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.
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
Top 10 Portland Books from 2011
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
Close-up with Kristen Stewart, Feature Films Jury member
Festival de CannesWhat will your first feature film be about?
Kristen StewartI’m adapting a memoir. It’s called The Chronology of Water. Lidia Yuknavitch is from Portland. I love her...Forward
The Reading List: Five Memoirs
Acclaimed essayist and intellectual Roxane Gay on her favorites of the genre.
Also included Terese Maillot, Morgan Jerkins, Claudia Rankine, and Aleksandar Hemon.
Scott Steindorff and Dylan Russell of Stone Village Productions have won a competitive auction for movie rights to Lidia Yuknavitch’s sci-fi novel “The Book of Joan.”
The book is a re-telling of the Joan of Arc saga in a terrifying future...Forward
To those who feel like they don’t belong: there is beauty in being a misfit. Author Lidia Yuknavitch shares her own wayward journey in an intimate recollection of patchwork stories about loss, shame and the slow process of self-acceptance. “Even at...Forward
I had the great fortune to attend the premiere in Portland, Oregon, of Wild, based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed. I want to pause for a moment and say thank you to Cheryl for being a longtime supporter of Hawthorne Books and its writers. “Thank...Forward
If you want an introduction to the work of Tom Spanbauer, one thing you can do is hunt down an author bio. It’ll read something like this: He grew up in Idaho and attended Catholic school, which I’m sure had little effect on the rest of his life. He...Forward
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.
Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water breathed new life into the memoir genre. Lidia Yuknavitch is pure corporeal-centric.
- Yvonne Conza, Bloom