I work at a large bookstore, and I get a LOT of advanced reading copies (ARC's) from publishers. When I read on the ARC back cover of Ariel Gore's ATLAS OF THE HUMAN HEART that she was described as "Jack Kerouac's intrepid little sister..." I thought, 'Oh, puhleeeze!'
Thankfully, Gore must have intervened, because that phrase is not on the final cover, and rightfully so. I remember reading Kerouac's ON THE ROAD when I was 19 (before Ariel Gore was born) and I didn't think much of it. Having hitchhiked across the US, Canada and Europe myself--back when it was a far safer mode of travel than it is now--I found Kerouac's book lacking in what I refered to then as "substance." Perhaps what I'd call it today is "Heart."
Well, move over, Jack. Ariel Gore's memoir is NOT just a "chick version" of ON THE ROAD. There's more to ATLAS OF THE HUMAN HEART than drugs, alcoholic binges, and wild rides across state lines, where we're told that Neal or Jack or Allen jabbered non-stop--but we never heard exactly what they talked about. Gore's memoir is about the complexity of finding oneself while in the midst of ever-changing terrain, relationships, and communities. We get more than a wild ride form Ariel Gore; we're shown the lines on her map as clearly and intimately as she might show us the lines in the palm of her hand.
Gore's thoughtful narrative illuminates her own corner of herstory with song lyrics, Tibetan philosophy, insightful musings from "unassigned readings" of literature and poetry, and the ringing bell-tone wisdom of kua's from the I-CHING. Gore gives us not only postcards and snapshots of her life, she takes us along with her on a redemptive journey across a familiar emotional landscape. We travel with a free-spirited teenager, sharing her education, not in the "School of Hard Knocks," but as Earth University Seekers, landing with her Plop--in the muddy world of youthful cohabitation and motherhood. What an intelligent, heartfelt, and honest look at one very intersting and inspiring life!