Haven Kimmel

A Girl Named Zippy

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A Girl Named Zippy Summary

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A Girl Named Zippy is a memoir by Haven Kimmel. First published in 2001 by Doubleday, it’s the first book in the Zippy duology. In the book, Kimmel describes what it was like growing up in a tiny American town during the post-war era. The book received positive critical reviews, and it’s well received by readers. Kimmel is a bestselling nonfiction author. She graduated from North Carolina State University and attended seminary at the Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Indiana. Kimmel covers her mother’s story, and more family adventures, in the second book, She Got Up Off the Couch.

Kimmel grew up in Mooreland, Indiana. When Kimmel’s born, only 300 people live in Mooreland, and it’s a very close-knit community. Everyone looks out for each other, and Kimmel loves growing up there. Her family and neighbours call her “Zippy” because she’s speedy and always running around the house. She isn’t a troublemaker, but she learns how to speak her mind early in life. This quality stays with her into adulthood.

A Girl Named Zippy takes place during the 1960s and 1970s. America’s experiencing a period of transition following the Cold War. The economy’s thriving, industry’s booming, and everyone’s looking forward to the future. In small towns like Mooreland, community means everything. Throughout the book, Kimmel describes how important the values of stability, family, and friendship are to her neighborhood.

Given how important family is to Kimmel, it’s unsurprising that they feature so prominently in the book. Kimmel introduces us to everyone in her family, from her proudly atheist father to her sweet, free-spirited sister. Kimmel brings family dynamics to life through anecdotes and memories. For example, Kimmel remembers the day when her sister, Melinda, told her that she’s adopted by gypsies, and the chaos that unfolded around the house.

Although Kimmel’s a nimble child who is quick on her feet, she is a slow developer. She’s completely bald until she’s two, and she doesn’t speak her first words until she’s three. She’s a sickly baby and everyone worries about her until she starts running around the house. When she strikes a bargain with her father over keeping her baby bottle, her family realizes that they have a special girl on their hands—slow development doesn’t mean anything in the long run. Everyone lives life at their own pace.

There’s nothing perfect about Kimmel’s family. For her, that’s part of their charm. Her mother, Delonda, is a couch potato. She spends all day reading and eating on the couch. Her father gambles and spends too much money, even if he does have a good heart. Melinda’s obsessed with beauty pageants. She doesn’t understand how Kimmel’s her sister, because they’re such different people.

Just as Kimmel’s different from Melinda, so is Delonda different from Kimmel’s father. Delonda’s a devoted Christian who attends church every Sunday. Kimmel’s father wears his atheism like a badge of honor. Although they have different religious views, they are very close. For Kimmel, her parents prove that opposites attract and that we can all overcome even the widest differences.

Kimmel introduces readers to other family and friends, too. She adores her older brother, Daniel. Daniel is very handsome, and all the local girls fancy him. He’s a gentle, introverted soul who spends his time pondering the nature of life and religion. Kimmel admires his strength and she wants to be like him when she grows up.

Kimmel’s school friends are equally interesting. She describes one friend, Dana, who disappears one night with her family and no one sees her again. Although Kimmel and Dana fought all the time, Kimmel cherished her friendship. To this day, Kimmel still wonders where Dana ended up, and what drove the family to leave without saying goodbye to anyone. As an adult, Kimmel understands that not every question has an easy answer.

Kimmel’s anecdotes reveal a community where every person’s story overlaps. Everyone is connected, and that’s why the community is successful. For example, Kimmel’s teacher marries the local grocery store manager, and they live on the same street as Kimmel. They all know the crazy neighbor, Edythe, who looks for reasons to punish Kimmel at every opportunity. Finally, they’re all united against the neighbors who try to poison neighborhood dogs for trespassing in their yard. This isn’t just a neighbourhood—it’s an extended family.

Kimmel’s family looks out for others in the community when they can’t help themselves. For example, Kimmel’s dad cleans out a neighbor’s hen coop when the hen dies because the neighbor is too distressed to do it herself. Once Kimmel’s dad cleans out the hen coop, the neighbor can move on.

Everyone in her family, Kimmel explains, loves animals. Kimmel spends her childhood nursing sick and deformed animals back to health, and she has a very strong maternal instinct. When she sees a farmer slaughter an animal, she realizes what it means to eat meat, and she understands the meaning of life and death. She understands that there are consequences to everything, which is one of the most important lessons we can learn. A Girl Named Zippy is a coming-of-age memoir which highlights the trials and tribulations of growing up.