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An American Childhood Annie Dillard New York New York Harper Row 1988 255 pp There is little about the childhood of a girl from a somewhat wealthy home growing up in Pittsburgh that would normally be thought of as interesting or original enough to be written about In An American Childhood Annie Dillard has not only explored this subject in detail but actually managed to make it funny and insightful as well An American Childhood features a number of essays about Dillards childhood assembled loosely in chronological order There is little of what one would typically expect to find in a book growing up Dillard never confronts any concern over her popularity or grades and does not get caught up in any of the typical adventures of a child in a book of the same theme Dillards adventures occur mostly in the books she reads or the area of Pittsburgh immediately surrounding her home One of her greatest adventures occurs in her own bedroom Dillard terrified of a monster she is convinced visits her bedroom every night eventually defeats the monster by increasing her awareness of the world around her Dillard describes lying petrified in her bed scarcely breathing because some transparent luminous oblong with a head and a tail like a Chinese dragon 20 danced across the walls of her room Later in a beautifully constructed metaphor for childhood and awakening to the truths of the world around her Dillard discovers the entity she had been so afraid of was nothing but a cars headlights Because Dillards childhood was somewhat average and so many have experienced childhoods much like hers she can easily connect with many of her readers simply by sharing common experiences Even those from an entirely different background can find connections between themselves and Dillard because her writing is taken mostly from common childhood themes and experiences Her stories often carry a theme of discovery and
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