An American Childhood

( 39 )

Overview

A book that instantly captured the hearts of readers across the country, An American Childhood is Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard's poignant, vivid memoir of growing up in Pittsburgh in the 1950s.
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Overview

A book that instantly captured the hearts of readers across the country, An American Childhood is Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard's poignant, vivid memoir of growing up in Pittsburgh in the 1950s.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

New York Times
A remarkable work. . . an exceptionally interesting account.
Newark Star-Ledger
[An American Childhood] combines the child's sense of wonder with the adult's intelligence and is written in some of the finest prose that exists in contemporary America. It is a special sort of memoir that is entirely successful. . . This new book is [Annie Dillard's] best, a joyous ode to her own happy childhood.
Philadelphia Inquirer
The reader who can't find something to whoop about is not alive. An American Childhood is perhaps the best American autobiography since Russell Baker's Growing Up.
Boston Globe
By turns wry, provocative and sometimes breathtaking. . . This is a work marked by exquisite insight.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Every paragraph Dillard writes is full of information, presenting the mundane with inventive freshness and offering exotic surprises as dessert. . . [Annie Dillard] is one of nature's prize wonders herself—an example of sentient homo sapiens pushing the limits of the creative imagination. She deserves our close attentions.
Charlotte Observer
An American Childhood shimmers with the same rich detail, the same keen and often wry observations as her first book [Pilgrim at Tinker Creek].
Chicago Sun-Times
A vivid and thoughtful evocation of particular personal experiences that have an exuberantly timeless appeal.
Chicago Tribune
An American Childhood does all this so consummately with Annie Dillard's `50s childhood in Pittsburgh that it more than takes the reader's breath away. It consumes you as you consume it, so that, when you have put down this book, you're a different person, one who has virtually experiences another childhood.
Philadelphia Inquirer
The reader who can't find something to whoop about is not alive. An American Childhood is perhaps the best American autobiography since Russell Baker's Growing Up.
Chicago Sun-Times
A vivid and thoughtful evocation of particular personal experiences that have an exuberantly timeless appeal.
Boston Globe
By turns wry, provocative and sometimes breathtaking…This is a work marked by exquisite insight.
Charlotte Observer
An American Childhood shimmers with the same rich detail, the same keen and often wry observations as her first book [Pilgrim at Tinker Creek].
Newark Star-Ledger
[An American Childhood] combines the child's sense of wonder with the adult's intelligence and is written in some of the finest prose that exists in contemporary America. It is a special sort of memoir that is entirely successful…This new book is [Annie Dillard's] best, a joyous ode to her own happy childhood.
Los Angeles Times
Loving and lyrical, nostalgic without being wistful, this is a book about the capacity for joy.
Chicago Tribune
An American Childhood…more than takes the reader's breath away. It consumes you as you consume it, so that, when you have put down this book, you're a different person, one who has virtually experienced another childhood.
San Francisco Chronicle
A charming and delightful reminiscence that helps cement Annie Dillard's reputation as one of our major writers.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Every paragraph Dillard writes is full of information, presenting the mundane with inventive freshness and offering exotic surprises as desser…[Annie Dillard] is one of nature's prize wonders herself—an example of sentient homo sapiens pushing the limits of the creative imagination. She deserves our close attention.
New York Times
A remarkable work...an exceptionally interesting account.
Los Angeles Times
Loving and lyrical, nostalgic without being wistful, this is a book about the capacity for joy.
Newark Star-Ledger
[An American Childhood] combines the child's sense of wonder with the adult's intelligence and is written in some of the finest prose that exists in contemporary America. It is a special sort of memoir that is entirely successful...This new book is [Annie Dillard's] best, a joyous ode to her own happy childhood.
Philadelphia Inquirer
The reader who can't find something to whoop about is not alive. An American Childhood is perhaps the best American autobiography since Russell Baker's Growing Up.
Boston Globe
By turns wry, provocative and sometimes breathtaking...This is a work marked by exquisite insight.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Every paragraph Dillard writes is full of information, presenting the mundane with inventive freshness and offering exotic surprises as dessert...[Annie Dillard] is one of nature's prize wonders herself—an example of sentient homo sapiens pushing the limits of the creative imagination. She deserves our close attentions.
Charlotte Observer
An American Childhood shimmers with the same rich detail, the same keen and often wry observations as her first book [Pilgrim at Tinker Creek].
Chicago Sun-Times
A vivid and thoughtful evocation of particular personal experiences that have an exuberantly timeless appeal.
Chicago Tribune
An American Childhood does all this so consummately with Annie Dillard's `50s childhood in Pittsburgh that it more than takes the reader's breath away. It consumes you as you consume it, so that, when you have put down this book, you're a different person, one who has virtually experiences another childhood.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781441773913
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/1/2011
  • Format: CD
  • Pages: 8
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Annie Dillard is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and numerous other works of nonfiction, including For the Time Being. Her novels include The Living, The Writing Life, and, most recently, The Maytrees.

Tavia Gilbert is an Earphones Award winner, Audie® Award nominee, and Parents' Choice Award-winning producer. A classical-theater- and public-radio-trained actor and producer, she lives in Portland, Maine, where she works as a writer and stage and voice actor. She produces, directs, and narrates unique audiobooks, full-cast recordings, and documentaries.

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Read an Excerpt

When everything else has gone from my brain -- the President's name, the state capitals, the neighborhoods where I lived, and then my own name and what it was on earth I sought, and then at length the faces of my friends, and finally the faces of my family-when all this has dissolved, what will be left, I believe, is topology: the dreaming memory of land as it lay this way and that.

I will see the city poured rolling down the mountain valleys like slag, and see the city lights sprinkled and curved around the hills' curves, rows of bonfires winding. At sunset a red light like housefires shines from the narrow hillside windows; the houses' bricks burn like glowing coals.

The three wide rivers divide and cool the mountains. Calm old bridges span the banks and link the hills. The Allegheny River flows in brawling from the north, from near the shore of Lake Erie, and from Lake Chautauqua in New York and eastward. The Monongahela River flows in shallow and slow from the south, from West Virginia. The Allegheny and the Monongahela meet and form the westward-wending Ohio.

Where the two rivers join lies an acute point of flat land from which rises the city. The tall buildings rise lighted to their tips. Their lights illumine other buildings' clean sides, and illumine the narrow city canyons below, where people move, and shine reflected red and white at night from the black waters.

When the shining city, too, fades, I will see only those forested mountains and hills, and the way the rivers lie flat and moving among them, and the way the low land lies wooded among them, and the blunt mountains rise in darkness from the rivers' banks, steep from the rugged south androlling from the north, and from farther, from the inclined eastward plateau where the high ridges begin to run so long north and south unbroken that to get around them you practically have to navigate Cape Horn.

In those first days, people said, a squirrel could run the long length of Pennsylvania without ever touching the ground. In those first days, the woods were white oak and chestnut, hickory, maple, sycamore, walnut, wild ash, wild plum, and white pine. The pine grew on the ridgetops where the mountains' lumpy spines stuck up and their skin was thinnest.

The wilderness was uncanny, unknown. Benjamin Franklin had already invented his stove in Philadelphia by 1753, and Thomas Jefferson was a schoolboy in Virginia; French soldiers had been living in forts along Lake Erie for two generations. But west of the Alleghenies in western Pennsylvania, there was not even a settlement, not even a cabin. No Indians lived there, or even near there.

Wild grapevines tangled the treetops and shut out the sun. Few songbirds lived in the deep woods. Bright Carolina parakeets-red, green, and yellow-nested in the dark forest. There were ravens then, too. Woodpeckers rattled the big trees' trunks, ruffed grouse whirred their tail feathers in the fall, and every long once in a while a nervous gang of emptyheaded turkeys came hustling and kicking through the leaves-but no one heard any of this, no one at all.

In 1753, young George Washington surveyed for the English this point of land where rivers met. To see the forestblurred lay of the land, he rode his horse to a ridgetop and climbed a tree. He judged it would make a good spot for a fort. And an English fort it became, and a depot for Indian traders to the Ohio country, and later a French fort and way station to New Orleans.

But it would be another ten years before any settlers lived there on that land where the rivers met, lived to draw in the flowery scent of June rhododendrons with every breath. It would be another ten years before, for the first time on earth, tall men, and women lay exhausted in their cabins, sleeping in the sweetness, worn out from planting corn.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 39 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(12)

4 Star

(7)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(7)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2003

    Ever Driven with Someone Just Learning How to Drive Standard?

    Because thats exactly what this novel was like...jumpy, painful, and irritating. Sure, you may get where you are meaning to go, but its a bumpy ride and not enjoyable. I was forced to read this novel for summer reading and normally love everything I read, but this was unbearable. If you can get through it, it does provide some valuable lessons, but they are not necessarily worth the pain.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2005

    An American Childhood

    Initaially, I was reading 'An American Childhood' only because it was mandatory ... but, to my pleasant suprise it turned out to be an engaging, thought-provoking, and beautifully written story. Annie Dillard's ability to capture character, personality, and emotion on paper is truely astounding. This book makes you enter the mid-1900's through the eyes of a growing child and makes you reflect on your own life. Although typically a fan of mystery and adventure stories, I would recommend Annie Dillard's 'An American Childhood' to anyone wishing to read an engaging story of curiosity, detrmination, observation, imagination, change, and personal reflection. (Please do not rush through this book -- read, think, and enjoy!)

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2000

    Reality Check

    Dillard's novel captures the essence of adolescence in America. Her writing is simple, yet vivid, and enjoyable for any age. Dillard's metaphors are exact and true. Highly recommended for anyone who is nostalgic about their younger years.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2012

    An American Childhood, a Very Enjoyable Book. An American Childh

    An American Childhood, a Very Enjoyable Book.
    An American Childhood takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during the 1950's. The plot of this book is separated into three sections. Each section, Annie becomes older and we discover a whole new side to Annie. Throughout the book Annie Dillard paints a picture of her mistakes, the things she learned and the wonderfully entertaining adventures she had while she was growing up. Annie Dillard creates such beautiful imagery. As I was reading I really did see the open lot surrounded by trees where Annie played baseball with the school boys. I saw the dark street covered with snow where Annie and her family watched her neighbor ice skate under the lamp post.
    There are many things you can take from this book, but the largest message I got from An American Childhood is to follow your dreams and let the world take you where it wants to take you. All throughout the book Annie discovers she has many interests. She discovers her many interests at the library. There Annie discovers books about anything she could possibly think. One of those books is The Field Guide to Ponds and Streams. For hours Annie explores a nearby park filled with streams. Annie's large sums of interest fill the pages of An American Childhood and molded her into what she is today.
    My one dislike of this book was Annie Dillard sometimes rambled on and on about the silliest things, and I know that detail in a book is important, but sometimes Annie was a little to overly descriptive. Some of many likes of this book is just the mood in the book, sometimes it would be very serious and then the mood would be hilarious. Also, I loved the many silly adventures Annie took us on.
    All in all, I enjoyed this book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 16, 2010

    Honors English

    I was required to read this narrative novel over the summer, and although it will never make my favorites list, I must give it a few commendations. First and foremost, her diction and ability to paint living, breathing images with words is phenomenal. That being said, the text can get a bit overwhelming and verbose at points. However, if the reader's wish is a novel which presents several pleasurable images to be enjoyed at a slow pace, this is an excellent choice. Dillard's unique method of writing through a child's perspective shows an incredible amount of talent, and her impressions are breathtakingly accurate. Overall, this is a choice piece of literature for anyone who enjoys reading and digesting a novel piece by piece, image by image.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 12, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Astonished at this book's fairly low rating....

    I recently read this book for AP assigned reading and found it to be one of the most breathtakingly exquisite books I have ever read (this coming from someone whose first word was 'read'). Though I am agape that this book could be so under appreciated, I cannot say that I am bereft of any idea as to why. This is one of those rare gems of a book that's depth speaks of the poignant subtleties of life- something many people miss to begin with and certainly might not appreciate on paper if that is the case. Also, I feel the people who will love this book the most are those who share personally an affinity with the author's experience...as I certainly do. It reminded me of me and my experience growing up (and continuing to grow up) in many ways. I felt nearly drunk on its succulence for the majority of its pages (though it does have a slightly slow start through the first chapter or so). It had a bit of a raw, off-putting ending, but given the content she was describing at the time, it made sense.

    Regardless of how well one can relate to this book however, Annie Dillard has one quality that should always deserve 5 stars and ought never to be ignored: she is a writer with true voice. Even someone who has not read many books could recognize her writing style anywhere. And that individuality is quite admirable.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Tripe

    In all fairness, I never finished the book. I am the type of person that will finish every book I start whether I like it or not, but I felt like every page was torture. It just felt so worthless!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2006

    Beautiful.

    This is one of the best books that i have ever read. I don't think that you read it for the plot or the story. But read it for the beauty of her writing. Her words and sentences are nothing short of moving. I turn to this book over and over if I need comfort or just need to read something good. I think that Annie Dillard's writing is near sacramental.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2004

    My All Time favorite book

    I once was a student myself, and I hope that the students above who gave the terrible reviews will someday return to this book and realize what magic it holds. Dillard's use of words, the way she comes out of the blue with these thoughts that you swear were taken out of your very own head, is amazing. I can only HOPE to have a fraction of her talent and ability when I write. If you are at ALL a nostalgic person, or if your childhood plays an important part in who you are (how could it not?) you will enjoy this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2003

    Lyrically descriptive

    I had to read An American Childhood for a class presentation. While I was confused by the way Dillard jumps topics, I think she was merely trying to show us the disconnectedness of any person's daily life. Also, I don't think we always read to find answers for our lives...we read because we are looking at what else is out there that we haven't experienced. Dillard's description is beautiful. I enjoyed reading her much more that I thought I would.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2003

    An American Childhood

    Does anyone SEE that this book isn't SUPPOSED to be relating to this (our) time period?? It is CLEARLY about her life back then, and if you want to read about it BACK THEN and you know it is about BACK THEN- don't pick it up looking to relate it to your life...of course you won't be satisfied. How ignorant can people get?

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2002

    An American Childhood

    I beleive that although the book does show growing up in the 1950 it does not apeal to the people growing up in the year 2002. It seems to have no relation to the times now. I also saw that the people growing up now do not enjoy this book at all and like me found it difficult to read without skipping pages when she talked about the same thing just worded different. On the other hand older people that actually grew up in the 1950's or near that time like thinking back on the times and can relate. This book is good for the older people not for young people because we can not relate to it!!!!

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2002

    an american childhood

    this book was defenitely not a book to read for pleasure. if you dont have to read it, i suggest you dont. its not intersting and drowns on forever about things that dont have any significance and then jumps to something new out of nowhere. if you dont like stream of conciousness writing then defenitely do not read it because taht is the hole book. there is no plot and it is ahrd to follow. there are a couple of intersting parts but it was hard to even finish.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 1999

    A very delightful book.

    I've been a fan of Ms. Dillard's for a few years now, and this is probably my favorite book of hers. It's tender and sad and funny and wise all at once. I found it comforting.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2013

    Oh gosh

    This book is definelty geared for an older generation. Not the most enjoyable book but has alot of meaning and i can see why they make us read it for honors english.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2008

    Not The Best

    I had to read this book for summer reading, and although it is incredibly hard to pick up a rather humdrum plot, it gets the gears thinking on the rather basic thoughts on childhood, that she addresses from her point of view. also this was a early time of change in American history and you can see the transition from her eye. but the bottom line is unless you have the time to re evaluate the questions she puts forth the book is incredibly boring. don't read it unless you have to. Charles Dickens is more fun to read

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2008

    Only reason it got a 5- Jacob

    The only reason i rated this book a five is beacause I have never slept better after reading this book each night. I'm positive I have made up on all the lost sleep reading this! Thanks Annie Dillard.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2008

    horrible

    Don't waste your time with this book. It sucked.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2008

    AP English

    I had to read this book for AP English. Yes, it could be over-descriptive and boring at times, but I have to say, after reading Ethics, shampoo bottles could be considered for the Pulitzer Prize. An American Childhood was a refreshing break from an otherwise dull summer reading list.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2007

    this book is a piece of worthless crap

    I had to read this book for AP English and i have to say, i have never read a more stupid and pointless book in my entire life. The story drones on and on about her life experiences such as 'the art of telling jokes,' dancing with some stupid boy she had a crush on, or, 'this is the best passage in the book, NOT!' HER ROCK COLLECTION!!!!WHOOO!!! 10 pages about rock. just great. Bottom line, Annie Dillard cannot write. but i have to give her credit, her book no only makes for a good torture, but is also a great sleeping aid. I swear, a couple pages of this book, and you'll be out cold before you know it.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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