by dein sofley
In her debut memoir, Narrow River, Wide Sky, a heart rendering portrayal of small-town life, Jenny Forrester vividly evokes the landscape and culture of the conservative Colorado town where she grew up surrounded by narrow-minded churchgoers, ranchers, Native Americans, and strident
patriots. The book explores the complex forces of family, politics, and religion that served as catalysts for the author’s feminist awakenings. Throughout the memoir, Forrester navigates feelings of isolation, loss and grief with sensitivity and resilience. It’s a breathtaking, story about one woman’s search for identity within the mythology of family and America itself.
Forrester is the force behind Portland’s Unchaste Readers—a quarterly reading series for women, now in its fifth year—and an award-winning flash fiction writer. Her stories have been published in Seattle’s City Arts Magazine, Gobshite Quarterly, PomPom Lit, Nailed Magazine, Hip Mama, The Literary Kitchen, Indiana Review, Columbia Journal and in the Listen to Your Mother anthology, published by Putnam. Her latest writings and photos can be found at www.jennyforrester.com.
The Coachella Review: The title Narrow River, Wide Sky reflects the Western pioneer mythology that, as a child, you struggled to navigate. In its injustices and contradictions is your genesis story. You forged your identity through the uncharted terrain of your upbringing. As a result, the word navigate emerges throughout your memoir. In your stories, you navigate the vast landscape of your western Coloradan heritage, along with your mother’s contradictions and feelings of isolation. As a child, you weren’t given the tools to navigate. Was writing a way for you to map your feelings?
Jenny Forrester: Writing became the way to deal with my feelings, with my moral core, with my desire to come to terms with loss, but also with many other things in life. I’d kept a diary and actually quoted from it in the book—it was a coming together of different sorts of writing I’d always done, but writing a book to be published was a dream. An ambition. Something I wanted, but wasn’t sure I could do for many reasons, ranging from the impact it could have on my family members to the artfulness and the how-to to the actual finding a publisher and then what.