Tarn Wilson

In Praise of Inadequate Gifts

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Winner of the Wandering Aengus Book Award, Tarn Wilson’s memoir in essays In Praise of Inadequate Gifts explores the varied ways we cope with trauma and loss—and the miraculous, awkward, and imperfect process of renewal. 

Wilson explores a wide range of topics: her obsession with teeth, why she doesn’t have children, the summer she spent soldering keyboards for Chrysler Le Barons. She traces the effects of her mother’s rape, her confusion after her friend’s mother is murdered, her own divorce and struggle with anxiety, and her complex grief after the death of her distant father and mentally ill mother.


Wilson considers these difficult experiences  with curiosity and gentle humor. Her honesty, empathy, and lack of self-pity make us feel we are sitting down with a trusted friend, inviting us to give voice to our own hard journey. Ultimately, this collection is about the redemptive power of kindness and connection. “Love’s gestures are so unassuming, so ordinary, so clumsy, so imperfect - yet, miraculously, they hold something larger than themselves, big enough to press back against the darkness.” 


Through her experimentation with form, Wilson’s multifaceted reflections reveal how we come to understand  our stories and the choices we make as we construct the narrative of our lives.  

Praise for Inadequate Gifts

Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic and Desire, calls these essays, “honest, powerful, and necessary.”

Brenda Miller, co-author of the popular guide to creative nonfiction Tell It Slant, writes, “Wilson shows us how we can tell stories that matter, even when our hearts have broken.” 

Abigail Thomas, bestselling author of the memoir What Comes Next and How to Like It says, “I fell in love on the very first page. Tarn Wilson is an irresistible writer and her new book is a treasure. Buy it, read it, tell everyone you know.”

Renowned essayist Scott Russell Sanders says, “These essays will surely resonate with readers who have faced their own hard questions.”

About Tarn Wilson

Tarn Wilson

Tarn Wilson is the author of the memoir The Slow Farm (Ovenbird Books: Judith Kitchen Selects, 2014). She earned her MA in education from Stanford and her MFA in creative writing from the Rainier Writing Workshop. Her work appears in Brevity, Defunct, Gulf Stream, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Inertia, Ruminate, River Teeth, South Loop Review, and The Sun, among others, and she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She lives and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area.  

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