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 is, somewhat unbelievably, Smith’s first book . . . . [it's] a kind of prose poetry that recalls the work of famed writers like Denis Johnson and Raymond Carver . . . . not only a compelling memoir but a work of literature."—Washington Post Book World

"A remarkable, understated memoir . . . . New Orleans is well worked over as literary territory, but Smith gives it new life . . . . a tribute to women who did what they had to, to survive abuse, yet still held on to their inner cores.”—Wilmington Star-News

"A keen insight into why it takes so long for women to speak out: it takes years of living with the memory of trauma to understand how it continues to silence you and shape your life.”—Psychology Today

"Each paragraph reads like a poem but urges you forward like the most compelling novel.—Bitter Southerner