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Cover of The Chronology of Water

Lidia Yuknavitch

The Chronology of Water

A Memoir
  • Introduction by Chelsea Cain
  • nonfiction / memoir
  • ISBN 978-0-9790188-3-1

This is not your mother’s memoir. Lifelong swimmer and Olympic hopeful Lidia Yuknavitch accepts a college swimming scholarship in Texas in order to escape an abusive father and an alcoholic, suicidal mother. After losing her scholarship to drugs and alcohol, Lidia moves to Eugene and enrolls in the University of Oregon, where she is accepted by Ken Kesey to become one of thirteen graduate students who collaboratively write the novel Caverns with him. Drugs and alcohol continue to flow along with bisexual promiscuity and the discovery of S&M helps ease Lidia’s demons. Ultimately Lidia’s career as a writer and teacher combined with the love of her husband and son replace the earlier chaos that was her life.



2012 Finalist

Pen Center Creative Nonfiction Award

2012 Reader’s Choice Award

Oregon Book Awards

2012 PNBA Award

Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association

2011 Best Books of the Year

The Oregonian

Top 10 Portland Books from 2011

Willamette Week

Best Portland Book Releases of 2011

The Portland Mercury

Best Books of 2011

The Nervous Breakdown

Best books of 2011


The 10 Best Memoirs of 2011


J.M. Owens’ 2011 Year in Review

The InDigest Awards

Canadian booksellers pick the top non-fiction books of 2012

Quill & Quire: Canada’s Magazine of Book News and Reviews

Sarah Hepola’s Five Memoirists on Sex

Vela: Written By Women


The Rumpus

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Two out of eight "Small Press Books to Watch in 2014 (AWP edition)," by Valerie Stivers-Isakova for the Huffington Post, include Tom Spanbauer's I Loved You More and Poe Ballantine's Things I Like About America. Lidia Yuknavitch also cited as a "big star"!

Posted by Rhonda Hughes on 06 March 2014

By all accounts, AWP Seattle 2014 was a wild success!

Thank you to Adam O’Connor Rodriguez for working the Hawthorne booth as well as moderating three panels. Thank you to Scott F. Parker, who covered for Adam while he was on panel. Thank you...Forward

Praise for The Chronology of Water

Flooded with light and incandescent beauty, Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water cuts through the heart of the reader. These fierce life stories gleam, fiery images passing just beneath the surface of the pages. You will feel rage, fear, release, and joy, and you will not be able to stop reading this deeply brave and human voice.

Diana Abu-Jaber
Author of Origin

I love this book and I am thankful that Lidia Yuknavitch has written it for me and for everyone else who has ever had to sometimes kind of work at staying alive. It’s about the body, brain, and soul of a woman who has managed to scratch up through the slime and concrete and crap of life in order to resurrect herself. The kind of book Janis Joplin might have written if she had made it through the fire – raw, tough, pure, more full of love than you thought possible and sometimes even hilarious. This is the book Lidia Yuknavitch was put on the planet to write for us.

Rebecca Brown
Author of The Gifts of the Body

...All sex scenes were shit, except for the sex written by Lidia Yuknavitch. She read us the first chapter of her novel Small Backs of Children  while we all followed along with the copies she’d passed out. They say that alcoholics remember their first drink, that lightening feeling in your body that says yes-yes-let’s-feel-this-way-all-the-time – well, I will always remember the first time I heard Lidia Yuknavitch read.

Chelsea Cain
Author of Evil at Heart

This intensely powerful memoir touches depths yet unheard of in contemporary writing. I read it at one sitting and wondered for days after about love, time, and truth. Can’t get me any more excited than this.

Andrei Codrescu
Author of The Poetry Lesson

From the moment I picked up The Chronology of Water, I couldn’t put it down, and I thought about it long after I’d finished. Rarely do you find talent like Lidia Yuknavitch’s. Reading this book is like diving into Yuknavitch’s most secret places, where, really, we all want memoir to take us, but it so rarely does. The reader emerges wiser, enlightened, and changed.

Kerry Cohen
Author of Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity

I’ve read Ms. Yuknavitch’s book The Chronology of Water, cover to cover, a dozen times. I am still reading it. And I will, most likely, return to it for inspiration and ideas, and out of sheer admiration, for the rest of my life. The book is extraordinary.

Chuck Palahniuk
Author of Pygmy

The Chronology of Water’s central metaphor works beautifully: we all keep our heads above water, look around, and enjoy our corporeal life despite all the reasons not to; beyond that, the book is immensely impressive to me on a human level: the narrator/speaker/protagonist/author emerges from a seriously hellish childhood and spooky adolescence into a middle age not of bliss, certainly, but of convincing engagement and satisfaction.

David Shields
Author of Reality Hunger: A Manifesto

Lidia Yuknavitch’s memoir The Chronology of Water is a brutal beauty bomb and a true love song. Rich with story, alive with emotion, both merciful and utterly merciless, I am forever altered by every stunning page. This is the book I’m going to press into everyone’s hands for years to come. This is the book I’ve been waiting to read all of my life.

Cheryl Strayed
Author of Wild

This isn’t a memoir ‘about’ addiction, abuse, or love: it’s a triumphantly unrelenting look at a life buoyed by the power of the written word.

Publishers Weekly

‎I’m also convinced that this bold and highly unconventional book – hot, gritty, unrelenting in its push to dismantle the self and then, somehow, put the self back together again – gets not just under a reader’s skin but seeps all the way into her bloodstream.

Debra Gwartney, The Oregonian

Chosen as one of the 100 Great Nonfiction Books must-read works of narrative nonfiction and journalism.

The Electric Typewriter

Simply stated: She is important. Read. Her. Now.

Margaret Elysia Garcia, The Plumas Weekly

Yuknavitch can write a really hot sex scene. It’s super sexy, and it’s never cheesy or over-the-top or too tame. It’s perfect…Yuknavitch’s memoir is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Casey Reviews, The Lesbrary

I find Yuknavitch’s frankness about the emotional and physical experience of being a woman (in sex, in athletic competition, in childbirth) surprising. Not because it offends my sensibilities, but because it affirms them.

Danielle Deulen, Essay Daily

The Chronology of Water... has lately achieved cult status.  Lidia Yuknavitch…imparts a visceral power to the experience of lust, a power unmatched in any recent account I can think of.

Claire Dederer, The Atlantic

Lidia Yuknavitch is my favorite new writer…It’s so genius I’m not quite sure how she did it. The tone is a combination of high and low, with some of the writing literary and metaphorical, some conversational and shock-jockey, all of it fueled by rage and pain and love and art and transformation.

Valerie Stivers-Isakova, Huffington Post

This isn’t for everyone. Some will read and be exasperated or disgusted or disbelieving. I get that. I get that chaos and promiscuity and addiction are ugly, messy, and life is too short to waste reading about someone else’s tragedy and self-destructive behavior. But something about this story–the goddamn gorgeous language, the raw power of its brutality–gave me so much comfort and solace. In Yuknavitch’s word embrace, I felt the magic of self-acceptance and self-love, and the crazy-wonderful beauty of life.

Julie Christine Johnson, Chalk the Sun

Yuknavitch has emerged as a trailblazing literary voice that spans genres and dives deep into themes of gender, sexuality, art, violence, and transcendence. Her work is a refreshing alternative to the hero’s journey, offering instead what she calls the “misfit’s journey.”

Suleika Jaouard, Lenny

[The Chronology of Water] is about rage, ecstasy, abuse, appetite, bad decisions and grace. It is one of the most full-throated depictions of being a woman I have ever read.

Sarah Hepola
Author of Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget

The misfit’s journey: Writer Lidia Yuknavitch tells her story at TED2016

In her acclaimed novels and memoir, author Lidia Yuknavitch navigates the intersection of tragedy and violence to draw new roadmaps for self­-discovery.

Why you should listen
Writer Lidia Yuknavitch discovered her calling after an interrupted journey as a would­-be Olympic swimmer. Her prose erases the boundaries between memoir and fiction, explodes gender binaries and focuses on the visceral minutiae of the body.

She was inspired by Ken Kesey (with whom she collaborated on a collective novel project at Oregon University); her latest book, The Small Backs of Children, stands as a fictional counterpoint to her memoir The Chronology of Water, which has garnered her a cult following for its honesty and intensity.

TED Talks
Watch Lidia Yuknavitch's TED Talk, The Beauty of Being A Misfit, here.

Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water breathed new life into the memoir genre. Lidia Yuknavitch is pure corporeal-centric.

Yvonne Conza, Bloom