A Bit of Earth
By Wendy Crisp Lestina
Genre: Memoir; humor
A 160-page memoir, A Bit of Earth, begins with the author's dream-encounter with her father, a Marine lieutenant who was killed on Okinawa during the last days of World War II--and ends with reconciliation and healing. Told in 23 essays, the story is focused on Wendy Lestina's lifelong spiritual mandate from the father she never knew: "Life a big life, as big as you can make it, big enough for both of us." A tough challenge for a woman, and one that Lestina tackled with varying degrees of success (she was the editor-in-chief of a woman's magazine in New York and the spokesperson for a national businesswomen's organization) and failure (several marriages, loss of friendships, unprofitable business ventures).
The tale, which takes place in a small farm town in far northern California; Los Angeles; Pasadena; New York City and its suburbs; Portland, Oregon; and the prairie village of Bricelyn, Minnesota, weaves through nearly seven decades and criss-crosses the country. The story follows the historical context of the second half of the 20th century, but Wendy Lestina's adaption to the cultural changes for her generation in that time is not typical. As one reviewer writes, "There's never a predictable moment as Wendy ventures far and wide, only to return to her ancestral home bearing the gifts of a life well and truly lived." Another reviewer noted, "Wendy shares her big life of small moments, bringing us wry, canny thoughts and deadpan laughs." This is brave memoir in which the author never presents herself as victim or hero, but rather as a woman who's willing to take risks to search for what's real and lasting -- and to find in that search, an abundance of love and humor.
Wow - what a life. I admire the author for her honest writing. Even when things didn't work out, whether professionally or with love, she never dwells on it or cries the blues. She moves on to the next chapter in her life. And what a journey she has taken. From traveling around the country and internationally, to forming long friendships with people from all walks of life. You have to look up to someone who isn't afraid to have experiences, to love, and to know when to let go.
The opening of the memoir discusses her father and his death, along with a stolen possession. The ending made me feel all the feels. A great read about a woman who I will call fearless and an adventurer.
About the Author
Wendy Crisp Lestina is the author of five books: When I Grow Up I Want to Be 60 (Penguin/Perigee, Spring 2006); Do As I Say Not As I Did (Penguin/Perigee, 1997); From The Back Pew (2003); Old Favorites From Ferndale Kitchens (1994); and the best-selling 100 Things I’m Not Going to Do Now That I’m Over 50 (Penguin/Perigee, 1995).
Her career has been as a magazine editor (Savvy, Datamation, among others) and a public speaker (as the spokesperson of the National Association for Female Executives). She has appeared on dozens of national television programs, including Oprah!, The McLaughlin Group, the Today Show, and Good Morning America. Her op-ed pieces have been published in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, the Portland Oregonian, and heard on Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Since 2004, Wendy has directed over a dozen documentary videos, including Saving the Queen, produced under a grant from CalHumanities; and Letters Home, which won the Western History Association’s Autry Public History Prize in 2011. Her weekly newspaper column, “From the Back Pew,” has won three national awards for both “most serious” and “most humorous” from the National Newspaper Association. In 1997, Middlebury College (Vermont) awarded her an honorary doctorate for her work “on behalf of women and children.” She holds a B.A. (English) from Whitman College (Washington).
As a volunteer, Wendy served eight years on the national board of directors of United Methodist Communications (Nashville). She was a seminar leader in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility (New York); she coordinated nonprofit fundraisers in New York and Humboldt County. She is now the president of the historic Ferndale Cemetery Association.
Wendy and her husband, John live on the family farm outside of Ferndale, California where they are hosts of an Airbnb that serves dinner.
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