An Earlier Life

An Earlier Life from Brenda Miller on Vimeo.

An Earlier Life (Ovenbird Books, 2016)

Front cover FULL for web or screenHow many lives do we create in one lifetime? In Brenda Miller’s exciting new essay collection, An Earlier Life, the author evolves through childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood to enter the wry maturity of middle age.

Whether traveling from synagogue to sweat lodge, from the Arizona desert to a communal hot springs in California, in her latest book Brenda Miller navigates the expectations placed on young girls and women at every turn. She finds guidance in her four major creeds (Judaism, Home Improvement, the Grateful Dead, and Rescue Dogs), while charting a course toward an authentic life. Each stage demands its own form, its own story, sometimes as a means of survival: “No straight line between here and there, between past and future; instead, many small rifts open between where you stand now and where you are trying to go.”

With this title, Ovenbird Books launches its new incarnation as Judith Kitchen’s Ovenbird Books, in honor of founding editor Judith Kitchen, who died in 2014. Judith Kitchen’s Ovenbird Books promotes innovative, imaginative, and experimental works of creative nonfiction.  An Earlier Life is available for purchase on Amazon.


“Further proving herself as the master of the short essay, Brenda Miller’s latest collection deep dives into her past, taking a sepia-tinged world and offering it anew in Technicolor. Each essay’s a revelation, an untangling, an epiphany whispered in our ears.Listen carefully or you’ll miss it: the way our lives expand when we distill them.”
—B.J. Hollars, author of This is Only a Test

“Spinning is an apt metaphor for adolescence. Hell, it is like an apt metaphor for life. Brenda Miller shows us the spin of growing up in all its dizzying glory and grief. But Miller’s greatest gift is the way she orients us. Look here she says, pointing us in the direction of her father: “I’m watching him from behind the screen door, the mesh dim, as if he’s already an old photograph of himself.” Look over here, “All of us squinting when we rise up on our elbows to watch the surfer boys, or to look sideways at the lifeguard on his station.” Miller shows us that by looking sharply at the scenes of our lives, we become a pilot with a compass: we can see the parts as the incredible accumulation of a big life.”
—Nicole Walker, author of Quench Your Thirst With Salt

Praise for Brenda Miller

“Brenda Miller’s voice is a beacon of light.”
—Terry Tempest Williams

“Delicate, elegant, and occasionally devastating, Brenda Miller’s essays are helping to set the standard for our generation.”
—John D’Agata

“Brenda Miller writes with such extraordinary grace and intimacy that, despite our weariness and fears, we find ourselves falling in love with the world all over again.”
—Kim Barnes

“Brenda Miller explores the blurred edges between the physical and the spiritual, probes the connective tissues of magnetism, memory, and mysticism….She seamlessly fashions an aesthetics in which the human body can be solidly aware of the moment even as it is ‘soaring on the verge of flight.’”
—Judith Kitchen

“Miller shows us that a love of language is not merely the province of the poet, but that in the hands of a skillful and original prose writer, the essay becomes, in its own fashion, an ode, an elegy, a sonnet, a sestina.”
—Robin Hemley

“If you’re like me, then the name ‘Brenda Miller”’ is already synonymous with ‘lyric essay’ in your lexicon, and for good reason…Miller not only traces who she has become; she teaches by lyric example how to write ‘your way out, [how to] find the familiar stones, the ones that can lead you home.’”
—Julie Marie Wade

“Brenda Miller continues to do what Brenda Miller always does: make the ordinary extraordinary…. In these beautifully composed essays, Miller explores, digs, meditates on what it means to be a woman in this world, to be alive and breathing.”
—Ira Sukrungruang