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July 19, 2012

Book Notes - Carissa Phelps "Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time"

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, David Peace, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Carissa Phelps's Runaway Girl is a bold and brave memoir that recounts her horrific abuse as a child and eventual advocacy for children in those same situations, and is one of the year's most important books.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"A genuinely important book that casts the problem of sex trafficking in America into stunning, heartbreaking relief."

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes. If you don't have Spotify yet, sign up for the free service.


In her own words, here is Carissa Phelps's Book Notes music playlist for her memoir, Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time:


My memoir is intended to be inspirational, to give hope, yet in order to get there I had to visit and revisit unreasonable and cruel acts. There were times when I wanted to shut down, but music kept me going. Later in the process, perhaps too late, I realized how music can act as insulation. A simple beat in the background giving comfort, keeping you in the moment and less likely to fall into an often empty and lonely past. Air alone, without sound, was more overwhelming than the few Pandora commercials that would pop in.


"Closer to Love" by Mat Kearney

My favorite song at the start of the book writing process was Mat Kearney's "Closer to Love." I heard it once on a ride home with a friend, and it was before I was shazamming so I had no idea how to find the artist. It was also an old car stereo that didn't give me a hint. The search was on and I wouldn't find it for another week until I randomly tuned to a Christian station K-Love for some inspiration and there was the song playing. It had found me! I bought it immediately and still replay it every time I need to feel "Closer to Love."


"The Power of Not Knowing" by Kings of Convenience

It's the folky, modern, easy kind of sound I can play while writing this. If I do decide to tune into the words, they speak to me, but it's not work to try to figure out what's being subliminally attached to the words I'm writing and the way I'm feeling.

Music I cannot listen to: Depressing music or trigger music.

Anything with a down beat won't keep me writing. And if there is a trigger with the music, for instance Tone Loc's "Wild Thing"' I have trouble focusing. That story is in the book. It seems reasonable to not play songs that I've been raped to, but you know you can't always choose what's playing. Clubs, grocery stores, or some random place will usually have some trigger. I've had to learn to deal with it, not talk about and usually just excuse myself to the bathroom instead of dancing to it.

What's a little less reasonable and not in the book is my relationship to anything by Kurt Cobain. I loved his music when he was alive, but seeing his life ending really sucked. It impacted me, and when I hear "Teen Spirit" it sends me for a loop. I hear the sadness that we all ignored or missed. I have to immediately skip anything by Kurt Cobain. I guess I want him to still be alive, writing happier songs. I hear it and I remember that he was not happy, and that's just too sad to handle. I'm feeling similar about Amy Winehouse these days.


"Cracks" (any version) by Freestylers

"Leave the past behind and the cracks begin to show." I love the thought of leaving the past behind, for obvious reasons, but when we finally do it's not as if we're all good. When we learn to accept it, leave it, then that's when the cracks show. That's when we see we have work to do.


"Little Lion Man" by Mumford and Sons

This one reminds me of my little brother, the sound, the beat, the fact that he'll sometimes strum it on his guitar. I now it's not the most hopeful lyrics but when it comes to my youngest brother I see him and I am so proud of all that he has become. Despite all the mess-ups and mishaps and all the crap we were and are dealt in life, he continues to have a good and generous heart.


"Stronger" by Mandisa and "On My Own" by Mandi Perkins

These are two of my favorites. "Stronger" makes me feel like I can gather up a little more energy for the fight ahead. "On My Own," written and performed by Mandi Perkins was a personal gift to me. One night I met the performer at an awards show in L.A. and she said "I'm gonna write a song about your life." She did. I share that song with youth and have even been told they sing the lyrics in some scary moments.


"Ain't Gonna Lose You" and "Ain't No Reason" by Brett Dennen

One is a love song that makes me think of someone special in my life -- he gifted the song to me. The other was from him as well and is an anthem for peace.


I know I'm leaving out all the classics that help my heartbeat through workouts, which were essential through the writing process, and so many that helped to calm my nerves. "When the Stars Go Blue" by Ryan Adams, "Punching in a Dream" by The Naked and Famous, Broken Bells, Sanitgold, Matt & Kim, the list can go on and on. And that's not even to touch the list that I had when I was a kid including Air Supply, Kenny Rogers, and Duran Duran (probably because those were the records we had that were not scratched). I had a dance routine with a neighbor girl to my favorite song by Madonna, it was Live to Tell --- I'm happy that I have.


Carissa Phelps and Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time links:

the author's website
video trailer for the book

Adult Books 4 Teens review
Kirkus Reviews review
Publishers Weekly review
San Francisco Chronicle review
Second Bookshelf on the Right review
SheKnows review


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists


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