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By the Forces of Gravity: A Memoir

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Rebecca Fish Ewan's illustrated coming-of-age memoir By the Forces of Gravity is told through drawings and free verse. Set in early-1970s Berkeley, California, Rebecca's story reflects on a childhood friendship cut short by tragedy. In an era of laissez-faire parenting, Rebecca drops out of elementary school and takes up residence in a kids commune--no parents allowed!--an Rebecca Fish Ewan's illustrated coming-of-age memoir By the Forces of Gravity is told through drawings and free verse. Set in early-1970s Berkeley, California, Rebecca's story reflects on a childhood friendship cut short by tragedy. In an era of laissez-faire parenting, Rebecca drops out of elementary school and takes up residence in a kids commune--no parents allowed!--and we follow her, bestie Luna, and their hippie cohorts as they search for love, acceptance, and cosmic truths. Full of adventure and heartache, By the Forces of Gravity promises to pull you in.


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Rebecca Fish Ewan's illustrated coming-of-age memoir By the Forces of Gravity is told through drawings and free verse. Set in early-1970s Berkeley, California, Rebecca's story reflects on a childhood friendship cut short by tragedy. In an era of laissez-faire parenting, Rebecca drops out of elementary school and takes up residence in a kids commune--no parents allowed!--an Rebecca Fish Ewan's illustrated coming-of-age memoir By the Forces of Gravity is told through drawings and free verse. Set in early-1970s Berkeley, California, Rebecca's story reflects on a childhood friendship cut short by tragedy. In an era of laissez-faire parenting, Rebecca drops out of elementary school and takes up residence in a kids commune--no parents allowed!--and we follow her, bestie Luna, and their hippie cohorts as they search for love, acceptance, and cosmic truths. Full of adventure and heartache, By the Forces of Gravity promises to pull you in.

30 review for By the Forces of Gravity: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lara Lillibridge

    I was so pleased to get to read an advance copy of this book. I love writing forms that surprise me—they clear out expectations, breach the divide between the reader and the book. The fragmented, lyrical form of Ewan's prose is clear and direct, cutting away anything extraneous without scrimping on details. This created a very intimate, immersive experience for me, and her wonderful illustrations added to the emotional resonance. I was right there next to the narrator, back in that space of youn I was so pleased to get to read an advance copy of this book. I love writing forms that surprise me—they clear out expectations, breach the divide between the reader and the book. The fragmented, lyrical form of Ewan's prose is clear and direct, cutting away anything extraneous without scrimping on details. This created a very intimate, immersive experience for me, and her wonderful illustrations added to the emotional resonance. I was right there next to the narrator, back in that space of young adulthood, when love for my own best friend pierced through me. Young Becky Starfish is a neglected twelve year old, left to fend for herself in 1970s Berkeley. Her parents are off doing their own thing, and so our narrator goes off into the world in the company of her best friend to find their own way. Yet their friendship isn't simple, and Ewan beautifully captures that feeling of conflicted love and desperation. I entered the story as a neglected daughter, and I entered the story as a 44 year old mother screamingly worried about the narrator. There were times when I reassured myself that Ewan must survive since she wrote this book, though I wasn't sure how that was going to happen. I came away from this memoir not only with an understanding of the writer, but also a deeper understanding of what that time period was like in Berkeley. It's truly an epic story fit for the big screen.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Senteney

    I absolutely loved this book, made me nostalgic for my teens. I do however have serious issues with a 12 year old quitting school and living in a teen commune, taking LSD and partying like a rock star. The sketches are awesome. it's great to see multiple talent in an author. I recommend this book for adults only. There is a lot of drug use, nude sunbathing with the opposite sex, drinking and general misbehavior. As for adult entertainment however it is delightfully funny, and has great friendshi I absolutely loved this book, made me nostalgic for my teens. I do however have serious issues with a 12 year old quitting school and living in a teen commune, taking LSD and partying like a rock star. The sketches are awesome. it's great to see multiple talent in an author. I recommend this book for adults only. There is a lot of drug use, nude sunbathing with the opposite sex, drinking and general misbehavior. As for adult entertainment however it is delightfully funny, and has great friendship between two girls, and some sexual identity crisis in Rebecca's boyfriend, and she herself is infatuated with her friend Lina, and has a crush on her. All in all a good time with friends, some pitfalls along the way but we all have those.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jodi Sh.

    If a 400-page prose poem & a graphic novel had a baby it would be Becky Star Fish (Ewan)'s memoir about growing up in Berkley, about having & losing your best-girl-soul-friend. To say anything more would be to take away your pleasure at discovering for yourself the bits and pieces of tween insight that make this such an incredible read. "From what I see around me / Love doesn't get more solvable/ When sex is added to the equation." Published by indie press Hippocampus Books (and outgrowth of the If a 400-page prose poem & a graphic novel had a baby it would be Becky Star Fish (Ewan)'s memoir about growing up in Berkley, about having & losing your best-girl-soul-friend. To say anything more would be to take away your pleasure at discovering for yourself the bits and pieces of tween insight that make this such an incredible read. "From what I see around me / Love doesn't get more solvable/ When sex is added to the equation." Published by indie press Hippocampus Books (and outgrowth of the literary journal Hippocampus Magazine), it's a luminous start to what I hope is a long and fruitful publication schedule from the small press. Full Disclosure: I volunteer with the lit journal. Fuller Disclosure: Working with Hippocampus didn't influence this review. Truthfully, I had no interest in reading this book because I didn't care for the cover. Yes, I am that shallow. Had I stuck with that stupidity, I would have missed a gem.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dorothy Rice

    With it's unusual free-verse format and quirky illustrations, I did not expect to love this book. The topic intrigued me - coming of age during the height of the hippie era in the SF Bay Area (an experience I share) - which is why I purchased it, but I wasn't prepared to be so fully sucked into the narrative. I couldn't put it down and devoured the entire book over the course of a weekend. This coming-of-age story is at turns heart-breaking and hilarious, the POV of the young girl is spot on, th With it's unusual free-verse format and quirky illustrations, I did not expect to love this book. The topic intrigued me - coming of age during the height of the hippie era in the SF Bay Area (an experience I share) - which is why I purchased it, but I wasn't prepared to be so fully sucked into the narrative. I couldn't put it down and devoured the entire book over the course of a weekend. This coming-of-age story is at turns heart-breaking and hilarious, the POV of the young girl is spot on, the illustrations so evocative of the time and place, and the tone is pitch perfect. A rare and unique gem of a memoir.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Randi

    I just wanted to give this child a hot meal and a warm coat. In today's society the father would be charged with neglect for not taking care of his 12-year-old. That said, Fish Ewan captures the zeitgeist of the 70s, the up and downsides of "free love" and substance abuse. The drawings are fun, and give you more of a window into the main character. It ended up being a page turner. I just wanted to give this child a hot meal and a warm coat. In today's society the father would be charged with neglect for not taking care of his 12-year-old. That said, Fish Ewan captures the zeitgeist of the 70s, the up and downsides of "free love" and substance abuse. The drawings are fun, and give you more of a window into the main character. It ended up being a page turner.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    I bought this book over a year ago. It had been sitting in my TBR pile and now I regret not picking it up earlier. It’s obvious at first flip through that this book is a little different, not a bad thing in my mind. One side of the book is all line drawing in black and white, and the prose is free verse, without standard paragraphs or punctuation. I read most of it out loud to hear the rhythm of the words, the sounds of the seventies lingo. It was all super fine. It is impossible to read this in I bought this book over a year ago. It had been sitting in my TBR pile and now I regret not picking it up earlier. It’s obvious at first flip through that this book is a little different, not a bad thing in my mind. One side of the book is all line drawing in black and white, and the prose is free verse, without standard paragraphs or punctuation. I read most of it out loud to hear the rhythm of the words, the sounds of the seventies lingo. It was all super fine. It is impossible to read this in 2019, in a world of helicopter parents, and not be shocked by the life that this twelve year old girl was living. I happened to start this book at the same time I was reading a memoir about being raised in the conservative, southern Evangelical church. It shook my belief that we are all a lot alike. Here were two young girls raised at different times in different spaces whose lives were utterly unlike mine or each other’s. The world depicted here was both fascinating and scary. The language and flow of the story, the relationship between these two girls in the midst of this time and place, just fully captured my attention. I highly recommend reading this book to immerse yourself in this world and experience the feelings it invokes.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Csimplot Simplot

    Excellent book!!!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Chloe A-L

    I hate free verse poetry, seventies hippie bullshit, and get really stressed out about stories about endangered children and still enjoyed this book quite a bit, which means it’s probably quite good

  9. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    A groovy and harrowing adventure that follows the development of a soul friendship between two teen girls navigating 1970s Berkeley that ends up defining the author for the REST of her life. I felt like the proverbial "fly on the wall," listening in and watching as these girls' paths cross. Rightfully described as memoir/comic, you will not want to put this book down with its intricate drawings and unfiltered narrative. So compelling is the story of growing up into your own skin, making your way A groovy and harrowing adventure that follows the development of a soul friendship between two teen girls navigating 1970s Berkeley that ends up defining the author for the REST of her life. I felt like the proverbial "fly on the wall," listening in and watching as these girls' paths cross. Rightfully described as memoir/comic, you will not want to put this book down with its intricate drawings and unfiltered narrative. So compelling is the story of growing up into your own skin, making your way in the world (mostly without parents), meeting ALL kinds of people, having adventures and experiences (G and R rated) and connecting with a friend that just gets you--makes you want to be a better person. Rebecca does not hold back (no filters in this book) and is incredibly honest about her teen life. If you don't understand enough about her life from her words, her incredible drawings make it crystal clear what an insane, out of sight, humbling, scary, exciting, and tragic time it was. I laughed and cried throughout the book. I was grateful for Rebecca's vulnerability that makes me want to unpack a lot from my growing up years.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Jenkins

    It is not gravity but love that has a hold on Becky Fish. Ewan’s memoir recalls a magical childhood friendship in freewheeling 1970s Berkeley. Becky’s family is not unique for the place or time, when parenting was far more hands-off than it is today. The fact that it presents a 12 year old girl tripping on acid and trying unsuccessfully to have sex is more disturbing because it is painted as commonplace. Becky’s devil-may-care attitude is fed by the one thing she adores more than anything - her It is not gravity but love that has a hold on Becky Fish. Ewan’s memoir recalls a magical childhood friendship in freewheeling 1970s Berkeley. Becky’s family is not unique for the place or time, when parenting was far more hands-off than it is today. The fact that it presents a 12 year old girl tripping on acid and trying unsuccessfully to have sex is more disturbing because it is painted as commonplace. Becky’s devil-may-care attitude is fed by the one thing she adores more than anything - her soul mate Luna, whom she loves in a way that is keenly felt by adolescent girls. The book is similar to the work of Allie Brosh in Hyperbole and a Half not only with the deceptively simple illustrations, but also the lightness with which such heavy subjects are lifted. The narrative verse is also reminiscent of Jacqueline Woodson’s memoir brown girl dreaming, which deals with children and their sometimes difficult and selective memories of growing up. As an in-depth examination of a meaningful relationship when the adult world is crossed with a child's view, it presents an emotional resonance that is at times uncomfortable but always unmistakable in the sheer power of feelings.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Carole Duff

    After hearing the author read at HippoCamp 2018, I was charmed into buying her book—and I’m so glad I did. By the Forces of Gravity tells the story of a girl growing up during Berkeley’s free-wheeling 70s through the author’s words and drawings. It’s a charming and appalling memoir about friendship and survival. As a teacher and mother, I wanted to feed Becky Star Fish all the food, love, and “physics” she craved and was so glad somebody finally did. Now Rebecca Fish Ewan returns the favor.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amy Agigian

    A really moving, profound, beautiful book (especially for those of us who grew up in the Bay Area in the 70s)!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Judith Davidson

    I was looking on the Hippocampus books web page and found this book, which looked interesting--I am curious about combining drawing and text. When it came, my first thought was--oh no! Too long, and the print and drawings are small. But I was engaged in the book so quickly. This was a great read. I love the way the author has broken up the text in poetic like lines. I found the drawings really engaging. The memoir focuses on her middle school age friendship with a girl named Luna (I guess some p I was looking on the Hippocampus books web page and found this book, which looked interesting--I am curious about combining drawing and text. When it came, my first thought was--oh no! Too long, and the print and drawings are small. But I was engaged in the book so quickly. This was a great read. I love the way the author has broken up the text in poetic like lines. I found the drawings really engaging. The memoir focuses on her middle school age friendship with a girl named Luna (I guess some people would call it her squish)...during a rough period (she dropped out of elementary school in the fifth grade and lived as a runaway in Berkeley, CA in the 1970's). I won't give away the surprising conclusion, but suffice it to say she survived, and we are the better for having her story. I'm really glad I started reading it definitely an important account of Berkeley, CA in a pivotal time. I ordered this book from the Pollard Memorial Public Library. Support your local library!! Do the sustainable thing--order your books from the library.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Amy Eaton

  15. 5 out of 5

    td42

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Saylor

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sofia

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  19. 5 out of 5

    Roma

  20. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Grunow

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Hajj

  22. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Cheresnick

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dev Jannerson

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa Graybeal

  25. 4 out of 5

    Oso-panda

  26. 4 out of 5

    R.K. Cowles

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sari

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christy

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mac

  30. 4 out of 5

    Carol

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