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Rerun Era is a captivating, propulsive memoir about growing up in the environmentally and economically devastated rural flatlands of Oklahoma, the entwinement of personal memory and the memory of popular culture, and a family thrown into trial by lost love and illness that found common ground in the television.
Told from the magnetic perspective of Joanna Howard’s past selves from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Rerun Era circles the fascinating psyches of her part-Cherokee teamster truck-driving father, her women’s libber mother, and her skateboarder, rodeo bull-riding teenage brother. Illuminating to our rural American present, and the way popular culture portrays the rural American past, Rerun Era perfectly captures the irony of growing up in rural America in the midst of nationalistic fantasies of small town local sheriffs and saloon girls, which manifested the urban cowboy, wild west theme-parks, and The Beverly Hillbillies.
Written in stunning, lyric prose, Rerun Era gives humanity, perspective, humor, and depth to an often invisible part of this country, and firmly establishes Howard as an urgent and necessary voice in American letters.
Praise for Rerun Era
Literary Hub, “Twelve Books You Should Read This October” (2019)
”Rerun Era is both a romp and a deep dive through a late-70s-and-80s childhood, where many of us were remanded to the television for caretaking, fueled on the intoxicants of processed foods, where the day was vast and sometimes, particularly if you were down south, crushing with heat or emptiness or endless lots of red mud. There is a warm hilarity that moves through this book and a kind of cracking pain that follows. It’s a story of time, family, culture, and subjectivity we all need to read, written with a wild, quiet, and wide intelligence.”
“Children are given the gift and burden of feeling the infinite in a single afternoon, an hour, an event—Rerun Era, a wonderfully tactile and intimate book, returns that gift to its readers. Each chapter explodes with the force and shine of fireworks on an unlit night.”
“Joanna Howard has a masterful understanding of the way memory bends time and forms startling new structures from the patterns of good sameness, bad sameness, strange sameness that compose our lives. She tunnels through this sameness to the glorious specificity at its core, so that these swathes of childhood recaptured feel like they belong to me, even though I know that I never witnessed my own life with such penetrating beauty or insight. Rerun Era is startling and new on every page, a book that you will find yourself in, lose yourself in, and long to return to again and again.”
“Joanna Howard’s memoir, Rerun Era, is a meditation on the uncertainties of memory. Though ‘meditation’ is maybe not the right word. Perhaps ‘attempt’ is better. Like an attempt to scale a wall, an attempt to capture the flag, an attempt on someone’s life. It is like a meditation, but more sweaty, surprising, and funnier than I generally think of meditations to be. What I’m trying to say is rather than sitting back and letting the memories flicker through, Howard hustles around—in a sort of breathless, sometimes wacky game of slow-mo sunset tag with her past—where the rules are always changing and no one really seems to mind. Like the world of childhood it mostly lives within, Rerun Era is mysterious and familiar. Howard has a way of echolocating difficult histories of family and trauma—of the ever-shifting meanings of America even—that is compelling and surprising and kind. Reading this book is like pressing your face up against an old TV screen, letting the rainbow of glowing points shimmer right through you. Faulkner once wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Which I think could describe the central mechanism at work here, but with a slight update: The past is never dead—it’s just gone into reruns.”
—Justin Carder, EM Wolfman General Interest Small Bookstore, Oakland, CA
Joanna Howard’s small, compelling memoir will hook you from the opening page. Recounting the author’s childhood in rural Oklahoma, Rerun Era is told in short, vivid bursts, and each scene blends events in Howard’s life–including her father’s sudden, devastating illness–with the sentiments of the pop culture she was steeped in as a young person living in America during the 1970s and 80s. Her family members are Dickensian for their comic timing and dynamism, but Howard’s prose is striking, precise, and never showy. Rerun Era is powerful little book from a gifted writer.
—Liv Stratman, Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, CA
Joanna Howard’s Rerun Era is like if Violet Beauregard had an episode of MTV’s Cribs, giving a tour of her Oklahoma hometown, her dad’s cool boat, all her favorite TV shows, and a catalogue of childhood injuries. But Rerun Era is also a sometimes painful exploration of the strangeness of childhood and flawed family dynamics, including an angsty older brother and a lovable but troubled father. Joanna Howard perfectly captured my childhood obsession with the idyllic life of woodland creatures who lived in cozy little abodes inside hollowed trees in such a real and true way. I loved this book.
—Katie Tomzynski, Alley Cat Books, San Francisco, CA
“An elliptical and elusive memoir that skips back and forth across time and circles back on itself as the author comes to terms with events and circumstances in a way that she couldn’t comprehend as a young child…when coming-of-age in hardscrabble Oklahoma didn’t seem as toxic as she would later realize it was, when her parents’ marriage wasn’t as unstable as it would soon prove to be, and when TV reruns, turning time into something of a jigsaw puzzle, seemed as real as whatever she was experiencing in her so-called real life… Deftly written, with a tonal command that complements a child’s observations with an adult’s insights.”
“The thing about eras is that, someday, they’re bygone, and Howard records this one with clarity and a kind of reverence. This is both funny and touching, and likely to reach readers in wholly unexpected ways.”
“This is a short, fast, laugh-out-loud read, but it’s sticky; Rerun Era will keep playing in the reader’s mind like the earworms of childhood.”
“Rerun Era captures the sounds, smells, and emotional tenor of growing up in rural Oklahoma. Entwined with Howard’s memories of countrified TV and movies (she loved Smoky and the Bandit even more than Robin Hood) are those of her cheating, truck-driving father and her women’s rights activist mother. Together, these memories portray a part of America—and its provincial popular culture—rarely explored in literature.”