After reading (and thoroughly enjoying) Amy Dickinson’s book, “The Mighty Queens of Freeville”, I fell into a funk as to how I was going to review this little book about a petite woman who insists she has a demure life. The dilemma? Why did Amy Dickenson write the book in the first place?
To be honest, sweet Amy has lived a pretty ordinary life. Sure she dishes out weekly advice in her famous column, “Ask Amy”. Following in the late Anne Landers’ footsteps, Amy sifts through a slew of e and postal mail, reads every single plea for advice, selects the ones she wants to publish and answers those questions for the world to see.
Yes, she is a great writer who’s been featured on the Today Show, CNN and Bill O’Reilly. She’s been a voice for NPR. As Amy writes about herself and the family of women she’s surrounded by (her “Queens") she explains, “We don’t have money. We aren’t upwardly mobile. We aren’t naturally thin or beautiful. We don’t have advanced degrees, long-term career goals or plans for retirement.” Aside from what Ms. Dickenson has termed as habitually “Failing Up,” she’s dabbled at travel, career and hobbies. So what’s the point of taking all that Ms. Dickenson insists on as ordinariness and writing about it?
One reason I can find is that Amy Dickenson’s life mirrors many of ours. She, her mother, aunts and sisters are women who are “leading small lives of great consequence in a tiny place.” Like the women Amy is surrounded by, the rest of us aren’t particularly famous. Nothing terribly tragic has happened in many of our lives. Few of us battle bad guys. And, aside from the small circle of people who care about us, even less of us can be referred to as heroes or heroines. So what’s the point? Actually, after reading the book, that’s exactly the point. We all live in degrees of ordinariness, but with the right attitude, we and the people around us can be extraordinary.
For a writer with a paying job, Amy still lives in a tiny house not worthy of being remodeled – as explained by her builder friend. As a single mother, Amy freaks out about school, moving and her baby growing up and going off to college just like the rest of us. She validates our woes and anxieties with wit and humor. And therein lays the reason to write such a book. As we laugh at her mistakes and accidents and family episodes we realize a little more laughter and a little less judgment can do all of us a world of good.
As for family and friends, how many of us are well connected? Neither is Amy. She has weird family members and superficial friends. She confides with unlikely associations. Her take on people who own machinery and their correlation to being on disability is laugh-out-loud hilarious.
Amy Dickenson’s book reminds me of another good read, “A Girl Named Zippy: Growing up Small in Moreland, Indiana.” Like author Haven Kimmel, Amy Dickenson has allowed us to see a life not utterly extraordinary but one that has every reason to be celebrated.