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Tarn Wilson

In Praise of Inadequate Gifts

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.  

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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 Slow Farm (Ovenbird Books: Judith Kitchen Selects, 2014) and the forthcoming 5-Minute Daily Writing Prompts: 501 Prompts to Unleash Your Creativity and Inspire You to Write (Rockridge Press, 2022). Her personal essays have been published in numerous journals, including Brevity, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, River Teeth, Ruminate, and The Sun. She is a graduate of the Rainier Writing Workshop and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where she is a high school teacher and the founder of Creator School, which offers creative writing courses to teens and adults. 

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