Saturday, August 4, 2012
The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball
Kristin Kimball lived in New York city before moving to a farm once she met her future husband, Mark. Kimball was very cosmopolitan, surrounding herself with designer dresses, enjoying the night life of NYC and priding herself on her excellent little loft apartment in the city. As a journalist, she drove down to meet Mark who was a farmer and lived on the land and had an extremely different life from hers and it was love at first sight. I did LOVE this transformation that took over Kimball and I appreciated how difficult the transformation was for her. I've learned recently myself how difficult any life transformation can be. But I had a problem with much of what she had to say around this part of the book.
When she described Mark for the reader, she described him as a "real man". And how she wishes every woman had the chance to have a "real man" in her life. One that's used to hard work, has never done drugs, never slept around, etc. etc. I was SO bothered with this statement. All those things don't make a real man. Or I should say a "real man" can be someone who has done all of those things. I hate statements like that. I've done drugs in my past...had a problem with them either. I have days where I don't want to do anything close to hard work. I've never slept around, but I know plenty of men who have that I would consider amazing men. There were other statements of privilege and entitlement she made too...once referring to a crazy pigeon lady in New York or something similar to that. She doesn't know what that homeless woman had been through or if she was mentally ill.
I couldn't help but compare this book with Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The plot is essentially the same. Both authors aimed to live off of what they grew, to stop relying on the disgusting system that our food source has become and changed their lives significantly to do so. There's a difference between the two books though. Kingsolver's book was educational, inspirational, a guide almost, a tool of philosophy. I felt like The Dirty Life was almost a "look what I did" book. And honestly, that's fine...she does say in the title that it's a memoir. So it is a story of what they did and how they did it. But there is a certain air of arrogance that I seemed to pick up on and maybe that's just because of a few things that bothered me.
I will say though that despite what I've said here (and I know I've made it sound like I hated this book), I actually really enjoyed it overall. I've just chosen to focus on the bits that really bothered me because they REALLY bothered me. Kimball does do a wonderful job of portraying honestly how hard this was for her. How farming nearly ruined her relationship with her husband, nearly broke her down, but at the same time was the most rewarding thing she's ever done and it made me want to go to bed every night covered in dirt and manure too after an 18 hour work day. And any book that can do that to a person certainly has to have some type of redeeming quality.