Fiction Ruined My Family

“A darkly comic account. . . Highly entertaining.”The New Yorker


[A] winningly snarky memoir.”The New York Times


"The girl's got flair."—Entertainment Weekly

The youngest of four daughters in an old, celebrated St. Louis family long past its glory days, Jeanne Darst heard stories of her grandparents lives as writers and watched her father struggle with his devotion to writing that competed with his obligation to his family while her alcoholic mother boozed it up at night and reminisced about her fancy childhood and her beloved chestnut mare, Sugar Lump.

Darst felt drawn to writing (and boozing) from an early age, knowing the writing life was going to be hard but perhaps not this hard for this long. From every humiliating day job one can imagine– forgetting to pick up Deepak Chopra at the airport to riding the New York City subway topless, to living in an apartment with no bathroom, to a sneaking suspicion that she is putting everything after writing: relationships and a family, financial stability, her health, her happiness, Darst never forgets that this life has not been thrust on her in some handing-down-of-the-writing-mantle-way. This life is her choice and it was indeed a questionable one. “For a long time I was worried about becoming my father. Then I was worried about becoming my mother. Now I was worried about becoming myself.”

Jeanne finally gets sober, and sets out to discover if a person can have the writing without the ruin, if it's possible to be both sober and creative, ambitious and happy, a professional author and a parent.

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Praise for Fiction Ruined My Family

  • Fiction Ruined My Family reads like a script for performance art, a rapid stand-up routine, careless and wisecracky, signaling moments for the audience to respond to a punch line by clapping. The tinkle of glasses subsides; the performer makes a grimace, takes a bow, goes on. Yet genuine pain is explored - for the dangerous ambitions of fame and achievement and the really dangerous distractions of carelessness with loved ones.”—The San Francisco Chronicle

  • “The wisecracking, ultrahip but ultimately tragic voice in "Fiction Ruined My Family" — part stand-up comedy, part Lie Down in Darkness — is fetching and fast and fun, and it's only after you fully understand the trauma at the heart of her family, the neglect that bordered on child abuse, that the sadness kicks in.”—The Chicago Tribune

  • “ There’s nothing rare these days about a memoir of unconventional parents and a difficult childhood, but Darst brings freshness and often startling humor to her own story - which helps balance its more serious second half, in which alcoholism (parental and not) is decreasingly hidden behind charm.”—The Boston Globe

  • “Jeanne Darst’s memoir about growing up in a hard-drinking family with big literary dreams is hilarious, heartbreaking, and inspiring.”—Marie Claire


  • “High fives to Jeanne Darst for Fiction Ruined My Family, her tale of surviving an alkie blue-blood mom, a hard-drinking failed-writer dad, and her own inebriated performer/playwright/crummy-job dysfunction to write this seriously comic tell-all about her entanglements, with family, friend, and—of course—her bodacious self.”—Elle

  • "The Glass Castle this is not . . . . as even the darkest moments come with hefty does of humor. Most of the levity stems from Darst's appealing voice, which is part primness (her sister was a multi-tasker "back when it was called rudeness") and part unvarished bluntness ("If writers are so goddamn fascinating, why do they monopolize conversations and talk about their 'projects' until you're about ready to throw your sandwich at their heads?")—Bust

  • “In her memoir Fiction Ruined My Family, Jeanne Darst plunges into the story of her delusional family with wicked wit and fearlessness.”—Redbook

  • “Darst has a brilliant eye for the absurd, sad, and often hilarious circumstances of her family life. . . . With cutting language, she chronicles the perils and joys of the writing life and her journey toward sobriety and truth.”—Publishers Weekly


  • Fiction Ruined My Family had me laughing out loud, which I almost never do, with one jaw-dropping scene after another. On nearly every page there’s some sentence that's so perfect, in an old-school Oscar Wilde/Dorothy Parker sort of way, that it made everything I've ever written or said seem like dull, drunken mumbling.”—Ira Glass, host of This American Life

  • “Jeanne Darst’s memoir unfolds like a Eugene O’Neill play, with all the boozing and the weeping and the exclamatory self-pity. Only it’s also very funny, and it has a happy ending (more or less). Snap this book up.”—Tad Friend, author of Cheerful Money

  • “In the tradition of the Mitford sisters' chronicles (but minus Hitler), Fiction Ruined My Family  is both a very funny tragedy and a very sad comedy.”—Patricia Marx, author of Him Her Him Again and the End of Him 

  • “Jeanne Darst manages to evoke humor and despair in a single sentence. I found myself rooting so hard for her. Fiction Ruined My Family is a great testament to surviving and overcoming wacky parents. A wonderful book.”—Julie Klam, author of You Had Me at Woof