I first met Dr. Laurie Jean Cannady at HippoCamp—Hippocampus Magazine’s 2016 writer’s conference. I have to admit that I was so awestruck to meet her in person that I didn’t talk to her for more than 96 seconds. Writers are my rockstars, and I’m easily intimidated. It’s not that she was that terror-inducing as a person, it’s just that I loved her book, CRAVE: SOJOURN OF A HUNGRY SOUL so very much. It is a memoir I recommend over and over, and truly think it should be required reading in all colleges.
The next year I found myself at HippoCamp once again, but this time I was sitting in the green room, frantically trying to get my slides ready for my very first presentation. In walked Laurie Jean Cannady, who was also presenting in the same time-slot. She asked what I was doing, and when I admitted to being flumoxed, she sat down next to me and helped me build my powerpoint just twenty minutes before we both had to go on. Trust me—this woman is an amazing person in addition to be an incredible writer.
About CRAVE:SOJOURN OF A HUNGRY SOUL:
CRAVE is a coming-of-age memoir that chronicles a young girl’s journey through abuse and impoverishment. The effusive narration descends into the depths of personal and sexual degradation, perpetual hunger for food, safety and survival. While moving through gritty exposés of poverty, abuse, and starvation, Crave renders a continuing search for sustenance that simply will not die.
Laurie Jean Cannady is most recognizable through her voice. Lyrical and august, yet strangely intimate, her lucid memory for the texture of daily existence weaves the reader into the fabric of the story. We discover that the most slender threads bind the strongest.
It is no surprise this memoir is a narrative about a victim who becomes a survivor. Cannady is assertive, motivational, and unafraid to reach her target audience: women, African-Americans, high-school students, college students, survivors of physical and sexual abuse, veterans, people raised by single parents, and folks who are living in or have lived through impoverishment. (Etruscan Press)
— The Debutante Ball (@DebutanteBall) November 11, 2017
Virtual Interview with Laurie Jean Cannady:
What is one book that had a great impact on you?
Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day changed my understanding of language, of how to relay a story, while ensuring the soul of the piece and the characters remain intact. I could read Mama Day over and over again and I’d find something new to love each time.
What one thing is making you happy right now?
Being with my family makes me really happy. My oldest son is in graduate school and he teaches tenth-grade English in DC. I don’t get to see him as often as I’d like. My middle son is in college, so he’s always rushing somewhere and my youngest, my daughter, she will graduate high school next year. Seems like the years are moving along too quickly, so I am loving spending time with my children and my husband.
Where do you love to be?
I love to be at the beach. There’s something about the salt-flavored wind and the waves colliding that always puts me at ease. I can sit for hours on the beach, writing, thinking, feeling small, feeling whole.
When you were a teenager, what did you think you’d be when you grew up?
I just knew I’d be a defense attorney, driving a Volvo, when I grew up. I loved arguing/debating and I lost myself in shows like Law and Order. There are times that I still consider making that career change, but I’m so in love with memoir writing, I don’t think I’d have time for both and I’m not willing to give up the writing life.
What are you working on now?
My current memoir in progress is titled, Wars We’ve Lost, Wars We’ve Won: A Soldier’s Fight for and Against Her Army. In, Wars Private Carter is hopeful, determined, and ready to cast off childhood traumas as she begins basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Before enlisting, no matter what she did, no matter how many successes garnered she could not avoid traps seemingly fashioned to imprison her in a cycle of generational dysfunction.
Sometimes, she topples into those traps; other times, she dives in. That cycle, she believes, will be broken once she joins the Army, her supposed savior. Despite her best intentions, Private Carter quickly learns her Army, her “savior,” also has traps fashioned for imprisonment, meant specifically to confine girls like her.
Laurie Jean Cannady has published an array of articles and essays on poverty in America, community and domestic violence, and women’s issues. She has also spoken against sexual assault in the military at West Point Military Academy. Her memoir, Crave: Sojourn of a Hungry Soul was named one of the best nonfiction books by black authors in 2015 by The Root online magazine. A Kirkus review describes Crave: Sojourn of a Hungry Soul as a “bold, honest, and courageous memoir.” Most recently, Foreword Reviews announced Crave as an Indiefab Book of the Year 2015 finalist in the autobiography/ memoir category. Additionally, Crave was named a finalist for the Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award for Nonfiction.
Laurie Jean resides in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, Chico Cannady, and their three children. She serves as a professor of English at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania and creative writing faculty in the Wilkes University MA/MFA low-residency Creative Writing Program. She holds a Ph.D. in Literature and Criticism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. (author’s website)
Find her on the web: