UTexas Press Publishes a New Memoir from Poet Lynn Melnick '97

Jessie Shohfi
September 12, 2022

I’ve Had to Think Up a Way to Survive, a new memoir by alumna Lynn Melnick ’97, is forthcoming as part of the University of Texas Press’s American Music Series. The book will be released on October 4, 2022, and is available now for preorder through the University of Texas Press.

Melnick is known for her collections of poetry, most recently last spring’s Refusenik, which Electric Literature called “​​A fierce, feminist page-turner of a book.” In I’ve Had to Think Up a Way to Survive, Melnick tackles the true, at times harrowing, story of her life through dialogue with another poet: Dolly Parton, songwriter and international superstar. Melnick and the singer have a good deal in common, from their traumatic pasts to the ways they strive for healing and connection through art. In pages that she states are approximately “one third about me, one third about Dolly Parton’s music, and one third about Dolly Parton,” Melnick explores Parton's conflicting identities as feminist hero and sex symbol. Taking strength from the magic of Parton's lyrics, Melnick confronts her own scarred history with rape culture and her long journey back from trauma to open and vulnerable self-expression.

Headshot of Lynn Melnick and I've Had to Think Up a Way to Survive book cover

In an excerpt from Melnick’s memoir, she recalls checking into rehab at only 14 years old, humming “Islands in the Stream” as she took her first steps away from depression and towards revival.

Publisher’s Weekly, in a starred review, calls the memoir “a gorgeous story of survival and self-discovery.” 

An in-person book launch at Greenlight Bookstore, which will feature Melnick and author Hafizah Geter, and “all things Dolly Parton,” is now open for registration. Tickets are also available for an online event through the 92NY Christopher Lightfoot Walker Reading Series, where Melnick will be in conversation with Associate Professor of Professional Practice Deborah Paredez

Melnick is also the author of the poetry collections Landscape with Sex and Violence (YesYes Books, 2017), If I Should Say I Have Hope (YesYes Books, 2012), and Refusenik (YesYes Books, 2022), and is the co-editor of Please Excuse This Poem: 100 Poets for the Next Generation (Viking, 2015). Melnick's poetry has appeared in APR, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Poetry, and A Public Space. Her essays have appeared in air/light, LA Review of Books, ESPN, and the anthology Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture. She has received grants from the Cafe Royal Cultural Society and the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute and was a former fellow at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. Born in Indianapolis, she grew up in Los Angeles and currently lives in Brooklyn.