The Perpetual Motion Machine


Product Details

$15.95  $14.83
Red Hen Press
Publish Date
5.1 X 7.9 X 0.4 inches | 0.3 pounds

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About the Author

Brittany Ackerman is a writer from Riverdale, New York. She earned her BA in English from Indiana University and graduated from Florida Atlantic University's MFA program in Creative Writing. She is a Critical Studies instructor at AMDA College and Conservatory of the Performing Arts where she teaches Archetypal Psychology as well as Applied Logic and Critical Thinking. She was the Red Hen Press 2017 Nonfiction Award Winner, as well as the AWP Intro Journals Project Award Nominee in 2015. She currently lives in Los Angeles.


"Full of hard-won wisdom, beautifully written and deeply moving, The Perpetual Motion Machine is an exquisite chronicle of family and trauma and hope and longing, and announces Brittany Ackerman as an exciting new voice in letters." --Alan Heathcock, author of VOLT and 40

"One of the most important types of love -- the love between siblings -- has perhaps also been the least-carefully explored in contemporary literature. Count Brittany Ackerman's instantly engaging and wildly engrossing memoir, The Perpetual Motion Machine, as a headfirst dive in the right direction. Her prose is accessible and affecting, and her family story is exquisite in its luminous detail and intimacy, full of heartbreak and humor -- as simple as an abacus, as expansive as the starry night sky. I loved this book!" --Davy Rothbart, author of My Heart is an Idiot and creator of FOUND Magazine, and contributor to This American Life

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A nonfiction writer and teacher's debut memoir about a loving but fraught relationship with her brother and the addiction to drugs they both shared.

Ackerman's early childhood in New York was mostly happy, marred only by the occasional envy she felt for her older brother Skyler's elaborate Lego constructions. "Life is so comfortable," she writes about that time, "so nice, so perfectly placed out in front of us." But beneath the facade of comfortable routine, cracks began to appear that Ackerman could not understand. One morning, her mother suddenly threatened to drive the car into the Hudson River. Sometimes her parents fought or behaved in ways that seemed cruel, and occasionally, her mother pushed her unwilling brother to do things like skate across the ice too fast in skates too big for his feet because she wanted her son to "earn accomplishments" and "be the best." Worse still, her brother seemed to be growing up faster than she was, leaving her to feel that she was trapped in perpetual childhood. The author's consolation was that Skyler would be there to save her, just as the perpetual motion machine he had created for a science class would save humanity when the world "stop[ped] spinning." After the family moved to Florida, her and her brother's lives took a turn for the worse. Skyler, "the 'A' student...[and] next big deal," began to experiment with alcohol and then drugs. Following suit, Ackerman began dealing marijuana when she entered her teens and then later became a junkie who got high on everything from MDMA to oxycodone. But where her brother sank into a suicidal depression that took over his life, the author gradually found her way back to a fragile sobriety. Told in simple, spare language, Ackerman's story is powerful not only for the story it tells, but also for the eloquent silences and chronological ruptures that symbolize the painfully fractured nature of her life and that of her brother.

A brief but poignant memoir.