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Musical Chairs Paperback – October 3, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: All Things That Matter Press (October 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0984259422
  • ISBN-13: 978-0984259427
  • Product Dimensions: 0.4 x 8.9 x 5.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #693,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Jen Knox is an exceptionally gifted storyteller, who can take the events of the past and craft them invariably into engaging and compelling narratives. 
--Phillip Lopate, author of Notes on Sontag

Jen Knox has accomplished what so many memoirists do not - she told her story in a clear, unsentimental voice with lovely prose that read like a well-crafted novel. 
--Beth Hoffman, author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Knox has had ups and downs with her family and she tells her unusual and touching story, making "Musical Chairs" a very intriguing and recommended read that will entice many memoir readers. Starred Review.
--Midwest Book Reviews


This is one of those books that lingers long after the last page.
--Heather McIntosh, author of Small Animals First

About the Author

Jen Knox earned her MFA from Bennington's Writing Seminars and works as a fiction editor at Our Stories Literary Journal and a Creative Writing Professor at San Antonio Community College. Some of her publication credits include Annalemma Magazine, Bananafish, Eclectic Flash, Flashquake, Foundling Review, The Houston Literary Journal, Metazen, Midwest Literary Magazine, Short Story America, Slow Trains, SLAB, Superstition Review, and Quiz & Quill. Forthcoming work will appear in Narrative Magazine. Jen grew up in Ohio and lives in Texas. Her second book, To Begin Again, is forthcoming in 2011. 

More About the Author

Jen Knox earned her MFA from Bennington College in 2010. She works as a creative writing professor at San Antonio College and a research analyst at Frost & Sullivan. Jen mentors for the PEN American Center. She was nonfiction editor for The Bennington Review (2010) and Quiz & Quill (2007); she worked as a fiction reader for Our Stories Literary Journal and now reads submissions for PANK.

Jen's writing has won the Global Short Story Competition and was chosen for Wigleaf's 2012 Top 50. Two of her stories have received Finalist status for Glimmer Train competitions and three of her stories have received honorable mention. Her chapbook, The Aquarium, earned finalist status in the Black Lawrence Press's 2012 Black River Chapbook competition.

Her online work and some links to print can be read here. Jen's fiction e-chapbook Don't Tease the Elephants (March 2014) was released by Monkey Puzzle Press.

Current and forthcoming projects: Jen has completed The Getaway State, a short story collection, and We Arrive Uninvited, a novel.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 62 customer reviews
So, I was really enthused when Phillips's book came out.
Jerald E. Travis
Jen Knox has accomplished what so many memoirists do not - she told her story in a clear, unsentimental voice with lovely prose that read like a well-crafted novel.
Beth Hoffman
Readers will come away from this story with a deeper understanding of what it is to really live a life.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth A. Weene on November 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
"Musical Chairs" is Jen Knox's gutsy autobiographical story. It is also the weaving together of four generations of family pain and coping into a tapestry rich in that most elusive quality - the truly human.

This is a no-holds-barred book. Knox is painfully honest about herself, her past, and her battles with anxiety, restlessness, and booze. She doesn't offer rationalizations, psychobabble, or excuses. Instead, she looks for and finds the strength that comes from facing life with honesty and acceptance.

If, at times, the reader is reminded of Camus at his best, it is because Knox too finds meaning within the helpless, repetitive pointlessness which is the human condition. And, if at times, the reader feels like the author's pain and struggle are reminiscent of Kafka, it is because "Musical Chairs" is told with an attention to detail that make every moment burn itself into consciousness.

I would recommend this book to every reader. I would particularly urge it for every young woman who feels ready to take responsibility for her own life. And, if it were in my power, I would make sure it was given to every teenaged girl who attends or should be attending AlaTeen or ALANON; for this is a book which offers much to those who would choose to learn. (Kenneth Weene, PhD, author and psychologist)
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Marilyn Kallet on December 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a gripping, well-paced and clearly written coming-of-age story, in which a young woman finds her voice, her balance, her connectedness with her grandmother--but to get to the point of self-confidence and voice, she must go through her own personal hell. The narrator was a teenage runaway who worked as a stripper for a short time. Her intelligent self-awareness during that phase of her life is inspiring, and yes, very sensual,

This book reminds me of Catcher in the Rye, though the book in hand is creative nonfiction. It's about time we had a heroine who's smart, sassy, brave, ready to deal with adversity from within her own mind and from the external world. I'm also reminded of Jeannette Walls's The Glass Castle, which features another spunky articulate female narrator. Wall's book is a best-seller, and Jen Knox's book should be too.

I wish my sister had had this book when my niece began to experience a long series of troubles. No one in the convoluted health care system had much to offer. Luckily my niece was able to clean up and to survive dangerous streets. She is a painter and has landed on her feet with her visionary art.

For the narrator in Musical Chairs, words are the angels, hard-won.
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Format: Paperback
This is a true story of a restless adolescent with an overwhelming desire to move and explore. In this sense, she is a great deal like her great-grandmother; another person that often felt the powerful call to go elsewhere. While life with her parents was strained and they divorced, there was no extreme hostility or abuse that led to her running away. Knox then wandered from job to job, working at everything from a stripper to cosmetology. She also was heavily engaged to the dubious mistress of alcohol, spending a great deal of time under the influence. In a family with a history of mental illness in the female line, Knox also suffers from acute panic attacks, although if this can be considered an expression of her mental illness, it is mild compared to the problems of her ancestors.
During her sojourn, Knox meets many people, some of which are helpful, others that only appear to be and some that are hostile. There are boyfriends, relationships and some good times, although her life is mostly just getting by in a world where her foundation is alcohol. Her parents are aware of what she is doing and where she is living, while they provide some aid; generally they keep their hands off her life. To some their lack of forceful intervention would appear to be parental irresponsibility, although to me it was clear that had they tried to be more controlling, Knox would have simply ran out of sight.
Knox is a good writer telling a good story, she shows a great deal of promise without reaching the high bar. If you take away the mental illness of her relatives, her story is similar to what could be told by many teenage girls, including some in my family. Rebellion against parents is a natural event and many run, but never far enough away from their parents so that they are out of sight. It is as if they keep them as a safety valve in case they manage to land in the really deep stink.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By STUART MCCALLUM on December 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
Jen Knox is an exceptionally gifted storyteller, and her memoir Musical Chairs is a captivating, emotionally charged page turner.

Soon after her parents' divorce, young Jen is riddled with teenage angst, and in desperate need to find her place in the world. Aged fifteen she leaves home and enters an adult world where some (are only too eager) to take advantage of her vulnerability. Jen grows up quick.

There is a tragic irony to Jen's story; she battles with booze which many in her family have struggled with and mental illness. I applaud Jen for facing her demons head on, and managing to restore her life while having many adversities to contend with.

I strongly believe Musical Chairs should be part of every school curriculum as the lessons in life are invaluable.

I highly recommend Jen's story as a must read for all.
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