picture of book Acne: A Memoir (by Laura Chinn)

Can Our Emotions Cause or Cure Acne?

The other day I was walking around in downtown Abilene, and outside of one of the stores was a table of books. As any librarian and/or book lover would do, I paused to glance over the titles. Only one book really caught my eye:

Acne: A Memoir

I loved the simple design of the cover, light pink with varying sizes of red dots sprinkled all over it. It seemed like a no-brainer for me – I love memoirs, I love reading… I don’t love acne, but unfortunately it has had quite an impact on me and my story.

I scanned the book for a price, and suddenly saw a sign that said “Free books: Limit 1 per customer.” Free book??? Even better.

I had no idea what this book was really going to be like, but when I came to this paragraph on the second page, I knew I was going to like it:

“After genocide, nuclear war, famine, slavery, and child abuse, acne is the absolute worst thing that can happen to a person. Okay, fine, maybe cancer is worse, and probably a bunch of other stuff, but acne is bad, really bad, and if you haven’t lived though it then… honestly, go f*** yourself.”

— Laura Chinn (p. 2)

I laughed out loud when I read that last part! It was so honest and real. If you’ve never had bad acne, you will think these sentiments are crazy exaggerations. If you have struggled with bad acne, you’ll know that during your lowest points of dealing with red spots all over your face, you literally do feel like this sometimes.

My experience with acne is something that deeply affected me, more than I ever knew until I really started doing some reflecting upon the experience in my 30’s. It affected my body image (I stopped thinking I was pretty, and in fact, was convinced that because of acne scarring I could never be beautiful again), my idea of my own self-worth (I questioned why anyone would want to be friends with someone as ugly as me), and my mental and physical health (I had a few years of extreme dieting when I was trying to find the perfect diet to “cure” my acne, and instead ended up losing so much weight that my period stopped).

Acne is no joke.

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The Mystery of My Half-Blood Prince: Solved!

Earlier this month I wrote a post about how I had discovered my own version of a Half-Blood Prince in a library book I had checked out titled, Your Life As Story. I had checked out the book because I’m interested in writing my own stories, hopefully to publish as a memoir someday.

What I found inside the book, besides wonderful tips for memoir writing, were clues about the book’s previous owner: Robert J. Hall. As I read, I slowly got to know this man who was nearing the end of his life, and wanted to leave a legacy of his life stories for his children and grandchildren.

In my last post, I said I planned to write a letter to Mr. Hall, and I did just that. I really wasn’t sure if I would get a response or not.

Well, I did get a response – but it was not what I expected at all. I received an email from the current resident of Mr. Hall’s house, saying that sometimes he still receives mail addressed to Mr. Hall, and that “I typically don’t open what appears to plainly be “junk mail”, but your note clearly did not have that appearance.”

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My True to Life Half-Blood Prince

As you can gather from reading my blog, I love to write autobiographical stories and snippets from my daily life. One of the main reasons I love writing is that I’m able to share deep and vulnerable parts of myself with others. I always hope to be able to connect with someone else through my writing. Stories are powerful, they allow us to get a glimpse into another person’s life and feelings, and they are an amazing way to develop empathy for people different than we are.

While I know it’s true that you get better at writing the more that you practice writing, I’ve been wanting some more concrete ideas on how to improve as a writer. This led me to check out a book from the library by Tristine Rainer titled, Your Life as Story.

I’m about 8 chapters in, and have found the book to be extremely helpful in its tips and ideas on memoir writing. I’ve been furiously taking notes, trying to capture all the things I don’t want to forget. I knew that the book would be helpful for me to read, but I didn’t expect that even just a few chapters in, it would already change they way I think about writing.

Another surprise from the book was getting to know on a personal level a man named Robert J. Hall – the previous owner of this book before it was donated to the library. His name and address are scribbled on the inside of the front cover, and he has underlined, highlighted, and made notes all throughout the book. As I continue to read, I get more and more insights into this man’s life, and why he owned a copy of this book.

It reminded me of the 6th Harry Potter book, where Harry gets an old copy of an Advanced Potion-Making textbook, and finds it rife with notes and edits from a person who calls themself the “Half-Blood Prince.” Many of the potion recipes have been improved by this Half-Blood Prince, and Harry finds himself doing exceedingly well in his Potions class due to the hints and clues left by the textbook’s previous owner.

I was excited to discover that I basically have my own version of a half-blood prince in my library book. (I’m a big Harry Potter fan! Shout out to my fellow Ravenclaws!) While not nearly as cryptic as the original half-blood prince, I do find myself getting more and more interested in the story behind Robert J. Hall.

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