The book that changed your life: Andrea Warner

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      The Word Vancouver festival is set for its 2015 edition with a huge, genre-spanning program of authors, appearing at venues around town from September 23 to 27.

      The Straight asked a group of these writers to tell us about their most meaningful reading experiences. Which books shaped their imaginations early on? Which ones expanded their ideas of what the written word can do?

      Here’s what Vancouver’s Andrea Warner told us. Warner is a CBC Music associate producer, a Georgia Straight contributor, and the author of We Oughta Know: How Four Women Ruled the ’90s and Changed Canadian Music. She’ll read from her work at 1:10 p.m. on September 27, on the Authors’ Words stage outside the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

      The honest, if eye-rolling, answer is that almost every book I read changes my life in some way, be it an incremental broadening of my perspective or a seismic reshaping of my thought process.

      But the book that shook up my 30s, knocked me on my ass and cracked open my heart was Emma Forrest’s Your Voice in My Head. Forrest is a journalist—she also writes fiction and screenplays—but this book is pure memoir and it eviscerated me. It deals with the death of her psychiatrist and a major heartbreak, but it is also a devastatingly pointed examination of her mental health (she has bipolar disorder) and addiction. Her voice is candid, the writing raw, vulnerable, poetic. Her skill and talent as a journalist is evident throughout as she unspools the narrative of her life, and at times it’s a tough read because Forrest holds nothing back in depicting herself as a complicated, messy, fucked-up person. But she works so hard on getting herself back.

      Forrest models for her readers how to hold up the jagged pieces of our own broken mirrors and piece our lives back together. We can still see the cracks, but we’re whole. Your Voice in My Head inspired me to be a better person and a better writer. It’s everything to me.