Book Recommendation: Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe



Image taken from Amazon

Lori Jakiela opens her memoir with a line as humble as the title, describing her memoir “primarily a work of nonfiction.” What follows is a dramatic account of Jakiela’s search to make contact with her biological family after the death of her adoptive parents. Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe is an evocative story of one woman’s yearning for closure, love, and family.

The presentation of these ideals are developed through Jakiela’s description of loss. She articulates her pain in ways that are acute, poignant, familiar. Her pages are decorated with mediations on a particular grief—the kind of unique sorrow that stems from her identity as an adoptee. Through her attempts to contact her native family, for example, she continues, with insistence, to refer to her adoptive family as her “real” family.

Some craft elements will engage readers from the start. Jakiela, a native Pittsburgher, describes a setting that Chatham students will find pleasantly relatable. More uniquely, Jakiela subtly challenges storytelling conventions through experimental use of dialogue. She presents uninterrupted, staccato quotes and repetitive dialogue tags, both of which reveal a one-of-a-kind style—clever and intentional in its pacing.

The structure and content of the story parallels these formal choices. Jakiela’s chapters are broken into chaplets—a complement to the fractured, confused identity she experiences through her meandering quest to establish contact with the mother who abandoned her. These chaplets range from two short sentences to four dense pages. Though there are disjointed non-sequiturs and seemingly irrelevant flashbacks, Jakiela doesn’t skimp to connect them to the overarching story. Regardless of their seeming importance, the reader quickly learns to trust Jakiela’s moving parts, assured that she will manipulate the audience’s attention with a careful grace.

Lori Jakiela, image taken from author website

The sentences, frankly, beg to be read. Jakiela, who is also a poet, crafts phrases that are simultaneously elegant in their gentleness and rich in their depth. As she discusses the history that adoptive children must create for themselves—the sort of radical subjectivism that permeates their lives or the ever-relevant questions of nature/nurture—she does so with a simplicity and accessibility that invites readers of all ages, despite the tragedy and difficulty one must find in grappling with the concept.

Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of the book is its integrity. The memoir does not romanticize the notion of family, nor does it disgrace it. Alongside heart-wrenching familial conflict, Jakiela depicts her own husband and children, as well as the influence and love of her adoptive parents. Her account is quotidian, utterly free of sophistry, politics, or bullshit. As her title mentions, she approaches something that all of us would benefit to understand. A kind of truth. Maybe.

You can check out Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe from the JKM Library by putting it on hold via our catalog here or coming into the library and finding it on the shelf on the 3rd floor, call number 811.6 J257Be. Ask a librarian for help!

RK Taylor is a loyal library employee, ILL’s biggest fan, and a Chatham graduate student of creative writing. In his spare time, he enjoys baking, using his whiteboard to work through existential angst, and checking out as many CDs as the library will permit. He teaches creative writing at the Allegheny County Jail through Chatham’s Words Without Walls program.

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