Skip to content

Sky Songs: Meditations on Loving a Broken World, by Jennifer Sinor. FAVORITE

June 18, 2020

Sky SongsSky Songs: Meditations on Loving a Broken World, by Jennifer Sinor. University of Nebraska Press.



5 stars FAVORITE

Brave, compelling personal, narrative essays by a young woman  in the American West about developing a sense of how to live in the world, despite its pain and brokeness.

Jennifer Sinor is a fine writer, a person who loves words and has learned to use them well.  In her book, she describes their value for her.  “Words root me to my life, stories give me a line to follow….”   Both sensitive and intelligent, she uses her words to capture both the reality of the Utah landscape where she lives and the events, ideas, and emotions that shape her life. Relating her own pain and fears, she gradually accepts that she will not always be able to protect those she loves.  But she also realizes that “Even in the darkest hour, not everything will be lost.”

Sinor was born in Kingsville, Texas, the daughter of a military family.  She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, in 1987, and her MA in English from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.  Her Ph.D. in English is from the University of Michigan where she graduated in 2000.   Her dissertation focused on women’s autobiographical writing.  Since then she has lived in Logan, Utah, where she is a professor of English teaching at Logan State University where she teaches creative writing.  She has written three books with intriguing titles such as Letters Like the Day: On Reading Georgia O’Keeffe and Ordinary Trauma: A Memoir.  Her writing has received awards and appeared in various publications.  She writes at the edges of conventional genres in a style that is variously called creative or literary non-fiction, memoir, or personal essays.

As a person who finished grad school recently, Sinor is aware of the current theories about words and language, but she deftly incorporating them in her writing rather than descending into jargon.  She is acutely aware of what it means to write and tell stories.  Words and memories matter, but they can never fully capture all of what we experience. Her book is arranged in generally chronological order with flashbacks filling readers in on her earlier life.  Each essay tells a particular story, leaving readers the simple task of filling the gaps between them.  She begins with her uncle’s tragic death in the Alaskan wilderness and her own first pregnancy, both around the time she finished her Ph.D. and went to Utah with her husband to teach. She tells about what motherhood has meant to her and the daily struggles of raising her small sons and teaching young college students.  Living in a deeply Mormon community, she learns tolerance, not for the institutional church but for the individuals seeking to live by its dictates, especially her gay and lesbian students.  Sinor loves wilderness and adventure, which shows in her concrete descriptions of the western region where she lives.  She is not a religious person and explains how God left her life.  The second half of the book, however, reveal her shift to Buddhist practices and values.  She tell of her teaching women in the local jail to chant, meditate, and do yoga and of the three months that she and her young family spent in India.  More importantly, without mentioning Buddhism, she conveys her growing ability to “love the broken world.”

I loved this book and recommend it widely to any readers who appreciate deeply probing writing that leaves you thinking and feeling in new ways.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: