Jill Christman, a 2020 NEA Prose Fellow, is the author of If This Were Fiction: A Love Story in Essays (University of Nebraska Press, 2022), as well as two memoirs, Darkroom: A Family Exposure (winner of the AWP Prize for CNF) and Borrowed Babies: Apprenticing for Motherhood. Her essays have appeared in magazines such as Brevity, Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, Iron Horse Literary Review, Longreads, and O, The Oprah Magazine. A senior editor for both River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative and Beautiful Things (a weekly online magazine of micro essays), she directs the Creative Writing Program at Ball State University. Find her on Twitter @jill_christman.
If This Were Fiction: A Love Story in Essays
“Christman’s writing is moving and poetic, and she has a knack for imbuing profundity into everyday activities, whether slicing an avocado or climbing a hill. Fans of the personal essay shouldn’t miss these intimate encounters.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
If This Were Fiction is a love story—for Jill Christman’s long-ago fiancé, who died young in a car accident; for her children; for her husband, Mark; and ultimately, for herself. In this collection, Christman takes on the wide range of situations and landscapes she encountered on her journey from wild child through wounded teen to mother, teacher, writer, and wife. In these pages there are fatal accidents and miraculous births; a grief pilgrimage that takes Christman to jungles, volcanoes, and caves in Central America; and meditations on everything from sexual trauma and the more benign accidents of childhood to gun violence, indoor cycling, unlikely romance, and even a ghost or two. Playing like a lively mixtape in both subject and style, If This Were Fiction focuses an open-hearted, frequently funny, clear-eyed feminist lens on Christman’s first fifty years and sends out a message of love, power, and hope.
Awards and Recognition
- Fellow in Creative Writing (Prose). National Endowment for the Arts. 2020.
- Notable Essays listed in Best American Essays: "Falling" (Iron Horse Literary Review, 2021), "Going Back to Plum Island" (River Teeth, 2016), "The Avocado" (Fourth Genre, 2015), "Borrowed Babies" (Iron Horse Literary Review, 2014).
- Pushcart nominations: “Spinning: Against the Rules of Angels” (True Story, 2017), “Going Back to Plum Island” (River Teeth, 2015), “The River Cave” (River Teeth, 2009), “Paddling the Middle Fork” (River Teeth, 2007), “The Allergy Diaries” (Harpur Palate, 2007).
- AWP Award Series in Creative Nonfiction for Darkroom: A Family Exposure (selected by Barry Sanders). Fairfax, VA: Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP), 2001.
Press and Media Mentions
- “Christman considers love, loss, and the art of writing in these luminous essays. . . . [Her] writing is moving and poetic, and she has a knack for imbuing profundity into everyday activities, whether slicing an avocado or climbing a hill. Fans of the personal essay shouldn’t miss these intimate encounters.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
- "Eloquent and probing, Christman’s essays examine the profound ways relationships can—for better or worse—transform an individual life and provide glimpses into the complexities the human heart. A warmly wise, intimate memoir.” —Kirkus Reviews
- "If This Were Fiction: A Love Story in Essays gives you what you didn’t know you needed: sloths and loss and Swedish Fish candy, alligators and avocados and bird girls, pain and loss and hard traveling back to confront that pain, googly eyes and wayward skirts and lipsticks uncapped in purses, electric eye contact with a fetching poet across a dive bar, all woven with joy. This expertly crafted essay collection works as a memoir and clocks in at a slim 205 pages, but it feels like water, like each sentence is a tumbled and smoothed river stone.” —Brevity (reviewed by Sonya Huber)
- "With humor born of self-awareness, Christman’s book asks how we can bear to love in such a dangerous world. . . . If This Were Fiction is a book for survivors and parents and writers. After I finished, I found myself returning with highlighters. I wanted to take her creation apart the way a mechanic dissembles a motor or a carpenter assesses a cabinet.” —Barrelhouse (reviewed by Brianna Avenia-Tapper)