Cinderland (Hardcover)

By Amy Jo Burns

Beacon Press, 9780807037034, 208pp.

Publication Date: October 7, 2014

List Price: 24.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


A riveting literary debut about the cost of keeping quiet

Amy Jo Burns grew up in Mercury, Pennsylvania, an industrial town humbled by the steel collapse of the 1980s. Instead of the construction booms and twelve-hour shifts her parents' generation had known, the Mercury Amy Jo knew was marred by empty houses, old strip mines, and vacant lots. It wasn't quite a ghost town--only because many people had no choice but to stay.

The year Burns turned ten, this sleepy town suddenly woke up. Howard Lotte, its beloved piano teacher, was accused of sexually assaulting his female students. Among the countless girls questioned, only seven came forward. For telling the truth, the town ostracized these girls and accused them of trying to smear a good man's reputation. As for the remaining girls--well, they were smarter. They lied. Burns was one of them.

But such a lie has its own consequences. Against a backdrop of fire and steel, shame and redemption, Burns tells of the boys she ran from and toward, the friends she abandoned, and the endless performances she gave to please a town that never trusted girls in the first place.

This is the story of growing up in a town that both worshipped and sacrificed its youth--a town that believed being a good girl meant being a quiet one--and the long road Burns took toward forgiving her ten-year-old self. Cinderland is an elegy to that young girl's innocence, as well as a praise song to the curative powers of breaking a long silence.

About the Author

Amy Jo Burns teaches at the Arts Council of Princeton and writes for Ploughshares. She lives in Franklin Park, New Jersey. This is her first book.

Praise For Cinderland

“Amy Jo Burns's Cinderland is that rare and important work that exquisitely charts the effect of one man's abuse of a number of girls upon an entire community. Burns has charted utterly new territory for the memoir by substituting the 'I' narrative with the choral 'we' and in so doing has brilliantly demonstrated how the harm done to one of us reverberates with us all. Burns has brought something utterly new and distinctive to the art of the memoir.”
—Louise DeSalvo, author of Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Can Change Our Lives

“Memoir of the highest order, Cinderland lovingly gives voice to a troubled community, small town summers, young love and heartbreak, a scandal that tears a town apart, and the memory of a young girl who told a dangerous lie. Or did she? Amy Jo Burns writes like a dream, beyond her years, and this book is gripping, generous, and wise.”
—Scott Cheshire, author of High as the Horses' Bridles

“Amy Jo Burns has written a humane and lapidary account of her Rust Belt childhood: the claustrophobia, the yearning for escape, the weight and consequence of secrets. I have never read a book that captures small-town American life so perfectly.”
—Justin St. Germain, author of Son of a Gun
"Amy Jo Burns delivers an unerring report from inside the universe of a teenaged girl struggling to escape the town she both loves and mistrusts. This is a place that insists on secrets held, and she is a good girl, holding hers tenaciously, at all cost. Cinderland is a compelling memoir by a promising new writer."
—Meredith Hall, author Without a Map

“‘I did not want to tell this story,’ Amy Jo Burns confesses in Cinderland, but readers will be glad she did. This memoir is testament to the incinerating power of secrets and the steely resolve of survivors. But it's also an unforgettable portrait of a small Rust Belt town in decline, and in that sense it is a story about America, one of ruin and reinvention, of ashes and incandescence.”
—Elliott Holt, author of You Are One of Them