Read Musical Chairs by Jen Knox Online

musical-chairs

Musical Chairs explores one family's history of mental health diagnoses and searches to define the cusp between a '90s working-class childhood and the trouble of adapting to a comfortable life in the suburbs. In order to understand her restlessness, Jennifer reflects on years of strip-dancing, alcoholism, and estrangement. Inspired by the least likely source, the family shMusical Chairs explores one family's history of mental health diagnoses and searches to define the cusp between a '90s working-class childhood and the trouble of adapting to a comfortable life in the suburbs. In order to understand her restlessness, Jennifer reflects on years of strip-dancing, alcoholism, and estrangement. Inspired by the least likely source, the family she left behind, Jennifer struggles towards reconciliation. This story is about identity, class, family ties, and the elusive nature of mental illness....

Title : Musical Chairs
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780984259427
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 176 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Musical Chairs Reviews

  • Stuart
    2018-10-30 08:27

    Profoundly Honest and Deeply Moving Journey into AdulthoodJen Knox is an exceptionally gifted storyteller, and her memoir Musical Chairs is a captivating, emotionally charged page turner.Soon after her parents' divorce, young Jen is riddled with teenage angst, and in desperate need to find her place in the world. Aged fifteen she leaves home and enters an adult world where some (are only too eager) to take advantage of her vulnerability. Jen grows up quick.There is a tragic irony to Jen's story; she battles with booze which many in her family have struggled with and mental illness. I applaud Jen for facing her demons head on, and managing to restore her life while having many adversities to contend with. I strongly believe Musical Chairs should be part of every school curriculum as the lessons in life are invaluable.I highly recommend Jen's story as a must read for all.

  • Manny
    2018-10-27 09:24

    Jen kindly sent me a copy of this book to review, and I zipped through it in a couple of days. The story begins in an AA meeting, and it reads rather like a series of episodes told in front of an AA audience. I also have an addictive/compulsive personality, so I'm sympathetic; the AA sequences in Infinite Jest were the part I liked best. When you've fucked up big-time, sharing the experience with other people seems to be a positive thing to do. Maybe I should try this, but it's not as easy as it looks. I thought of writing the review in parody-homage style, telling a similar story about how I'd fucked things up in my own life at some point, and found I couldn't do it. Jen's got more courage than me; good for her. But maybe I'll learn something from her account.The basic story is, I suppose, unremarkable, but it's well told, and I kept turning the pages to see what would happen next. Jen grows up in a bad part of town; her parents fight, and divorce when she's about 15; she runs away from her father, who's been given custody, and gets into drink and drugs; after a while, she lands herself a job as a stripper. Later, she has to put her life back together again. I liked her descriptions of stripping, which are insightful and sensitive. It's demeaning in some ways (duh), but, something I hadn't properly understood before, it's also empowering. Jen compares it with writing. David Lodge does that too, in Small World; but I'm pretty sure that he's never worked as a stripper, and I prefer Jen's version, even though Lodge's is slicker. One point she makes is that it's much easier to do this kind of thing drunk. Perhaps I should have a few drinks myself some evening, and see if that helps me write in a new way.I should say that I've never met Jen, despite the fact that I keep using her first name, but after reading her book I feel I know her well. She's a nice person, and has worthwhile things to tell you. Definitely one of the more interesting and memorable books I've read this year.

  • Marilyn
    2018-11-13 12:34

    This is a gripping, well-paced and clearly written coming-of-age story, in which a young woman finds her voice, her balance, her connectedness with her grandmother--but to get to the point of self-confidence and voice, she must go through her own personal hell. The narrator was a teenage runaway who worked as a stripper for a short time. Her intelligent self-awareness during that phase of her life is inspiring, and yes, very sensual,This book reminds me of Catcher in the Rye, though the book in hand is creative nonfiction. It's about time we had a heroine who's smart, sassy, brave, ready to deal with adversity from within her own mind and from the external world. I'm also reminded of Jeannette Walls's The Glass Castle, which features another spunky articulate female narrator. Wall's book is a best-seller, and Jen Knox's book should be too.I wish my sister had had this book when my niece began to experience a long series of troubles. No one in the convoluted health care system had much to offer. Luckily my niece was able to clean up and to survivedangerous streets. She is a painter and has landed on her feet with her visionary art.For the narrator in Musical Chairs, words are the angels, hard-won.

  • David Katzman
    2018-10-23 07:40

    I’m not a people person. That’s my first line at job interviews.It would be more accurate to say that I’ve never been interested in autobiographies. Or biographies, for that matter. I suppose I exalt imagination over reality and never desired to “learn something” from the actual lives of others. Don’t try this at home? I’d rather take my chances. And I never succumbed to hero-worship, either, wanting to know “what they were like” if such a thing has any meaning. So how did I end up reading a memoir?A few months ago, I completed the research I’ve been doing for my new novel so I finally returned to reading books for pleasure. But hold! I have a stack of GoodReads authors’ books collecting under my coffeetable. All of these books were either traded in exchange for my first novel or were purchased online while the author purchased my book in kind. It’s an interesting and somewhat nerve-wracking process because I don’t want to waste my time on crappy books, and I don’t like the idea of trashing a virtual friend’s book. On the other hand, I hope to discover a few hidden gems this way and some books I’d never read otherwise. Fortunately, Jen Knox’s Musical Chairs is in the latter group.I had no idea that memoirs were a whole genre of autobiography. If someone put me up against a wall—say, a Genre Executioner—I’d say an autobiography was for famous people, and a memoir was for the rest of us. I Wikipedia’d “memoir,” and apparently such is not the case. The distinction is ambiguous, but autobiographies apparently relate the narrator’s entire life, while memoirs are more likely to focus on particular events or time periods and are less interested in names/dates/people. And famous people do write memoirs. Why not … they’re famous. They can do ANYTHING.Given my prejudice, I was skeptical I would enjoy this book, thinking that the only memoir worth reading would surely feature stories like “How I invaded Poland and lost.” Anyone else who wrote a memoir was self-indulgent, weren’t they? I mean … who cares? How interesting could Jen Knox’s story be?Well, it was pretty damn interesting. She might not be famous, but she was an alcoholic-runaway-stripper-now-writer-with-panic-attacks who nearly died a couple times. Her life is worth reading about. This is confessional writing, so it deserves praise just for being that. I imagine it must’ve been difficult to put into words for the world to read. And if it wasn’t … come to think of it, perhaps it would have been valuable if she had expounded a bit on how she felt about baring her soul (pardon the pun) to the general public and even her family.Without a doubt, this book is an interesting read. The central question of it remains rather ambiguous, however. I do not call this a flaw because it’s clearly honest. She talks about why she thinks she became a stripper and why she ran away, and she says it wasn’t “low self-esteem” or “daddy issues,” but was primarily that both actions seemed “glamorous” to her. She also mentions having a need to keep moving and not slow down in association with her running away. But I can’t help but wonder why her NEED to be glamorous or keep moving reached such an extreme level that it drove her to run away or turn to stripping. I want deeper answers. And I’ll tell you why … because I’m having a daughter myself in just about a month, so…Now, I want to be clear. I’m NOT psychoanalyzing Jen, nor am I presuming to understand what really drove her. I am about to make a textual analysis based how I would snoop through any novel to understand its meaning. Call it “reader response.”More than anything else for me, this book was a cautionary tale about how not to be a FATHER. She says it wasn’t “Daddy-issues” (what kind of Daddy issues would those be?), but I didn’t find this bare statement convincing because it wasn’t backed up by the text. He comes across as both domineering and distant—unemotional and unaffectionate. She tells one story of him forcing her to run and run and run with him in the park against her will, and to me it read like torture. Jen never blames him, which is probably a good thing for her. She has taken responsibility for her actions. Yet given my reading of the story as an outsider, if someone asked me after reading it why this 15-year-old Jen Knox ran away, I’d say it’s because her father was so alternately distant and controlling that her life burst out of its gates. And given that her father seemed so central (he may or may not have told her “don’t come back” when she said she was going to leave), I wish there had been more time spent on him. I may have missed it, but I don’t recall a detailed physical description of him, which would’ve helped me imagine him better.Of course, the truth may be otherwise (if there is any such thing) but given where my head is right now, with fatherhood coming, this is my interpretation. It would appear that I did learn something from this story after all. Love your kids and show it openly … without telling them what to do. Find a way to balance discipline with freedom. Then, hopefully, your daughters won’t run away and become strippers … and your sons won’t carry guns and sell cheap pot. Good pot, yes. Cheap pot, no.This book gave me a lot to chew on. Given I’m a skeptic about autobiographies, I hope you’ll take this as review as a ringing endorsement.

  • Jennifer Roberts
    2018-10-27 07:43

    Jen Knox's book, Musical Chairs, is a story of choices and consequences. The author lays out her life, like open-heart surgery. Her chest is open, revealed bloody red and pulsating. It is at once unsightly and fascinating. But there is something else in Jen's opening up to us, her honesty and refusal to make excuses. She lays there, splayed open for us to see, declaring, "Here I am."Running was in her blood, a destined event, it would seem. Following in the footsteps of her great grandmother, Glory, who defiantly set out on her own at the same young age, and finding commonalities of mental illnesses among the women in her family, Jen must've realized her course was set out for her organically.What I like about this book and its author, is the lack of excuses. Jen's decided to share herself with us--a hard task, indeed--and she's not going to sugar coat it or defend it; what she will do, however, is attempt to understand her choices and actions and how they fit in to shaping her identity. In the writing of Musical Chairs, a memoir blatant and unapologetic, Jen is doing just that: trying to make sense of herself within the larger family history.Yet, for all of the similarities Jen discovered between herself and Glory, there is at least one difference: Glory ran away from family, while Jen's running brought the both of them back.

  • Lori
    2018-11-04 09:29

    Everyone has their own walk through life to take, how they choose to take that walk and how one deals with the consequences of their choices I believe shows a persons true strength of character. After everything Jen had endured during her life, Jen definitely is a woman of high character and strength. Musical Chairs is a great book for everyone to read. Young woman who pick up this book will think twice about the choices they will be making soon in their own lives.It is a deep book revealing things about one's life that most people would choose never to talk about and Jen holds nothing back from her readers.I recommend Musical Chairs to everyone.

  • Amber Lehman
    2018-11-16 10:32

    In Musical Chairs, Jen Knox has created a captivating memoir that explores her life as a young teen runaway, to the issues of mental illness found within her family. Jen bravely tells her story about life on her own at the age of 15, leading up to a short career as a strip-dancer, all the while battling an all-consuming addiction with alcoholism. Jen’s writing is very vivid and fluid, and I felt as if I were right there, immersed in her world. As she struggles to get back on her feet—after a few false starts—she ultimately finds herself again. Her family bonds are strained and tested, and after years of discord, they are able to finally find each other once again. Jen provides a candid and honest look into her life as she comes-of-age. I found it a deeply moving book . . . one which I thoroughly enjoyed.

  • Jen Knox
    2018-11-05 12:15

    For more reviews see Amazon and ALVAH'S BOOKS http://www.alvahsbooks.com/book-revie...

  • Gregory Gerard
    2018-11-11 13:39

    A well-crafted, insightful, and candid narrativeI know I’ve discovered a good book when I start passing up TV or cafe time to get back to the story. MUSICAL CHAIRS, by Jen Knox, is just such a work. I generally prefer memoir – I believe sharing our stories is an important part of the American fabric. When I read the prologue of MUSICAL CHAIRS, I was quickly captured by the author’s physical description of a panic attack. I’ve never experienced one but, in just a few short pages, I could feel the suffocating angst. I read the book in just a few sittings, following Knox’s difficult and chaotic adolescence from the blue-collar backstreets of Columbus, through a teenage exotic-dancing career, to the redemptive search for definition in her family’s heritage (revealed through the captivating character of her paternal grandmother). Jen Knox has mastered the art of ‘show, don’t tell.’ She conveys complex layers and rich characters with simple phrases, like during a hospital visit when she reports that the doctor rushes off to help ‘patients who were actually sick.’ Or, when trying to understand her Grandma’s mental illness, ‘Grandma pursed her lips, outlining the inaccuracy with which she applied her cherry lipstick that morning.’ I very much enjoyed her writing style.If you enjoy touching and experiencing other lives through well-crafted, insightful, and candid narrative, you’ll enjoy reading MUSICAL CHAIRS.

  • Natalie
    2018-11-10 07:33

    An amazing, candid memoir of a young girl at age 15 runs away from home, turning to alcohol and stripping. Living where ever she can and when she gets to the bottom of her well, ends up getting raped. This is when she is faced with her alcohol abuse . After being severly ill and detoxifying her body, she decides to get her life turned around. The book is told in 3 parts, The Runaway, The Dancer and The Education. The latter telling about her Grandmother and how she learns of her mental illness and her family history of mental illness. Trying to sum up the story is very hard because it really needs to be read to understand this girls life from a rebellious teenager to a reckless, alcoholic life to finding out about her family history of mental illness and how it plays a part in her whole life. I highly recommend this book. Its an amazing story, true story and would be a good book for a young person who is struggling.

  • Sharon
    2018-11-08 10:40

    Jen Knox pulls no punches with her gritty, honest memoir, "Musical Chairs." From the first page, she tells her story of self-medication, mental illness and family problems in evocative prose reflective of her experiences.Knox is unafraid and unashamed of discussing the mistakes she makes after running away from home at the age of 15. From working miserable minimum wage jobs to stripping, her experiences run the gamut. Eventually she is able to attend college and earn a degree in English, which cements her story-telling skills beautifully for me.When Knox learns that her great-grandmother also left home at age 15 and had some difficulties that mirror her own, she explores her familial history of mental illness and addiction. That exploration is, apparently, what led to her writing a memoir so gripping that I finished it over the course of a day and a half.Well worth reading and highly recommended.

  • RYCJ
    2018-11-03 08:43

    I thoroughly enjoyed Jen's memoir, and anyone who appreciates the art of simple expressions singing to you will fall head over heels in love with the writing too. Not one word is wasted, and I do mean not a one! It's the key ingredients that preludes a page-turner, which Musical Chairs most certainly is.. For me, this account wasn't about a fifteen-year old girl who ran away from home, danced, ran from home to home some more, and found her niche. Just taking one itty-bitty frame of many such frames, I was truly taken by the way Jen laid her experiences on paper... such as her applying make-up on a girl's face... `with a shaky hand...extending a business card...one she imagined the girl would take home, stain with tears of inadequacy, and then ball up in a fit of never-mind-rage...' I also came to love the relationship she had with her father, and mother, and in particular enjoyed the musical interludes she shared with her grandmother(s)... Glory included. The writing here really goes far with so little (and I'm speaking of actual word choice) to paint one heck of a memoir. Sweet.

  • Kenneth Weene
    2018-11-01 11:41

    I've just started reading this insightful exploration of the difficulties in keeping sane in this stressful world. So far it is an outstanding read.

  • Katherine Marple
    2018-11-06 13:38

    Musical Chairs read like I was sitting across from Jen (the author) and sharing a cup of coffee with her. It was very engrossing, engaging, and really really good. We watch Jen make mistakes as a child, but you can hear her "older" self talking, reflecting and sharing her learnings. The voice of Jen is very easy to "listen" to. She writes very eloquently. I wish there was a more flesh to her story, but somehow I have a feeling that if there was more, we'd get lost in the "muck" of it. Maybe breezing over these topics is correct.She runs away from home at 15. We don't really get to know her father until later on in the story. We don't really understand her running away until near the end of the story- just as Jen probably didn't fully understand her running either.She gets heavily into booze and I was cheering her on silently hoping that she'd kick the habit. She gets into strip dancing.She is empathetic with her sister and mother.She holds room and board with a co-worker. (there are some great, funny scenes in there)She struggles to "find herself"- like we all do- and I think this story is one worth reading.Jen's moments with her grandmother near the end... those ones were my favorite. I think I have a soft spot of old people. :)I don't know too much more about mental illness than when I first started reading the book, but I still feel like Musical Chairs was a great read by a fresh voice. 5 stars.

  • Beth
    2018-10-22 11:42

    Jen Knox has accomplished what so many memoirists do not – she told her story in a clear, unsentimental voice with lovely prose that read like a well-crafted novel. The grit and honesty of her troubled youth shares the stage with humor and hope. From her brief stint as a stripper, to her alcohol abuse, to her fears of mental illness, the author is open and entirely unafraid to expose the soft underbelly of herself and her family. One of the most remarkable things about this memoir is that the author never so much as hints at self-pity or solicits sympathy from her readers. Instead, she tells the sometimes simple, sometimes complex, and oftentimes raw story of how she maneuvered through her troubled youth and emerged to be the woman she is today.Jen Knox has something that can’t be taught or bought or stolen. She has great character.

  • Steve Lindahl
    2018-11-04 09:28

    This book is an exploration of a young woman's life as she moves from self centered, childish rebellion to a life that finds meaning in her relationships with other people. The writing is honest, sometimes brutally honest and because of that it hangs with the reader. I couldn't put it down.

  • Charlie
    2018-10-22 13:32

    Finally, a memoir that isn’t wholly depressing or full of purple prose glorifying cozy memories. I tend to shy away from memoirs because of reminiscent qualities or ‘what I’ve learned’ advice and reflections. This is a poignant account of one girl’s journey from childhood to adulthood. The story is well-crafted through a fluid telling that is both engaging and honest. The author offers no excuses, but rather details her life events as they unfolded. Nothing is glorified or horrified, but exposed for the reader to see, which allows for sympathy, not pity. Nothing is over done, which gives the story a truthful and believable quality. The comic relief and timing is perfect and does not distract from the gritty topics presented.Although I could never personally achieve what Knox accomplished with this book because the pain of self-examination is too terrifying for me to explore, I think there are places in the story that are a tad rushed. The connection between grandmother is clear as far as ‘running,’ but my curiosity is also drawn to the lineage of mental illness and alcohol. I want to know to date, even after her move, how is Jen coping with these struggles, or is she?

  • Cee
    2018-11-02 05:21

    THanks to the person that suggested I read this memoir! I was simultaneously entertained and impressed with the way the author depicted schenes from what I swore she must have evesdropped from my very own diary- only more cleverly expained. If you have history of generalized anxiety and job changes, this is a must read! I was facinated and captivated. In so many ways this book gets me out of writing my own story. The book for us girls that made it back from the very brink....

  • Jerry Travis
    2018-11-18 11:37

    While I was reading Jen Knox memoir, “Musical Chairs”, I also happened to be reading Mackenzie Phillips’s, “High on Arrival”. This gave me a comparative perspective on the two books. If you haven’t already read “High on Arrival”, my advice would be don’t bother and read “Musical Chairs” instead. Jen Knox’s book is what Mackenzie Phillips’s book should have been.These books are the first ones for each author. Being a survivor of sexual abuse myself, I’m typically for any book that brings this horrific subject into the public realm. How else can such things be dealt with? Pretending that such things don’t happen, or that they always happen to someone else conveniently outside our families, doesn’t seem to work very well. So, I was really enthused when Phillips’s book came out. I watched the Oprah interview (and one or two of the others) and ordered her book.In my opinion, Mackenzie Phillips is still in “pretend mode”. Her continual justifications of her father’s actions and affirmations of her love for him really grew tiresome. At this point I can’t even imagine that Phillips will be able to stay away from drugs. Let’s face it, she’s only been “clean” long enough to write the book (with the aid of coauthor Hilary Liftin – and even that didn’t help much). Phillips last arrest for drug possession was only a little over a year ago:http://www.people.com/people/article/...Problems like Phillips has don’t get fixed in a year. Her message seems to be:1). If you’re in an abusive situation, continue in it until your perpetrator dies.2). Once that happens try to see if you can fix what’s left of you, but only after you get thrown into jail for possession.3). Continue to justify your perpetrator by saying things like; “he wasn’t a monster”, “he was a tortured man” (so that gives him the right to torture others?), “he was on drugs” (a “good” excuse for anything), “he was a musical genius” (as if that makes a difference?), “I had and have profound love and respect for him”, etc., etc., etc.4). Then use your celebrity status to ram these ideas down the public’s throat.I quit reading Phillips’s book on page 188, after a quite lengthy paragraph of these (and more) justifications. This is why I don’t think Phillips had made it very far down the road to recovery. I certainly hope that I’m wrong, I really do. I’d like to see her begin to lead a normal life, in the real world. But all this has got me wondering what it is that Mackenzie Phillips really does love.It’s a shame that books like “High on Arrival” are given so much attention, while books like “Musical Chairs” linger in the background. Maybe our society should take a hard look within itself, as each and every individual should (addict or not), to preserve sanity?In Jen Knox’s book, I can at least visualize her permanent recovery. It’s very difficult for those who have suffered from addiction and post-traumatic stress syndrome to fully recover and stay that way. Does anyone who suffers trauma ever really “fully” recover? Nevertheless, we can learn to lead normal lives, and find a degree of joy. “Musical Chairs” takes us down the path of much more typical roads to addiction and recovery, that almost anyone (even celebrities) should be able to relate to. Jen Knox’s ability to express herself as she goes through major events in her life, in both thought and feeling, is absolutely top notch. I found this especially true of her feelings (where Philips’s seem to be permanently blocked by drugs).Jen Knox leads us through of a very honest and frank portrayal of her past. I admire her courage to take ownership of her past actions, let alone share them with the rest of the world. I’m sure her example will be truly beneficial to anyone who may read her work. (Phillips, on the other hand, keeps speaking as if it was another person who was doing these things, not her, as if she suffers from a split personality – which may be true.)Though many women will read this book, they are not the only ones who should. If you’re a man, haven’t you wondered what goes through a strip-dancer’s mind, what REALLY goes through her mind and what she’s feeling while performing? Then you should read this book as well. It will give you quite a surprise (unless you’re already well acquainted with the psychology). Though this is only one woman’s experience, I believe it to be more typical than atypical of what women in this situation think and feel.Criticisms? Jen Knox book isn’t perfect. There are some things I would like to have seen more fully fleshed out. For instance, what the meaning of her grandmother’s reoccurring delusion is. However, this is a memoir, not fiction. Reality seldom tires up all those loose ends of our lives. There are a few typos in the book; I think I counted about ten. Every book has typos, and as an author myself, I know how nearly impossible it is to get rid of them all. In one place there seems to be a sentence or two missing. But none of these cosmetic things are enough to distract from the story, or to affect my rating.

  • Monica
    2018-10-22 12:31

    Musical Chairs is a surprising book. Lots of dry humor and odd circumstance. I recommend it.

  • Christy Stewart
    2018-11-17 09:32

    I hate memoirs. The reason I hate memoirs is because they are a self-indulgent pieces of shit written by attention whores. Poor Ms. Knox didn't know that I felt this way when she offered me a copy of her book so kudos to her for writing a good enough book to checkmate my cynicism.Knox gives a frank outline of her life in a well crafted way that shows her talent at writing. She is honest and keeps the book within interest for the reader and not just herself. There was a lot I could relate to and so much that I couldn't, but it I could place myself in each moment.The thing I found most interesting about this book was the time from her childhood where she goes to group with a parent and asks if the cookies are for only those who participate and she is given one. The same thing happened to me. I was so surprised to see this that I think that is why I gave the book a chance, and I'm glad I did.

  • Maria
    2018-11-15 09:30

    I found Jen Knox's story fascinating, insightful and thought-provoking. I would recommend this book to readers of all genres, whether they usually read memoirs or not. There is so much in this story that thrills and entertains, probably as much if not more than a fiction story. It would be great to see this life story portrayed in a film as some of the scenes literally come off the page. There are many memorable scenes, and Jen Knox has written her story with passion, and compassion for her younger self.At fifteen Jen ran away from home, and her running away became a pattern in her life. She lived through many difficult experiences before she was able to turn her life around. This book is inspirational, as it is written by someone who seemed to have come off the tracks and had no hope of ever finding her way; but the story takes us on a journey showing how Jen finally found her true identity. She found it by going back to the place she had been running from all her life -- her own family. I enjoyed reading about Jen's grandmother and great-grandmother and how they had such an influence on her life and eventually helped her to find herself. The book tackles an important subject area, that of mental illness and more importantly the diagnosis of mental illness. It seems that these days people are so easily labelled with forms of mental disorder because of behaviour which is not seen as 'normal'. What this book did was make me question whether the diagnosis is ever correct. I am someone who is suspicious of medication in general anyway, and hate to see the way that pills are being dished out as a solution rather than looking at causes and other ways of dealing with problems.This is not just a memoir, this is a message, and a valuable lesson taught by someone who has lived through trauma and survived.

  • Sheri
    2018-10-29 08:39

    Musical Chairs (Jen Knox)Memoir. This is the story of a young woman Jen, who runs away at age 15. It is not just a "run-a-way teen" story, but one that reflects on a family. A family that has dealt with mental health issues for generations. Also set in a rough part of Columbus Ohio, young Jen tries to escape the "big city" life (poverty and crime).She soon turns to alcohol, numerous jobs leading to strip-dancing. There she tells of the hardships, horrors , fast money and fast times. As she goes from home to home, job to job, she reflects on her family, their strengths, weaknesses and hardships as well. Ms. Knox also brings to light mental illness. From her own, to her grandmother, and great grandmother. She tells of her relationship with her grandmother, and explains vividly how trying and difficult at times it could be. Jen also tells of how she copes with her anxieties how frightening and debilitating they can be, and depression.I look forward to reading more of her work.

  • Kristen
    2018-10-29 07:28

    Musical Chairs is a candid, compelling and highly-readable postmodern quest narrative. It’s a deeply searching examination of an unconventional coming-of-age story, rife with complicated family dynamics, impulsive decisions, alcohol abuse, terrifying consequences and, ultimately, one woman's determination to live life on her own terms. Knox never makes excuses nor apologizes; nor should she. Instead, she embraces her difficult youth and endeavors to understand what that experience can teach her and us—about life’s contingencies, identity, compassion and reconciliation. Too often, difficult coming of age stories are portrayed as wayward wanderings off the beaten path. Knox’ story is different. The disruption of youth becomes a part of her life story, not an interruption of it, and sharing her story with others encompasses the ethical practices of taking responsibility, voicing truth and demonstrating what is possible.

  • Valerie
    2018-11-13 09:26

    There are many things I love about Jen Knox’s “Musical Chairs” but my favorite part of the book is when her mother takes her to a support group for people addicted to drugs and alcohol. Knox is a child in this scene in her memoir and her innocence is heartbreaking. She dresses up meticulously, complete with gold-colored earrings, and asks whether they would get dessert after the meeting. But when she sits through the meeting and sees it involves sharing sad, sad stories, she asks what I think is a very adult-like question: “Well, what if someone had a sad story to tell, but it didn’t have anything to do with drugs? Could that person still come to these meetings?” When she learns the answer is no, she never goes to another meeting.Such a shame because she does have a beautiful story to tell. She’s a runaway who hits the road when she’s 15 after an argument with her father. It seems like a rash decision but when we get a closer look at her family’s history – how her great-grandmother Glory was also a runaway – it almost seems like it was her destiny to escape. It quickly becomes clear she gets high off the alcohol that is readily available but the author makes it clearer that the ultimate high is her moving on. At first, it is a little difficult to figure out what she is running from and she even acknowledges that she is not running away from something horrible – her parents don’t beat her. It is through her conversations with her schizophrenic grandmother that we begin to piece together the almost genetic blueprint of a runaway. The restlessness, the high of moving on, the running away from something, toward something, toward herself.The section on dancing has some parallels to the section on her initial decision to run away. Yes, she’s desperate for money and wants to go to college but that’s not the real reason she does it. She doesn’t have “daddy issues.” She admits she does the dancing because it seems glamorous and it fuels her adrenaline much the way running away does. It becomes doing something for the sake of doing it. There is no nice, neat reason for doing it. And that might frustrate the reader sometimes but not all actions can be drawn from a single purpose. Sometimes, fragmented pieces of experience, including family history, can propel us.Mental illness runs in her family and Knox opens her book with her harrowing panic attack, which is so accurately described it’s haunting. She then segues into her grandmother’s schizophrenic tendencies and we later learn her grandmother does things like covers her furniture with flour in hopes of catching prints. Her moments of lucidity, however, offer a window into Glory, the great-grandmother who ran away herself. And the author latches onto that lucidity in an attempt to discover herself. Her burgeoning, close relationship with her grandmother provides her ultimately with the insight that causes her to run toward something, instead of away from it.What I like to imagine is that she runs toward “Musical Chairs” when she tells her co-worker at the bookstore, “I just want you to be the first to know that this is my future.”

  • Rob Dinsmoor
    2018-11-20 12:23

    In Musical Chairs, Jen Knox manages to tell several stories at once. One is the fate of a young runaway, who flees her father’s house because of a personality conflict and winds up becoming a stripper, wallowing in booze, and generally bumping up against the uglier side of life in the teenage wasteland of the 1990s. A second story is about her panic attacks, which paradoxically hit her after she had gotten her life together. (As a fellow sufferer of panic attacks, I know she described them quite well.) One of Ms. Knox’s fortes is being able to describe what it is to have a mental illness (anxiety disorder) and to have a grandmother who is schizophrenic. Finally, the book is about family dynamics, and the way Ms. Knox comes to terms with her mother, father, sister, and grandmother—and learns about the life of her very flamboyant great-grandmother Glory. The book was a pleasure to read, thanks to Ms. Knox’s honesty and a number of very colorful characters, including her first boyfriend’s creepy father, a friend’s mother who sells Mary Kay cosmetics, a strip club owner, some very tough strippers, some even tougher customers, and even a shrink who constantly watches the clock during their “therapy” session.

  • Marta Moran Bishop
    2018-11-04 07:24

    Musical Chairs by Jen Knox gives us a rare look into how much a dysfunctional family can create a meltdown in the life of a child going through puberty into young adulthood. Jen shares her travel through a myriad of trials that leave the reader with a new understanding of both the teenage mind and themselves. She takes us down roads that one can barely imagine, yet through it all we see the pain, heartache and loss of childhood, trust and fight in her gritty story.She inspires us all with her courage to overcome her past and grow into our true potential. Even though much of her story was alien to my life the underlying dysfunction of her growing up years. The flight and running are something I can truly relate to. Her book helped me to understand my own panic attacks when I began to stabilize my own life and stopped moving (i.e. running) beginning a life of new patterns is frightening nearly to annihilation. Kudos to Jen Knox for having the courage to not only overcome her own fears but to openly share them with the world, thus enabling us to learn, grow and be okay with our own foibles. A beautifully written book which I cannot recommend highly enough, regardless of your own personal experiences.

  • Lisette Brodey
    2018-11-13 10:28

    A MEMOIR OF EXTRAORDINARY COURAGEJen Knox’s memoir, Musical Chairs, really touched my heart. From the very first page, I knew the author was giving this book her all. She doesn’t try to evoke sympathy from the reader, nor is she defensive about her life choices. She just tells her story, raw and exposed, and with great courage. For me, it is never just one’s story that draws me in, but it is the integrity and probity of the person telling the story.When Knox was fifteen, she ran away from home. Not under the gruesome circumstances one might expect, but nonetheless, she felt this was something she had to do. Her relationships, career as a stripper, her battle with alcohol and panic attacks, a myriad of unsuitable jobs, her relationship with her mentally ill grandmother, and her relationship with her parents, are all a part of this very personal story. As the author describes how she emerged from the unsettled life she had meandered into, it really made me wonder about the paths we all take. Why do we make the decisions we do? Were they meant to lead us to where we are now? This beautifully written and thought-provoking memoir really made me think.

  • Sandra MacKay
    2018-11-09 09:22

    Musical Chairs is a true story of Jennifer's escape from bullying at school and a broken home, and how she learns to survive while still holding onto her dream of going to college. Running is a theme in her book. She enters the world of strip-dancing and alcoholism. Her story is poignant and gripping. I couldn't put it down. She expresses herself very well and her descriptions are vivid. I recommend this book to teenagers and adults as a true view of life on the edge. I found myself drawn into her experiences and was able to see her hard life through her eyes. Her writing is both provocative and honest. I admire her courage and determination to seek answers and find her way through the jungle in which she lived.

  • Chris
    2018-10-28 05:23

    There's a lot going on in Musical Chairs. It's the story of a runaway girl, a scatter-shot but endearing family, the elusive nature of trauma and mental illness, and the sweetness of unexpected romance. As far as memoirs go, I highly recommend this book.