On Thursday, Sept. 23, celebrated memoirist and author Joyce Dyer visited St. Mary’s College of Maryland as the second reader in the school’s VOICES lecture series. Dyer is a distinguished Professor of English at Hiram College in Ohio, and has published three memoirs, one novel, and several essays. Last year, she won the David B. Saunders Award for Creative Nonfiction to add to her already well-stocked trophy case.
First, Dyer read from her first memoir, Gum-Dipped: A Daughter Remembers Rubber Town, in which she skillfully describes her feelings about growing up in the Firestone Park neighborhood in Akron, Ohio, a town built solely to house the workers for the Firestone tire manufacturer. Up next in Dyer’s reading canon was another memoir, Goosetown: Reconstructing an Akron Neighborhood, a “prequel” to Gum-Dipped. In Goosetown, Dyer’s pre-teen self deals with the death of her grandfather, who she had not seen in nine years since her days in Goosetown, where her grandfather grew up.
Finally, Dyer gave the audience a taste of her unfinished semi-biographical memoir about John Brown the abolitionist. Dyer herself is unsure why she has taken such an interest in John Brown. The section she read, which tells the story of a woman she met whose life was changed indirectly by living on the site of John Brown’s home, Dyer comes to the conclusion that she is so fascinated with Brown’s life because she questions if her own moral outlook on life is worth defending.
When asking if anyone had questions at the end of the lecture, Dyer was met with stunned silence.
Based upon Maria Smaldone, “VOICES Reading Emphasizes Memories,” The Point (St. Mary’s City, Md.: St. Mary’s College of Maryland), 9 October 2010.