My Unsentimental Education

My Unsentimental Education cover


A funny, smart, and lyrical take on the isolation that occurs when when one woman changes social classes almost too quickly.

A misfit in Spooner, Wisconsin with its farms, bars, and strip joints, Debra Monroe leaves to earn a degree, then another, another, and builds a career—if only because her plans to be a Midwestern housewife continually get scuttled. Fearless but naive, she vaults over class barriers, but never quite leaves her past behind. When it comes to men, she’s still blue-collar. Negotiating the world of dating, Monroe pays careful attention to what love and sex mean to a woman ambivalent about her newfound status as “liberated.”

Both the story of her steady rise into the professional class and a parallel history of unsuitable exes, this memoir reminds us how accidental even a good life can be. If Joan Didion advises us “to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be,” Monroe takes this advice a step further and nods at the people she might have become but didn’t. Funny, poignant, wise, My Unsentimental Education explores the confusion that ensues when a working-class girl ends up far from where she began.

“Blunt, salty. . .a heady rush of adventure, optimism, and fearlessness.”—Houston Chronicle

“Monroe writes with the exuberance of a life filled with drama, heartache, obstacles, and joy.” —Shelf Awareness

“Her voice is perfect: earthy and self-deprecating and funny and world weary  but not cute, or thank you greater power, not plucky, exactly, either. She proves, with enough good humor that you can almost hear her homeys exhale, that you can take the girl out of the backwoods.” —Sara Nelson, Omivoracious

“Keenly observed, funny-sad, un-self-conscious. . .  An account of its author’s intellectual awakening as well as her sexual misadventures, it is above all a love story, with poetry and fiction. . .a delight to read. —Chicago Tribune

“Monroe parallels the narrative conventions of our famous female Victorian authors—Austin, Bronte, and Eliot—with her own contemporary, no-nonsense, feminist wit.” —Bookslut

“Among the many delights are passages when Monroe highsteps through danger; it’s like watching Wonder Woman fend off attacks with her magic bracelets.” —Atlanta Journal Constitution

A whirlind. . .  What carries the book is Monroe’s nonstop, but somehow often unexpected humor.” —Texas Observer

4-Star review: “Her wit, humor, and raw unapologetic tone as she recounts her life’s juggling act is a great humbling inspiration for the modern day woman.”  —San  Francisco Review of Books

“Raw and stinging revelations. . .” —Dallas Morning News

“. . .a life that sings from the pages of this book.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“This picaresque memoir of a woman with brains and desires (not always operating in unison) is a joy.  It tracks a runaway life with consummate control and aphoristic wit.” —Phillip Lopate

“Debra Monroe is a terrifically acute observer of the two worlds of women: her mother’s generation corseted in sexual and familial constraints; her own, in which she gathers lovers and addresses that shift with the wind. She is able, in other words, to make just as many mistakes, only different ones. My Unsentimental Education is very funny, not least at her own expense, and it raises a dozen potent questions about what has changed for a generation of women not so much disillusioned as unillusioned about what it means to ‘live like a man’.” —Rosellen Brown, author of Cora Fry, Tender Mercies, and Half a Heart

“Through a series of near-pratfalls, pirouettes and sheer acrobatic strength, Debra Monroe integrates the splinters and schisms of “taught” identity—a bumpy, if not bumptious education, a charismatic story at once wildly entertaining, buoyant, and deeply, unshakably, wise.” —Melissa Pritchard, author of  The Odditorium and Palmerino

“A down-and-out woman, working at gritty jobs, gets entangled with Mr. Completely, Laughably Wrong. But her unexpected story is far from a cliché.” –Kirkus Reviews