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North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Bothby Cea Sunrise Person
Synopses & Reviews
Sex, drugs, and . . . bug stew? In the vein of The Glass Castle and Wild, Cea Sunrise Persons compelling memoir of a childhood spent with her dysfunctional counter-culture family in the Canadian wilderness—a searing story of physical, emotional, and psychological survival.
In the late 1960s, riding the crest of the counterculture movement, Ceas family left a comfortable existence in California to live off the land in the Canadian wilderness. But unlike most commune dwellers of the time, the Persons werent trying to build a new society—they wanted to escape civilization altogether. Led by Ceas grandfather Dick, they lived a pot-smoking, free-loving, clothing-optional life under a canvas tipi without running water, electricity, or heat for the bitter winters.
Living out her grandparents dream with her teenage mother Michelle, young Cea knew little of the world beyond her forest. She spent her summers playing nude in the meadow and her winters snowshoeing behind the grandfather she idolized. Despite fierce storms, food shortages, and the occasional drug-and-sex-infused party for visitors, it seemed to be a mostly happy existence. For Michelle, however, now long separated from Ceas father, there was one crucial element missing: a man. When Cea was five, Michelle took her on the road with a new boyfriend. As the trio set upon a series of ill-fated adventures, Cea began to question both her highly unusual world and the hedonistic woman at the centre of it—questions that eventually evolved into an all-consuming search for a more normal life. Finally, in her early teens, Cea realized she would have to make a choice as drastic as the one her grandparents once had in order to save herself.
While a successful international modeling career offered her a way out of the wilderness, Cea discovered that this new world was in its own way daunting and full of challenges. Containing twenty-four intimate black-and-white family photos, North of Normal is Ceas funny, shocking, heartbreaking, and triumphant tale of self-discovery and acceptance, adversity, and strength that will leave no reader unmoved.
"In this affecting memoir, Person describes growing up in the early 1970s amid the 'tipi camp' where her extended family was squatting on Indian lands in Alberta, Canada. With a free-spirited teenage mother — the daughter of a Korean War vet and forest ranger who yearned to live in nature unencumbered by the U.S. government — Person was doted upon by her pot-smoking grandparents and uninhibited if emotionally erratic aunts and uncles (one uncle, Dane, moved in and out of a mental asylum), although it was challenging living in tipis with no running water, eating whatever her grandfather, Papa Dick, happened to hunt, and using the communal 'shit pit,' all in a harsh northern climate. As long as she had her mother close, Person was happy, except that her mother had to find men to support them, and therein began a peripatetic cycle of moving in with one marijuana-growing, thieving boyfriend after another, or back to the tipis with her grandparents. From time to time Person did visit her father, a middle-class professional established in a new marriage in San Francisco, yet it was a modeling competition at age 13 that allowed her finally to feel somewhat 'normal' and find her own identity. Agent, Jackie Kaiser, Westwood Creative Artists. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
In the late 1960s, Cea Sunrise Person's subversive family fled to the Canadian wilderness to grow pot, embrace free love, and live off the land. A riveting memoir of growing up off the grid amid multiple generations of dysfunction, North of Normal chronicles one woman's journey to reclaim her life on her own terms.
Determined to abandon civilization for a hand-to-mouth existence in the wild, Cea Sunrise Person's charismatic grandfather Papa Dick uproots the Person clan from suburban California to the forests of Canada when she is just a baby. Together with her teenage mother, Michelle—her father long gone—Cea will spend the next decade of her life living in and out of canvas tipis with neither electricity nor running water, at the mercy of fierce storms, food shortages, and an array of grown-ups more interested in having a groovy time than in parenting a child.
As a young girl who knows no other world, Cea is happy enough playing in the meadows and snowshoeing behind the grandfather she idolizes. But for Michelle, one crucial element is missing: a man. When Michelle strikes out to look for love, spinning from one boyfriend to the next, Cea is forced along for the ride—and into a harsh awakening. Consumed by a desire for a more normal life, she begins to question both her highly unusual world and the hedonistic woman at its center. But the escape she finds, a career as an internationally successful model, brings its own challenges.
Shocking, heartbreaking, yet often funny, and infused with warmth toward her damaged family, North of Normal is Person's singular story of her desire to live life on her own terms—no matter what it takes. Her journey of self-discovery and acceptance, which comes full circle after she has children of her own, is profoundly moving. Eloquently navigating the minefields of regret, longing, and family, North of Normal celebrates the strength we all carry within us to shape our own destiny.
About the Author
Cea Sunrise Person, now a happily married mother of three, supported herself from age thirteen to thirty-one as an international model, working primarily in Europe. She now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
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