Lidia Yuknavitch

National Bestselling Novelist
Award-winning Memoirist

Readings & Lecture Topics

  • On Fear and Loathing
  • Mapping the Body
  • Who Will We Become
  • The Beauty of Being a Misfit
  • Life Blunders as Portals
  • War Talk
  • Prayer for Women’s Writing
  • Bridging Grief and Loss
  • An Evening with Lidia Yuknavitch


“In her acclaimed novels and memoir, author Lidia Yuknavitch navigates the intersection of tragedy and violence to draw new roadmaps for self­-discovery….Her prose erases the boundaries between memoir and fiction, explodes gender binaries and focuses on the visceral minutiae of the body.” —TedTalks

“Yuknavitch writes about art, violence, sex, ferocity, willpower and womanhood with explosive force, in a language that evokes modern mythology.” —LitHub

Lidia Yuknavitch is the author of the widely acclaimed memoir The Chronology of Water and the National Bestselling novels The Book of Joan and The Small Backs of Children; the novel Dora: A Headcase, and and a critical book on war and narrative, Allegories Of Violence. She is also known for her TED talk “The Beauty of Being a Misfit”, which has been viewed over 2.5 million times, and her followup book The Misfit’s Manifesto (2017). “There’s a myth in most cultures about following your dreams. It’s called the ‘hero’s journey.’ I prefer another myth to the side of that, or underneath it maybe. It’s called the ‘misfit’s myth,’” she says. “You may not know this yet, but you have the ability to reinvent yourself, endlessly. That’s your beauty.”

The Chronology of Water was a finalist for a PEN Center USA award for creative nonfiction and won the 2011 Oregon Book Award Reader’s Choice; the book garnered her a cult following for his honesty and intensity. The Small Backs of Children won the 2016 Oregon Book Award’s Ken Kesey Award for Fiction as well as the Reader’s Choice Award.

Yuknavitch’s writing appears online at The Rumpus and in publications including Guernica Magazine, Ms., The Iowa Review, Zyzzyva, The Sun, Exquisite Corpse, TANK, and in the anthologies Life As We Show It, Wreckage of Reason, Forms at War, Feminaissance, and Representing Bisexualities.

She founded the workshop series Corporeal Writing in Portland Oregon, where she teaches both in person and online. She received her doctorate in Literature from the University of Oregon. She lives in Oregon with her husband Andy Mingo and their renaissance man son, Miles. She is a very good swimmer.


Lidia Yuknavitch is the author of the widely acclaimed memoir The Chronology of Water and the National Bestselling novels The Book of Joan and The Small Backs of Children; the novel Dora: A Headcase, and and a critical book on war and narrative, Allegories Of Violence. She is also known for her TED talk “The Beauty of Being a Misfit”, which has been viewed over 2.5 million times, and her followup book The Misfit’s Manifesto (2017). She founded the workshop series Corporeal Writing in Portland Oregon, where she teaches both in person and online. She received her doctorate in Literature from the University of Oregon. She lives in Oregon with her husband Andy Mingo and their renaissance man son, Miles. She is a very good swimmer.


THE MISFIT’S MANIFESTO (Nonfiction, 2017)

“If the road you came in on led through several hells and you walked it more alone than you’d ever want anyone to be, if you were a wolf who chewed off her own leg to escape where you started out, if you paved the road with broken things and crawled in on your knees, this is your book, full of your people. Welcome home.” —Rebecca Solnit

A self-defined misfit makes a powerful case for not fitting in—for recognizing the beauty, and difficulty, in forging an original path. A misfit is a person who missed fitting in, a person who fits in badly, or this: a person who is poorly adapted to new situations and environments. It’s a shameful word, a word no one typically tries to own. Until now. Lidia Yuknavitch is a proud misfit. That wasn’t always the case. It took Lidia a long time to not simply accept, but appreciate, her misfit status. Having flunked out of college twice (and maybe even a third time that she’s not going to tell you about), with two epic divorces under her belt, an episode of rehab for drug use, and two stints in jail, she felt like she would never fit in. She was a hopeless misfit. She’d failed as daughter, wife, mother, scholar—and yet the dream of being a writer was stuck like “a small sad stone” in her throat. The feeling of not fitting in is universal. The Misfit’s Manifesto is for misfits around the world—the rebels, the eccentrics, the oddballs, and anyone who has ever felt like she was messing up. It’s Lidia’s love letter to all those who can’t ever seem to find the “right” path. She won’t tell you how to stop being a misfit—quite the opposite. In her charming, poetic, funny, and frank style, Lidia will reveal why being a misfit is not something to overcome, but something to embrace. Lidia also encourages her fellow misfits not to be afraid of pursuing goals, how to stand up, how to ask for the things they want most. Misfits belong in the room, too, she reminds us, even if their path to that room is bumpy and winding. An important idea that transcends all cultures and countries, this book has created a brave and compassionate community for misfits, a place where everyone can belong.

THE BOOK OF JOAN (Novel, 2017)

“Brilliant and incendiary. Radically new, full of maniacal invention and page-turning momentum. Yuknavitch has exhibited a rare gift for writing that concedes little in its quest to be authentic, meaningful and relevant. By adding speculative elements to The Book of Joan, she reaches new heights with even higher stakes: the death or life of our planet.” — New York Times

The bestselling author of The Small Backs of Children offers a vision of our near-extinction and a heroine—a reimagined Joan of Arc—poised to save a world ravaged by war, violence, and greed, and forever change history. In the near future, world wars have transformed the earth into a battleground. Fleeing the unending violence and the planet’s now-radioactive surface, humans have regrouped to a mysterious platform known as CIEL, hovering over their erstwhile home. The changed world has turned evolution on its head: the surviving humans have become sexless, hairless, pale-white creatures floating in isolation, inscribing stories upon their skin. Out of the ranks of the endless wars rises Jean de Men, a charismatic and bloodthirsty cult leader who turns CIEL into a quasi-corporate police state. A group of rebels unite to dismantle his iron rule—galvanized by the heroic song of Joan, a child-warrior who possesses a mysterious force that lives within her and communes with the earth. When de Men and his armies turn Joan into a martyr, the consequences are astonishing. And no one—not the rebels, Jean de Men, or even Joan herself—can foresee the way her story and unique gift will forge the destiny of an entire world for generations. A riveting tale of destruction and love found in the direst of places—even at the extreme end of post-human experience—Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Book of Joan raises questions about what it means to be human, the fluidity of sex and gender, and the role of art as a means for survival.

THE SMALL BACKS OF CHILDREN (Novel, 2016)

“I have never felt so wrung out by a novel and yet simultaneously invigorated…a terrifically good novel and powerfully written.” — Paris Review

In a war-torn village in Eastern Europe, an American photographer captures a heart-stopping image: a young girl flying toward the lens, fleeing a fiery explosion that has engulfed her home and family. The image wins acclaim and prizes, becoming an icon for millions—and a subject of obsession for one writer, the photographer’s best friend, who has suffered a devastating tragedy of her own. As the writer plunges into a suicidal depression, her filmmaker husband enlists several friends, including a fearless bisexual poet and an ingenuous performance artist, to save her by rescuing the unknown girl and bringing her to the United States. And yet, as their plot unfolds, everything we know about the story comes into question: What does the writer really want? Who is controlling the action? And what will happen when these two worlds—east and west, real and virtual—collide? The Small Backs of Children is a major step forward from one of our most avidly watched writers.

DORA: A HEADCASE (Novel, 2012)
Dora: A Headcase is a contemporary coming-of-age story based on Freud’s famous case study—retold and revamped through Dora’s point of view, with shotgun blasts of dark humor and sexual play. Ida needs a shrink . . . or so her philandering father thinks, and he sends her to a Seattle psychiatrist. Immediately wise to the head games of her new shrink, whom she nicknames Siggy, Ida begins a coming-of-age journey. At the beginning of her therapy, Ida, whose alter ego is Dora, and her small posse of pals engage in “art attacks.” Ida’s in love with her friend Obsidian, but when she gets close to intimacy, she faints or loses her voice. Ida and her friends hatch a plan to secretly film Siggy and make an experimental art film. But something goes wrong at a crucial moment—at a nearby hospital Ida finds her father suffering a heart attack. While Ida loses her voice, a rough cut of her experimental film has gone viral, and unethical media agents are hunting her down. A chase ensues in which everyone wants what Ida has.

THE CHRONOLOGY OF WATER (Memoir, 2011)

“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

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.