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

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

3.9 85
by Haven Kimmel

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The New York Times bestselling memoir about growing up in small-town Indiana, from the author of The Solace of Leaving Early.

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 bolt around the house, this small girl was possessed of big eyes and even


The New York Times bestselling memoir about growing up in small-town Indiana, from the author of The Solace of Leaving Early.

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 bolt around the house, this small girl was possessed of big eyes and even bigger ears. In this witty and lovingly told memoir, Kimmel takes readers back to a time when small-town America was caught in the amber of the innocent postwar period–people helped their neighbors, went to church on Sunday, and kept barnyard animals in their backyards.

Laced with fine storytelling, sharp wit, dead-on observations, and moments of sheer joy, Haven Kimmel's straight-shooting portrait of her childhood gives us a heroine who is wonderfully sweet and sly as she navigates the quirky adult world that surrounds Zippy.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Almost dreamlike in some of [her] elusive storytelling, [Kimmel] pulls off a feat that’s harder than it looks: write for adults from a child’s perspective . . . Zippy's parents must have done something right to produce a girl who could write such a simple and lovely book."
USA Today

"A Girl Named Zippy seems to be about the cleverest . . . memoir ever. [Kimmel is] a born storyteller . . . I imagine everyone in the world would be grateful for Kimmel’s book."
Orlando Sentinel

"Very engaging, funny . . . it could be a cheerier version of the Leechfield, Texas, Mary Karr chronicled in The Liar’s Club, if drunks never got ugly and if fathers never took a belt to their kids."
Hartford Courant

"Delightfully wry (and sometimes laugh-out-loud-funny)."
Indianapolis Star

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.

Product Details

Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.62(d)
1010L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an 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 called her 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! Your 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.

The last entry is dated four months before my third birthday:

This weekend we went camping. After dinner little Zippy was running in circles around the campfire, drinking from her bottle, and Bob decided she'd had it long enough. He walked over to her and said, "Sweetheart, you're a big girl now, and it's time for you to give up that bottle. I want you to just give it to me, and we're going to throw it in the fire. Okay?" This was met with many protests from Danny and Melinda and me; we all felt that there was no call to take something away from one who has so little. The baby looked at us; back at her dad, and then pulled the bottle out of her mouth with an audible pop, and said, clear as daylight, "I'll make a deal with you." Her first words! Bob didn't hesitate. "What's the deal?" She said, "If you let me keep it, I'll hide it when company comes and I won't tell no-body." He thought about it for just a moment, then shook his head. "Nope. No deal." So she handed over the bottle, and we all stood together while Bob threw it in the fire. It was a little pink bottle, made of plastic. It melted into a pool.

Now that we know she can talk, all I can say is: dear God. Please give that child some hair. Amen.


Somehow my first wig and my first really excellent pair of slippers arrived simultaneously.

Now my hair, my actual human hair which grows out of my head, was slow in coming. I was bald until I was nearly three. My head was also strangely crooked, and it happened that the little patches of wispy bird hair I did have grew only in the dents. Also my eyes were excessively large and decidedly close together. When my mother first saw me in the hospital she looked up with tears in her eyes and said to my father, "I'll love her and protect her anyway."

When my hair finally did come in, when I was three, it did so with a vengeance: thick and sprouty and curly. And not those lovely loopy curls only ungrateful men get; it was more like fourteen thousand cowlicks. In fact, left to its own devices, my head looks like a big hair alarm going off.

We tried a variety of hairstyles in those early years. The really short haircut (the Pixie, as it was then called) was my favorite, and coincidentally, the most hideous. Many large, predatory birds believed I was asking for a date. I especially liked that style because I imagined it excused me from any form of personal hygiene, which I detested. I was so opposed to bathing that I used to have a little laughing reaction every time a certain man in town walked by and said hello to me and I had to respond with "Hi, Gene."

After a year as a Pixie, my sister decided what my hair needed was "weight." Melinda executed all the haircutting ideas in our house and, in fact, cut off the tip of my earlobe one summer afternoon because she was distracted by As the World Turns.

The weight we added to my hair made me look like a fuzzy bush, a bush gone vague. I decided to take the scissors to it myself, and had just gotten started when my dad brought home my new wig, which he had won in a card game. I can imagine that some eight-year-olds would see an implied message in the gift of a wig; all I saw was hair, long and straight and mahogany colored, like the tail of a horse. It wasn't actually a wig--it was called a "fall," and it attached to the middle of my head by a comb, and then fell down my back.

Now because it was a fall and not a wig, there was a problem with all that front part, like the bang part, and those side areas that swooped up into little points, but I decided to take what I could get. I had never before shown any interest in my physical self--my sister swore I had no pride--so when I asked her for bobby pins to help hold my new hair on, she gave them to me without so much as a snicker.

I was admiring myself in the bathroom mirror when Melinda came in and asked me, a bit sheepishly, if I wanted her old house slippers. She had outgrown them, and had never really liked them anyway. I turned and looked at her suspiciously, thinking this was surely a trap, but she was genuine.

I wore my new hair into her bedroom. Her room was painted the color of the best sky, and next to her bed she had a wicker chair and on the chair was a homemade, stuffed clown. It was a very benevolent-looking thing, but once when she was away at a friend's house I snuck into her bed and it began talking to me in the dark, so I kept a wide berth.

Without ceremony, she gave me the slippers. They were made of the most fabulous, long, fake fur, and when worn, made the human foot look like a pink, oval biscuit. The fur kind of sprouted up off the top of the slippers and hung down to the floor. They made a delicious little snicking sound as I walked, too. I remember no house slippers before or after this pair.

Yes, I had beautiful long hair, and yes, I had beautiful slippers, but I was still myself, and there was only one thing I could think to do to keep from bursting. I decided to go play rodeo on my bicycle with the purple banana seat and the sissy bars. It was my stallion, and we had been down a dusty road or two. As I climbed on and started speeding down the street, I could feel my sister's newfound respect fading like an old star, but I couldn't stop. I turned the corner of Charles and Jefferson as if nothing could touch me--I rode faster and faster. As I rode past the Kizers' house, where all the mangy foster children lived, one of them shouted, "Nice wig!" And I yelled back, my face bent close to the handlebars, "It's my real hair!" And then another block up, Ruth Kennedy shouted did I know I was wearing my slippers, and I yelled, "They're my actual feet!" And it was a long time before I went back home.

The Lion

My dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said I'd have to think about it. I questioned some friends, and discovered that these were the options available to me: ice skater, cowboy, teacher of little kids, large animal veterinarian. I didn't really, in my deepest heart, want to be any of those. I began to fear that I might live my whole life without gainful employment, as most of the rest of my family had.

Dad told me to think about what I enjoyed doing most, and how I wanted people to see me when I was grown, and I set my mind to that. I was deeply, tragically in love with Telly Savalas at the time, and carried his picture around in an old wallet my grandma, Mom Mary, had given me. My love for him made me dissatisfied with my own life.

I was in a state all during that career time, and then one night, just before I fell asleep, I realized what I wanted to be. The next morning I jumped down the stairs, skipping every other one, so that my mom called me Herd of Elephants. I went outside, where my dad was puttering in his tool shed, and told him I wanted to belong to the Mafia. He asked what did I mean when I said that, and I said like in the movies, and he nodded.

Meet the Author

Haven Kimmel 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.

Brief Biography

Durham, North Carolina
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Mooreland, Indiana
B.A., Ball State University

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Girl Named Zippy 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 86 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much that I bought 4 more copies and sent them to my mother, my daughter, and my two best friends! As a woman who grew up in a small town in the Midwest in the 60s and 70s, this book really hit home! It is both hilarious and heartwarming. I absolutely love Zippy and her family, as flawed as they may be. I read it within a few days, and then purchased and started on Ms. Kimmel's next book. All I can say to her is, 'Keep 'em coming!'
MeganB21 More than 1 year ago
A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel is a book full of cute stories of a big eyed and curious girl who lives in the small town of Mooreland, Indiana in the 1970¿s. Nicknamed ¿Zippy¿ from her father for the way she ran around the house, she was a girl with big eyes and ears and an even bigger personality. In this memoir, you follow the life of Zippy from her family to friends to the many barnyard pets she finds so fascinating. These collective memories of a simple country girl create the heartwarming and touching tale of a young American girl as she finds herself. The major themes and messages throughout the book are how family and friends are so important. The author describes this importance of friends and family throughout her memoir by showing how happy and helpful the people in her life were. Haven Kimmel describes the looks and smells of her family and friends in positive way. Her vivid memories and smells of her kitchen, barn and house give you the warm feeling that can only be given through the wonderful family and friends we are close to. I am not usually a fan of nonfiction but A Girl Named Zippy was a quick and cute read that captivated the reader. The author was able to not just tell you the story of a small town in Indiana, but she was able to show it to you from the perspective of a curios girl growing up and all of her questions and observations that kept the reader involved. I really enjoyed the simplicity of the book and the heartwarming memories that created it. It really makes the reader appreciate the little memories that make up life. This memoir contained many short stories, and some to me didn¿t have too much meaning in Zippy¿s life. I enjoyed majority of the memories but some of them seemed pointless and didn¿t give you any insight into the character¿s feelings. Occasionally, characters were introduced but not brought up again. The stories were touching but didn¿t have much action in them. I always thought there would be more of a plot but I never really found one. This book shares a lot about the 1970¿s lifestyle and living in the country at this time. If readers are interested in this and heartwarming tales that let you connect with the author, they should definitely read this book. It is great for readers who like short stories and the simple things in life that we all remember. If a reader wants more action and a big scene with a fast paced storyline though, then this is definitely not the book for them. As far as nonfiction goes, I also recommend Someday My Prince Will Come by Jerramy Fine. It¿s a great, true story of a girl who will do almost anything to pursue her dream of being a princess.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am in love with Haven Kimmel (Zippy). I could not put this book down and found myself convulsing with laughter while reading it. I fell in love with each family member. This is a great read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Honest to God, if there is one story you must read in your lifetime, it is 'A Girl Named Zippy'. Haven Kimmel's writing style (in this book) is superb and her character development is phenomenal. On many occasions, I literally found myself laughing hysterically outloud. In fact, I even read portions of the book to my husband because it was sooooo entertaining. Do yourself a favor, and pick this book up today. You will not regret it and you will even find moments in your busy, hectic day where you'll think about some of the funny parts in this book. And it will bring a smile to your face, guaranteed. I am choosing this book for my book club this month and hope that everyone will enjoy it like I did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is truly one of the best books I've ever read (and I read a LOT!) It's rereadable, quotable ("It's my real hair!"), moving, laugh out loud funny, cry-it's-so-true-and-sad. I've read it several times; it's always on my Nook. You can pick it up anywhere and read a chapter. I gave a copy to my sister, she gave copies to her friends, it just goes on! Whether Kimmel really remembers everything exactly as it happened, it's so true. Her writing is moving without being pretentious. She evokes a little life in a big way. I'm not much for memoirs;they're usually about lives that are only interesting in a purient way. But Zippy! There's a very short list of books I'll read for the rest of my life, and this is one of them. I've tried her fiction...eh. Nothing she's ever written, in my opinion, is as good as Zippy, and it's sequel, She Got Up Off the Couch.
Felonious More than 1 year ago
This is a memoir about a girl who was born in 1965 and grew up in a small Indiana town. At first I was thinking I would have little interest in or find anything I would relate to in her story. I was wrong. Haven Kimmel did a great job of telling her story in a way that was interesting and funny. I found myself relating to many aspects of the story. Being about the same age as Zippy helped me relate to the era she grew up in, but the story is about more than being born in the 60's, growing up in a small town or being a girl, it's about being a kid and being a kid is something we can all relate to. As I was reading "A Girl Named Zippy" I found myself having fond memories of my own childhood and moments spent with my parents. What more could one as for?
Guest More than 1 year ago
i thought this was the most poignant and hilarous tale of growing up in indiana! this young womans take on her childhood was to refreshing-no abuse, no drugs, (maybe a dash of alcohol just to be social), no nothing except unconditional love and devotion. she's able to embody a young girls mind unlike anyone i've ever seen. it's a bit ramona the pest meets dorothy parker! just awesome. i hope to see more of this wonderful author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recieved this book as a gift and was hesitant to begin reading it thinking that "Zippy" was going to be another boring autobiography. Was I wrong!! This book is hilarious. I couldn't put it down once I began to read. If you grew up in the mid to late 60's this is definitely a book for you. I caught myself laughing out loud on several occasions. It's a must read for anyone that wants a good laugh. It reminded me so much of growing up with my own brothers and sisters. It is truly hilarious!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book I didnt want it to end. i would love if she had a second book to this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, it was so quirky and well written. The adventures of this little girl are full of fun and reality. The author makes some great observations about her life, her family and the town she grew up. Its a quick read that will have you laughing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Much as I hated my midwestern small town as a teenager, this book brought back fond childhood memories. I look to this book time and again to read its excerpts which comfort me.
Bittysmom More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I have read in a while.  It is funny, quirky, engrossing, endearing, attention gripping and when I turned the page, not realizing it was the last page, I was entirely disappointed.  I guess I should have been more prepared for the end, but I just didn't want to leave the town of Mooreland nor the people who lived there!!  Haven Kimmel is a unique author and I can't think enough words of praise for her writing and her book!  All I can say is "Thank you, Haven Kimmel, for taking me away to such a wonderful place and time!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To grow up in such a dysfunctional family (don't we all to some extent?!) and come through it so well...and even be able to take some of the jabs she does to her family in such a sarcastically hilarious fashion. She gives as good as she gets, but does it in such a way that she doesn't alienate her family. Loved it...made me laugh out loud often!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book held so much promise in the description but after 87 pages I just could not continue with the despicable and mean people and negative attitude. Just one bad thing then another. I have better things to do with my time than read about horrid neighbors, unpleasant family and hypocritical church members.
alc1967 More than 1 year ago
Horrid account by someone with a warped sense of humor. This book was advertised as a humorous heartwarming tale of growing up in a small town. The only thing I can say for certain that is true is that the author did in fact grow up in a small town. Other than that, there was nothing humorous or heartwarming about it. In fact, it was boring and gross. Many of the things she thought should have been humorous were in fact as humorous as a child pulling the wings off of a fly mentality. And, she sounded like a very rude child in the way she behaved in most situations. I especially was revolted by her rude and loud questioning of the circumstances of a disabled child. That is not something that a child of any age would do unless they were used to being able to say and do whatever they wanted at any time they wanted. I would not recommend this book to anyone for any reason. It is not worth reading even if someone gave it to me! I actually paid for it. A waste of money and time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was laugh out loud funny! Anyone who grew up in a small town anywhere in the US can relate to her experiences. Childhood and life in general can be confusing and crazy to a kid. But inspite of it all the kid turns out okay. Better than okay. For a lot of heart warming laughs I say read this book. You wont regret it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a fantastic book! I could not have enjoyed this book more.
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