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Memoir Review – A Girl Named Zippy

A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland Indiana by Haven Kimmel

Review by Vicky T. (VickyJo)


I have recently developed a real passion for memoirs.  Not biographies: a person’s entire life story told by someone else…and not autobiographies, someone’s life story told by themselves, usually after they feel they have lived long enough and done enough important things to write it all down for posterity,  but memoirs: a small, significant slice of a person’s life, as reported by the one who lived it.  A memoir can revolve around an incident, the choice of a career, a relationship, or even a cherished pet (think “Marley and Me”).

Haven Kimmel, a young new author, wrote her memoir “A Girl Named Zippy : growing up small in Mooreland, Indiana” because she wanted to capture small town America during the mid-60’s.  It’s a love letter of sorts to Mooreland, Indiana, and to the people who lived there in 1965, and who helped to shape Haven’s childhood.  But don’t for a moment think that this is a serious, somber look back at a time long gone.  Not in the least.  The most charming part of Haven’s memoir is her humor.  She obviously appreciates the irony in life, and sees humor everywhere.

Haven, unlike her older brother Daniel and older sister Melinda, acquired a nickname from her father; he called her Zippy after a cute, energetic chimpanzee he once saw roller skating on television.  Haven shares with us her baby book, where her mother wrote the typical entries all mothers record: how many teeth, first steps, favorite toy, and of course first words.  But Haven’s baby book entries for “first words” remained empty at her first birthday…at her second birthday….until this entry by her mother, just before Haven’s third birthday:

“This weekend we went camping.  After dinner little Zippy was running in circles around the campfire, drinking from her bottle, and Bob decided she’d had it long enough.  He walked over to her and said, “Sweetheart, you’re a big girl now, and it’s time for you to give up that bottle.  I want you to just give it to me, and we’re going to throw it in the fire. Okay?”  The baby looked at us, back at her dad, and then pulled the bottle out of her mouth with an audible pop, and said, clear as daylight, “I’ll make a deal with you.”  Her first words!  Bob didn’t hesitate.  “What’s the deal?”  She said, “If you let me keep it, I’ll hide it when company comes and I won’t tell nobody.”  Now that we know she can talk, all I can say is: Dear God. Please give that child some hair.”

Zippy remembers her third grade teacher as the meanest woman in the history of Mooreland Elementary School, but she loved the druggist Doc Holliday, because you always knew where you stood with him, which was too close and making too much noise.  She recalls giving some hippies a haircut in return for a dog; she remembers the day “it became completely impossible for me to live without a pet chicken” and of course, she discusses all her adventures with her best friend Julie Newman, who lived on a farm where Zippy learned some very shocking things about life.

“A Girl Named Zippy” will make you laugh out loud and bring a lump to your throat.  The final chapter leaves you wanting more…which is available, since Haven Kimmel wrote another memoir, “She got up off the couch and other heroic acts from Mooreland, Indiana.





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