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‘I’ve Had to Think Up a Way to Survive’: Lynn Melnick’s very own “sad banger”

Lynn Melnick, author of ‘I’ve Had to Think Up a Way to Survive: On Trauma, Persistence, and Dolly Parton’ (University of Texas Press).

This week, TWQ host Lauren Korn speaks with poet and memoirist Lynn Melnick, author of I’ve Had to Think Up a Way to Survive: On Trauma, Persistence, and Dolly Parton (University of Texas Press). In this extremely readable but heartrending memoir (you might call it a “sad banger”), Melnick explores Dolly Parton's dual identities as feminist icon and objectified sex symbol—identities that reflect the author's own fraught history with rape culture and the grueling effort to reclaim her own voice in the wake of loss and trauma. Each chapter engages with the artistry and cultural impact of one of Parton's songs, as Melnick reckons with sexual violence, creativity, parenting, abortion, sex work, love, and the consolations and cruelties of religion.

For music lovers: The University of Texas Press staff created a playlist full of “songs for survival.” You can access that playlist here.

About Lynn:

Lynn Melnick is the author of three books of poetry and a contributor to Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture. Her poems have appeared in the New Republic, the New Yorker, and the Paris Review; her essays have appeared in Jewish Currents, LA Review of Books, and Poetry Daily.

Lynn Melnick recommends:

The Black Period: On Personhood, Race, and Origin by Hafizah Augustus Geter (Penguin Random House)

Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business by Dolly Parton (HarperCollins)

Unlikely Angel: The Songs of Dolly Parton by Lydia R. Hamessley (University of Illinois Press)

Lauren Korn recommends:

I’ve Had to Think Up a Way to Survive: On Trauma, Persistence, and Dolly Parton (University of Texas Press), Refusenik (YesYes Books), and Landscapes with Sex and Violence (YesYes Books) by Lynn Melnick; as well as this conversation with Lynn in The Adroit Journal

Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics by Dolly Parton with Robert K. Oermann (Chronicle Books)

Intimacies, Received by Taneum Bambrick (Copper Canyon Press)

Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative by Melissa Febos (Catapult Books)

Night Moves by Jessica Hopper (University of Texas Press)

My Body by Emily Ratajkowski (Metropolitan Books)

The Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance (Penguin Random House; One World) and Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest (University of Texas Press) by Hanif Abdurraqib

The Write Question team for this episode was Lauren Korn, host, co-producer, and sound engineer; and Chris Moyles, co-producer.

The Write Question logo and brand (2022) was designed by Molly Russell. You can see more of her work at and on Instagram @iamthemollruss. Our music was written and recorded by John Floridis.

Funding for The Write Question comes from Humanities Montana; members of Montana Public Radio; and from the Greater Montana Foundation—encouraging communication on issues, trends, and values of importance to Montanans.

The Write Question is a production of Montana Public Radio.

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Lauren R. Korn holds an M.A. in poetry from the University of New Brunswick, where she was the recipient of the Tom Riesterer Memorial Prize and the Angela Ludan Levine Memorial Book Prize. A former bookseller and the former Director of the Montana Book Festival, she is now an Arts and Culture Producer at Montana Public Radio and the host of it’s literature-based radio program and podcast, ‘The Write Question.’
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