Everywhere the Undrowned

A Memoir of Survival and Imagination

By Stephanie Clare Smith

142 pp., 5.5 x 8.5, 1 halftone

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7896-2
    Published: February 2024
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-7897-9
    Published: January 2024

Great Circle Books

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Awards & distinctions

A Kirkus Reviews No. 1 Must-Read New Memoir

This is what it is to survive. You find what floats and you hold on. Even if it is smaller than you.

Holding on is all fourteen-year-old Stephanie Clare Smith can do when she's left home alone in New Orleans during the summer of 1973. As she seeks to ease her solitude through her summer school algebra class, her wandering in the city, and her friendship with a streetcar operator, adults—particularly men—fail her again and again, with devastating consequences.

Dreamlike and beautifully paced, this lyrical debut memoir traces the events of one harrowing summer and its repercussions throughout Stephanie's life, including her work with families in crisis and as a caregiver for the mother who abandoned her all those years ago. Through a mosaic of trauma and transcendence, memory and metaphor, scarcity and neglect, Stephanie reveals how she built connections in and to a world that had largely left her behind. Her hard-won survival echoes that of countless other survivors whose stories are never told, and her strength stands as a testament to the power of creativity.

About the Author

Award-winning poet and essayist Stephanie Clare Smith is a clinical social worker and mediator who works with at-risk families in the judicial system. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.
For more information about Stephanie Clare Smith, visit the Author Page.


"This stunningly lyrical memoir is a profoundly insightful glimpse into the complex and frightening consequences of parental neglect. As Smith’s voice naturally evolves from alienated to intensely present, the impressively concise narrative alternates between ethereal observations about everything from space to spiders and gut punches of pain, shame, revelation, and redemption . . . . A masterful literary memoir about caring for those responsible for our trauma."—Kirkus Reviews (STARRED review)

"In lyrical, metaphor-rich prose fragments that mine the cosmos, television, and avian life for meaning, Smith offers a harrowing yet hopeful look at the long road to recovery. This cathartic personal history is difficult to shake."—Publishers Weekly

"Everywhere the Undrowned offers an account of trauma and its aftermath more acute than any I have read. Reminiscent in places of Sylvia Plath at her sharpest and most bleakly funny, it deserves to become a classic."—Emma Brockes, author of She Left Me the Gun: My Mother's Life Before Me

"'I turned loneliness into trees and trees into dancers,' Stephanie Clare Smith writes in this gut-punching and gorgeous memoir. While there's trauma in these pages, Smith traverses the spaces of an abundant imagination that made survival possible." –Robin Hemley, author of Oblivion: An After Autobiography

"Steph's brilliant, utterly original writing shines a light on the possibilities of language and the human spirit in a way that has transformed my understanding of what it means to be alive in this world." –Abigail DeWitt, author of News of Our Loved Ones

"This unusual, refreshing memoir grabbed me from the first. The entanglements of images, metaphor, and story weave so naturally, they appear, as Yeats would have said, like a moment’s thought."—Fleda Brown, author of Mortality, with Friends, a Foreword Indies Gold winner