Stephanie Clare Smith, Everywhere the Undrowned, in conversation with Abigail DeWitt
This is what it is to survive. You find what floats and you hold on. Even if it is smaller than you.
Holding on is all fourteen-year-old Stephanie Clare Smith can do when she’s left home alone in New Orleans during the summer of 1973. As she seeks to ease her solitude through her summer school algebra class, her wandering in the city, and her friendship with a streetcar operator, adults—particularly men—fail her again and again, with devastating consequences.
Dreamlike and beautifully paced, this lyrical debut memoir traces the events of one harrowing summer and its repercussions throughout Stephanie’s life, including her work with families in crisis and as a caregiver for the mother who abandoned her all those years ago. Through a mosaic of trauma and transcendence, memory and metaphor, scarcity and neglect, Stephanie reveals how she built connections in and to a world that had largely left her behind. Her hard-won survival echoes that of countless other survivors whose stories are never told, and her strength stands as a testament to the power of creativity.
Stephanie Clare Smith is a writer from New Orleans, Louisiana, who resides in Raleigh, North Carolina. She was recently honored with the Poetry of Courage award sponsored by the North Carolina Poetry Society; her essay, “The Empath,” adapted from a chapter of the manuscript, was recently selected as an Honorable Mention for Bellevue Literary Review’s Creative Nonfiction Prize. Earlier this year she was granted an Artists Support Grant by the United Arts Council of Wake County. Everywhere the Undrowned is her first book.
Abigail DeWitt is the author of three novels: Lili, Dogs, and News of Our Loved Ones. Her short fiction has appeared in Five Points, Witness, the Alaska Quarterly Review, the Carolina Quarterly, and elsewhere. She has been cited in Best Amwerican Short Stories, nominated for a Pushcart, and has received grants and fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council, the Tyrone Guthrie Center, the McColl Center for the Arts, and the Michener Society.