Are You Happy?

Those who’ve witnessed faculty brats running amok on a small college campus will immediately recognize Houston memoirist Emily Fox Gordon and her preteen cohorts as they roam the grounds of fifties-era Williams College in Are You Happy? (A Childhood Remembered) (Riverhead), the follow-up to her well-reviewed debut, Mockingbird Years. Gordon paints an entertaining (although suspiciously detailed) portrait of her childhood as the not-entirely-miserable fat girl who disappoints her alcoholic mother and her dispassionate economy professor father. Young Emily doesn’t play piano or sports or do well in school; instead she and her friends sneak into poorly secured basements and explore their budding teen emotions. Gordon does her best to attach meaning and significance to her childhood memories, and she is a heck of a writer. But sixth-grade kissing games and misguided crushes don’t lend the sought-after gravitas to an otherwise pleasant literary remembrance.

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