Origins of the Universe by Carole Firstman
Origins of the Universe by Carole Firstman
Publication Date: August 2016
Hardcover: 276 pages
In her debut memoir, Carole Firstman traces her strained relationship with her eccentric and distant father, a gifted biology professor whose research on scorpions may have contributed to the evolutionary theories of Stephen Jay Gould. Through unexpected forms—from footnotes and diagrams to startling love letters and Saturday morning cartoons—Firstman struggles to reconnect with her estranged father and redefine herself as both a grown woman and a daughter.
Part travel narrative, part cultural commentary, this genre-bending memoir contemplates the nature of parent-child relationships, the evolution of life on Earth, and origins both physical and metaphysical. Excerpts from this work have appeared as Notable Essays in several Best American Essays collections.
Praise for Carole Firstman
“Firstman’s characterization of family dynamics is pitch-perfect: her own impatience and frustrations with her father balance his foibles and thoughtlessness—and her humor softens the lot. This is a very endearing book, a summer read for the curious mind.”
—The Paris Review
"[A] unique debut [that] easily stands out among memoirs because it is as much about considering the world around us as it is about one very interesting father-daughter relationship."
“Origins of the Universe and What it all Means is a meditation on difficult familial relationships and expands outward with greater philosophical questions.”
—Green Mountains Review
“A saddening but ultimately redeeming memoir”“It turns out that the search for the origins of the universe can be a risky deal. We don’t always like what we find. Carole Firstman, with grace and elegance and wildness and terror, pushes into that essential mystery and emerges with compassion for what still haunts us—a scorpion, a letter, a father—as well a glimmer of insight, or at least acceptance, into why we do the things we do.”
—Nick Flynn, author of My Feelings and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City
“Carole Firstman’s stunning debut memoir, Origins of the Universe and What it All Means, is a luminous and imaginative exploration of the author’s complicated relationship with her eccentric and exasperating entomologist father. Filled with bright, vivid scenes, humor, and masterful characterization, this book sings with a voice that is as wild and strong as it is smart. Firstman takes her reader into the uncertain liminal spaces of her life and relationships, and as with the best memoir writing, often exposes in the process the reader’s own unexplored emotional territory.” —Steven Church, author of One with the Tiger: On Savagery and Intimacy
“The wonderfully ambitious title is in earnest: you’ll understand the origins of the universe as you never have before, and also evolutionary theory, and the most recent theories concerning how all that wiring we call the brain actually works. And scorpions. But this is the easy part. To get to what it all means, Firstman takes us deep into the human heart—not the blood and muscle we can observe from a scientific distance, but the tangled mess of love and connection, what it actually means to be human. As she tells the story of her remarkable childhood, untangling the knot of her relationship with her scientist father, her clear-eyed and sympathetic writing transcends science to engage the elusive complexity of truth, the means and ends of human experience."
—John Hales, author of Shooting Polaris: A Personal Survey in the American West
About Carole Firstman
Carole Firstman is an essayist, memoirist and journalist. Her writing has appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers and literary journals including Colorado Review, South Dakota Review, Watershed Review, Defunct Magazine, Reed Magazine, Man in the Moon: Essays on Fathers and Fatherhood, Lifestyle Magazine, Baja Life, Valley Response, and The Valley Voice.
She received a Pushcart Prize Special Mention and her work has twice been noted in Best American Essays. Her forthcoming book, Origins of the Universe and What It All Means: A Memoir, is about the complications of familial relationships. She teaches at College of the Sequoias and California State University, Fresno and lives in Visalia, CA.