The Bookworm Sez: 'North of Normal' an out-of-the-ordinary read

The Bookworm Sez: ‘North of Normal’ an out-of-the-ordinary read

You stopped in the store the other day, and stopped short.

In all its electric-colored glory, tie-dye is back. Or maybe it never left, just passed down by Baby Boomers like you who also loved groovy music, an everybody-helps-everybody mentality, and how wonderfully carefree that felt.

Ah, the good ol’ days… or were they? For author Cea Sunrise Person, the answer was “no” for years, but in her new memoir “North of Normal” (c.2014, Harper, $25.99, 339 pages), she explains how she made peace with it.

Cea Sunrise Person’s grandfather was more at home in nature than he was anywhere else. He’d always wanted to live in the outdoors and so, shortly after he came home from Korea, he took his new bride to live in the wilderness.

In about the mid-60s, the family (including three girls and a boy) moved to Wyoming, then to California where they fit in perfectly: they’d already embraced the emerging counter-culture, so “pot smoking, nude cookouts, and philosophical discussions” were easy additions. Their home soon became known as a clothing-optional place to hang out and score drugs, and “the parents were always totally groovy with it all.”

Not-so-groovy: Person’s mother was 16 when she became pregnant. She married the boy but they parted before their baby was born, so Person’s first home was a drafty shack in the British Columbia woods. Later, when she was a toddler, the family moved into a tipi on Indian land where she recalls the freedom of an idyllic childhood spent on chores, pretending, and running through meadow, woods, and water.

But that, too, would end: when Person was 5, her mother met a man who whisked them away to a life of tent-living, theft, and things little girls shouldn’t see. By the time she was 13, Person had enough of the “misfits,” so she lied about her age, left family behind, and started a surprising career — though she still wondered why they couldn’t seem to be “normal.”

Twenty-five years later, broke and twice-divorced, she finally learned the truth.

As a tail-end Baby Boomer, I was really excited to start “North of Normal.” Would author Cea Sunrise Person’s recollections be ones that I shared, too?

No. Not even remotely, which just made this book more enjoyable.

Through memories of her own and that of her mother’s family, Person tells what it was like to be raised by an unconventional hippie mom who did her best but was, herself, a product of the times. That alone would be a far-out tale, but the way it’s told makes this a book to read: Person is a gifted storyteller, and that snatched me up from the first paragraph. I also was fascinated by her voice, as it changed with the age she was as she remembered.

Beware that this coming-of-age memoir contains explicit language, but it fits with what you’ll read. Yes, it might make you wince but you’ll be so engrossed in the tale that you might not even notice.

For you, that’s a hint of what “North or Normal” has in store …

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at bookwormsez@yahoo.com.

More in Life

Candy pecans make a sweet snack to enjoy on excursions. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Road trip reimagined

Candied pecans accompany more subdued wandering

Robert C. Lewis photo courtesy of the Alaska Digital Archives 
Ready to go fishing, a pair of guests pose in front of the Russian River Rendezvous in the early 1940s.
The Disappearing Lodge, Part 1

By the spring of 1931, a new two-story log building — the lodge’s third iteration — stood on the old site, ready for business

Viola Davis stars in “The Woman King.” (Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.)
On the screen: Women reign in latest action flick

‘The Woman King’ is a standout that breaks new ground

Artwork donated for the Harvest Auction hangs at the Kenai Art Center on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Auction, juried show to showcase local talent

Kenai Art Center will host its annual Harvest Auction this weekend, juried art show next month

Sweet and tart cranberry pecan oat bars are photographed. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Cranberries to match the bright colors of fall

Delicious cranberry pecan oat bars are sweet and tart

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Take a chance

The fact of the matter is, you can find a way to hurt yourself in just about any athletic endeavor.

Alaska Digital Archives
George W. Palmer (left), the namesake for the city in the Matanuska Valley and the creek near Hope, poses here with his family in 1898 in the Knik area. Palmer became a business partner of Bill Dawson in Kenai in the last years of Dawson’s life.
Bill Dawson: The Price of Success, Part 5

Thus ended the sometimes tumultuous Alaska tenure of William N. Dawson.

File
Minister’s Message: Plenty

The Bible story of Joseph in Egypt preparing the harvest in the seven years of plenty teaches us some vital lessons

A still from “Jazzfest.” (Photo provided)
DocFest could be the golden year of documentaries — again

Homer Documentary Film Festival returns for 18th year with solid mix

From left: Lacey Jane Brewster, Terri Zopf-Schoessler, Donna Shirnberg, Tracie Sanborn and Bill Taylor (center) rehearse “Menopause Made Me Do It” on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Applause for menopause

Kenai Performers’ new play takes aim at ‘not the most glorious part of womanhood’

Bulkogi Stew, a mixture of beef steak, potato starch noodles, green onions and broth, is enjoyed as part of the Korean harvest festival, Chuseok. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
A hearty stew to celebrate harvest and loved ones

Bulkogi Stew makes for a perfect drizzly Chuseok in Alaska

This is the only known photo of Peter F. (“Frenchy”) Vian and William N. (“Bill”) Dawson together. They were photographed standing on the porch of their Kenai store in about 1911-12. (Photo courtesy of the Kenai Historical Society)
Bill Dawson: The Price of Success, Part 4

One man who never seemed to get on Dawson’s bad side was Peter F. (“Frenchy”) Vian