Release Day: I Don’t Have a Happy Place

22609400I DON’T HAVE A HAPPY PLACE
Cheerful Stories of Despondency and Gloom

“Korson’s preoccupations—checking crime blotters for neighborhood stats, being certain that her first child would come out crazy, avoiding chitchat at parties—may keep her firmly in her cranky cave but will strike a funny bone in readers.”
— Publishers Weekly

About KIM KORSON

Kim Korson’s writing has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine and Moomah the Magazine. She is originally from Montreal, Canada, has lived in Brooklyn, NY and now lives in Southern Vermont with her husband and two kids. She doesn’t get out much but finds time to write often, hence the birth of her fantastic collection of personal essays, I Don’t Have a Happy Place: Cheerful Stories of Despondency and Gloom (Gallery Books/Simon & Schuester; original trade paperback; $16.00), to be published on April 4, 2015.

About I DON’T HAVE A HAPPY PLACE

When a trip to the therapist ends with the question “Can’t Kim be happy?” Kim Korson responds the way any normal person would – she makes fun of it. Because really, does everyone have to be happy?

Aside from her father wearing makeup and her mother not feeling well (a lot), Kim Korson’s 1970s suburban upbringing was typical. Sometimes she wished her brother were an arsonist just so she’d have a valid excuse to be unhappy. And, when life moves along pretty decently – she breaks into show business, gets engaged in the secluded jungles of Mexico, and moves her family from Brooklyn to dreamy rural Vermont – the real despondency sets in. Its a skill to find something wrong in just about every situation, but Kim has an exquisite talent for negativity. It is only after half a lifetime of finding kernels of unhappiness where others find joy that she begins to wonder if she is even capable of experiencing happiness.

In I Don’t Have a Happy Place, Kim Korson untangles what it means to be a true malcontent. Rife with evocative and nostalgic observations, unapologetic racism, and razor-sharp wit, I Don’t Have a Happy Place is told in humorous, autobiographical stories. This fresh-yet-dark voice is sure to make you laugh, nod your head in recognition, and ultimately understand what it truly means to be unhappy. Always.

Some of our favorite quotes from the book…

Paulette:

“Samantha Narvey was only five years old and yet she had it all. And just in case the scales weren’t completely tipped in her favor, just in case she didn’t already have every single thing known to man, in the summer of 1973, it was her babysitter, not mine, who drowned and died in front of our eyes.”

 

Latchkey:

“These were the fundamental tenets of feminism, as presented in my house:

1. Wear pants.

2. Do not let a man open the door for you (and if he does, make throaty sounds of outrage and disgust).

3. Veto the kitchen.

4. Have other people watch your children, or better, have them watch themselves.

5. Barbie: You are not welcome here.”

 “My father’s 1970s look fell somewhere between European porn director and Jewish buckaroo.”

 

“My Barbie desire was pretty modest. One. I just wanted one glorious plastic whore.”

 

Eight Weeks:

“Who doesn’t love a kid who overcomes obstacles because she tries harder than anyone and it actually pays off? Me. I can’t stand that fucking kid. Not to worry, this isn’t a story about that kid.”

 

Good Grief:

“As we set sail and I began to hear the song, I forced myself to have a good attitude for my children and the children of the world. Plus, it was the least I could do for the UNICEF kids, a payback of sorts for the Halloween I dressed like a Fonzie’s chick and collected change in the orange boxes, promptly spending it all on Double Bubble instead of turning it in to Mr. Bowker.”

There’s No Business:

“Worse, perhaps, is the recent college graduate, who enters the first rung of their career shocked they have to fetch tabouli salad for their boss or walk her springer spaniel in the rain instead of being consulted on how to run the company. Paying dues is not glamorous work. I knew absolutely nothing about anything and yet I was in a constant state of outrage at the menial nature of my job.”

A Discussion with KIM KORSON

1.  I Don’t Have A Happy Place explores some heavy subjects; mental illness, depression and complicated family relationships just to name a few. Did you find writing this collection of essays was therapeutic for you?

It wasn’t exactly a cathartic experience but it certainly was educational. I didn’t necessarily feel better or cured or ready to get off the couch, but I did gain a new understanding of myself, maybe even some acceptance. Unpacking all that luggage did make me feel raw for a long time but writing helped me fold and put away some of the ill-fitting clothes lingering in that suitcase.

2.  Looking back as an adult now, do you find it ironic that you were once envious of your friend’s misfortunes, like an alcoholic father and dead babysitter?

Not so much ironic as mortifying. Growing up, I had this nagging desire to be somewhere other than my home. And it wasn’t really a grass-is-greener situation. In the way that some people feel they are simply in the wrong body, I felt that way about my family. There was technically nothing wrong with my house or family, but–like country music, or beets– they just weren’t for me. I used these extreme situations to highlight my yearning to be elsewhere, with a variety of people whose experiences were different than mine. And if their situations were rife with turmoil and negativity, well, that was just a bonus.

 

3.  Have you learned anything new about yourself after writing about your life up to this point?

 I’m pretty self-aware, to a fault, because I live in my head so much. But something I learned, which came from the actual writing process, was that I actually could have discipline. I often say the only thing in my life I’ve ever finished was childbirth. I have pages of novels in drawers all over the house, half-started photo albums, all kinds of ideas of things I’m going to do, but I never finish. It was thrilling to complete something. Especially something so important to me.

4.  As a writer, what do you think are the benefits of breaking I Don’t Have A Happy Place up into individual essays instead of traditional chapters?

When I set out to write this book, it was with the intention of mining my history to see if indeed I experienced happiness, or was capable of feeling content. I chose some quintessential milestones to explore and when those ran out, I delved into some more obscure ones. I’ve heard many people say that happiness, or life, is about moments. Turns out, unhappiness is also about moments. I wanted to focus on these pockets of time, and felt that stand alone stories could achieve that.

5.  When you were reflecting on your past, were there any moments that surprised you or that you saw differently years later?

I knew I always wanted to tell the story of my grandmother’s funeral. The players involved were in fine form, and I like to find the humor in tense or upsetting situations. My goal for that story was always to focus on my grandfather and I was surprised by how much I learned about my role in the family, how my family handled grief and each other, and it unlocked some feelings about my mother, some insight into her personality that I hadn’t expected.

6.  There are some particularly poignant moments in I Don’t Have a Happy Place (especially in the essay “Good Grief”), was it difficult to share such raw emotions from your life?

It wasn’t hard when I was alone at my desk. Now that all those words are actually in print and out in the world, I kind of want to take to the bed.

 

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