, or the night Zippy's dad borrows thirty-six coon dogs and a raccoon to prove to the complaining neighbors just how quiet his two dogs are, Kimmel treats readers to a heroine as appealing, naive, and knowing as Scout Finch as she navigates the quirky adult world surrounding Zippy.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It's a clich to say that a good memoir reads like a well-crafted work of fiction, but Kimmel's smooth, impeccably humorous prose evokes her childhood as vividly as any novel. Born in 1965, she grew up in Mooreland, Ind., a place that by some "mysterious and powerful mathematical principle" perpetually retains a population of 300, a place where there's no point learning the street names because it's just as easy to say, "We live at the four-way stop sign." Hers is less a formal autobiography than a collection of vignettes comprising the things a small child would remember: sick birds, a new bike, reading comics at the drugstore, the mean old lady down the street. The truths of childhood are rendered in lush yet simple prose; here's Zippy describing a friend who hates wearing girls' clothes: "Julie in a dress was like the rest of us in quicksand." Over and over, we encounter pearls of third-grade wisdom revealed in a child's assured voice: "There are a finite number of times one can safely climb the same tree in a single day"; or, regarding Jesus, "Everyone around me was flat-out in love with him, and who wouldn't be? He was good with animals, he loved his mother, and he wasn't afraid of blind people." (Mar.) Forecast: Dreamy and comforting, spiced with flashes of wit, this book seems a natural for readers of the Oprah school of women's fiction (e.g., Elizabeth Berg, Janet Fitch). The startling baby photograph on the cover should catch browsers' eyes. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In this first book, Kimmel has written a love letter to her hometown of Mooreland, IN, a town with an unchanging population of 300 in America's heartland. Nicknamed "Zippy" for her energetic interpretation of a circus monkey, she could not be bothered to speak until she was three years old, and her first words involved bargaining with her father about whether or not a baby bottle was still appropriate. Born in 1965, Zippy lived in a world filled with a loving family, peculiar neighbors, and multitudes of animals, including a chicken she loved and treated like a baby. Her story is filled with good humor, fine storytelling, and acute observations of small town life. Recommended for libraries in the Midwest or with large memoir collections.--Pam Kingsbury, Alabama Humanities Fdn., Florence Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780753198131
  • Publisher: ISIS Large Print Books
  • Publication date: 6/28/2004
  • Series: Isis Softcover Series
  • Edition description: Large Type
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Haven Kimmel
HAVEN KIMMEL is the author of A Girl Named Zippy, She Got Up Off the Couch, and Something Rising (Light and Swift), all available from HighBridge Audio. She studied English and creative writing at Ball State University and North Carolina State University, and attended seminary at the Earlham School of Religion. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.

HAVEN KIMMEL is the author of A Girl Named Zippy, She Got Up Off the Couch, and Something Rising (Light and Swift), all available from HighBridge Audio. She studied English and creative writing at Ball State University and North Carolina State University, and attended seminary at the Earlham School of Religion. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Biography

Haven Kimmel is the author of the memoir A Girl Named Zippy. She studied English and creative writing at Ball State University and North Carolina State University. She also attended seminary at the Earlham School of Religion. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Hometown:
      Durham, North Carolina
    1. Date of Birth:
      1965
    2. Place of Birth:
      Mooreland, Indiana
    1. Education:
      B.A., Ball State University
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt



Excerpt

Baby Book


The following was recorded by my mother in my baby book, under the heading milestones:

first steps: Nine months! Precocious!

first teeth: Bottom two, at eight months. Still nursing her, but she doesn't bite, thank goodness!

first says "mommy": (blank)

first says "daddy": (blank)

first waves bye-bye: As of her first birthday, she is not much interested in waving bye-bye.

At age eighteen months, the baby book provided a space for further milestones, in which my mother wrote:

She's still very active and energetic. Her daddy calls her "Zippy," after a little chimpanzee he saw roller-skating on television. The monkey was first in one place and then zip! in another. Has twelve teeth. I'm still nursing her?she's a thin baby, and it can't hurt?but I'm thinking of weaning her to a bottle. There's no sense in trying to get her to drink from a cup. Still not talking. Dr. Heilman says she has perfectly good vocal cords, and to give it time.

On my second birthday:

Still no words from our little Zippy. She is otherwise a delight and a very sweet baby. I have turned her life over to God, to do with as He sees fit. I believe He must have a very special plan for her, because I'm sure that terrible staph infection in her ear that nearly killed her when she was a newborn must have, as the doctors feared, reached her brain. She is so quiet we hardly know she is here, and so unlike many of our friends, we can speak freely in front of her without fear she will repeat us. Little Becky Dawson walked up to Agnes Johnson in church last Sunday and calledher Broad As A Barn. You know she heard that at home. We are very grateful for our little angel on her second birthday.

This entry was made on a separate piece of paper:

I've been thinking about first words, and so before I forget, here are some other important ones:

Melinda: Mama

Danny: No

Bob: Me (Mom Mary thought this was so cute; she says she first thought he was saying ma ma ma but really he was saying me me me)

My first word, of course, was Magazine.

The other day I overheard Melinda saying her night-time prayers, and she was asking that someday her little sister be able to tie her shoes. Bless her heart. We all hope as much.

Under favorite activities, Mom recorded:

God's Own Special Angel: Our Miracle Baby!

Far and away her favorite activity is rocking. She has her own rocking chair, and Bob rocks her to sleep every night. She is now refusing to take naps in her baby bed; if I try putting her down she doesn't cry or make any noise, but holds on to the rail and bounces so hard and for so long that I fear for her little spinal cord. She is not content until I put her on her rocking horse, where she bounces hard enough to cause it to hop across the floor. Eventually she grows weary and begins rocking, and then the rocking slows down, and finally she puts her head down on the hard, plastic mane and falls asleep, and I am able to move her to her bed.

Dr. Heilman is finally recognizing that all of this might be due to the fact that her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck three times when she was born. I'm not sure why that has caused her not to grow any hair, however. She does have a few precious wisps, which I slick together with baby oil in order to put in a barrette or a ribbon.

Also she loves to go camping. Went fishing for the first time when she was only three weeks old! Her daddy is starting early! She carries a bottle with her everywhere she goes (which is everywhere). Everyone thinks I should have weaned her (she is now 30 months), but I just don't have the heart to take anything away from her.

This letter, written in my mom's tiny, precise script, was placed haphazardly in the middle of the book:

Dearest Little One: I don't know if you'll ever be able to read this, but there's a story I think you should know. When you were only five weeks old, just a tiny, tiny baby, you became very ill. You ran a terribly high fever, and would not stop crying, night and day. The doctors said you had a staph infection in your ear, and that there was nothing they could do. Dr. Heilman was out of town, and we were sent to his replacement. He told us you could die at home or in the hospital. We took you home, and I didn't sleep for days. In desperation your father called our dear friends Ruth and Roland Wiser, and they drove down to Mooreland from Gary. Gary, Indiana, sweetheart, which is hours and hours away! You father locked me in the Driftwood, our little camper, and Ruth and Roland stayed up all night, taking turns walking you so I could sleep. The next day I took you back to the doctor. He told us there was a new kind of medicine, an antibiotic, that might possibly help you, but he was not reassuring. He said there were twenty-six varieties of this medicine (the same as the alphabet); that probably only one would do you any good, and that he couldn't possibly know which one to prescribe, because they were so new. He showed me a sample case of them, little vials lined up along a spectrum, and then he just reached in and plucked one out and told me to try it. I could tell he knew it was hopeless.

We took you home and gave you the medicine. You cried yourself to sleep, and I, too, fell asleep rocking you. Just before I nodded off I told God plainly that I was letting you go, that I was delivering you into His hands. When I woke up you were silent, and I knew you were gone. I felt something damp against my arm, and when I pulled back your baby blanket, I saw that the infection had broken and run out your ear. Your skin was cool and covered with sweat, and you were sleeping deeply.

When Dr. Heilman came home he told us that the resident had been right?there was only one medicine that would have saved you, and he plucked it blindly out of the case. Dr. Heilman calls you his "Miracle Baby" now. Olive Overton, my dear friend from church, says that she knew you before you were born, and that it took you some time to decide whether or not you wanted to stay in this world.

I thought you ought to know about Ruth and Roland. What they did was what it means to love someone. We are all so grateful you decided to stay.

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