On the Outskirts of Normal

A Memoir by Debra Monroe

A white single mother, a black daughter, and a small Texas town


“Monroe doesn’t waste time justifying her family to others—her care and clear-eyed focus on her daughter make their own argument. It’s absolutely clear this is the life she chose.”
—Amy Benfer, Barnes & Noble Review

"REQUIRED READING: In a setting where working mothers are rare, novelist and single mom Debra Monroe’s adoption of a black baby puts her On the Outskirts of Normal."
Vanity Fair

"Debra Monroe writes about the complications, and gifts, of transracial adoption."

"Infused with humor and compassion, by turns hilarious and heartbreaking. What shines throughout the book is Monroe’s love for the little girl who transformed her life."
—Chitra Divakaruni, Houston Chronicle

"Monroe is a loveable narrrator . . . [but] sweet, intelligent Marie positively steals the show."
Kansas City Star

"While Monroe may not unravel all the riddles of race by the end of this immaculately written memoir, what she does reveal is a far greater truth about the love of a good mother."
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"A single woman’s spunky memoir about the hazards and rewards of building a home and family outside a small Texas town, this tale of trials and triumph is an engaging, poignant read."
Kirkus Reviews

"Monroe and [her daughter] Marie may not have set out to teach the world something about love breaking barriers, but you can’t read this book and not root for them, just as you won’t be able to read this without hoping for the day when race will be a non-issue."
Dallas Morning News

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After moving to a humble cottage outside of a tiny Texas town, Debra Monroe rids herself of an abusive husband, battles sexist contractors and workers as she renovates her home, and finally, after several disheartening letdowns, is able to adopt her beautiful baby daughter, Marie. Though elated that her dream is coming true, Monroe faces trials that befall her not just as a single mother but as a white mother of a black child. In On the Outskirts of Normal, two-time National Book Award nominee Monroe’s heart creaks “like china with hairline cracks” each time a racist comment rolls their way or stares linger a little too long in their direction. Though she and her daughter face serious undiagnosed illnesses leading to innumerable, painful doctor visits, Monroe remains steadfast in her dedication to Marie and their small but tight family.

Reading On the Outskirts of Normal at times feels like driving through an unwieldy thunderstorm at night on the unlit country roads that snake their way to Monroe’s house in the woods; readers will feel her exhaustion but will be buoyed by her ever-present faith and fiery love. Pulitzer Prize winner Madeleine Blais writes that On the Outskirts of Normal is the “real deal: both a literary triumph and a triumph of the heart.”

Page count: 224
2 b&w photos
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $18.95

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Debra Monroe teaches in the MFA Program at Texas State University. She is the author of several books, including The Source of Trouble (winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award).