The Sum of Trifles


Product Details

$23.95  $22.27
University of Georgia Press
Publish Date
7.7 X 8.4 X 0.6 inches | 0.7 pounds

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About the Author

JULIA RIDLEY SMITH is the 2021-22 Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has also taught creative writing and literature at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Her essays and short stories have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Ecotone, Electric Literature, the New England Review, and the Southern Review, among other publications. She lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.


Smith is a sensitive and nuanced storyteller, so that the very intimate curiosities of her family's life become a bridge for understanding grief more generally. . . . Her careful treatment of things inherited--both tangible and internal--is a sympathetic ode to the vibrant stories that live on, even when the people who lived in them have gone.--Michelle Anne Schingler "Foreword Reviews"
Julia Ridley Smith's Sum of Trifles is a beautifully crafted, elegiac journey. These essays--memories and mysteries of the author's eccentric parents and their eclectic collections, as well as moving meditations on writing, marriage, and motherhood--are rich and compelling. A wonderful exploration of grief and the joy left behind.--Jill McCorkle "author of Hieroglyphics"
'In gilding the rifts, you ascribe beauty to the brokenness, inviting anyone to see how, treated tenderly, it can shine.' Julia Ridley Smith is referring here to an object in need of mending, but the sentence describes everything that is true and raw and generous and emotionally satisfying about this book. Smith's knowledge that loss can only be understood through form makes this the best book I have ever read about grief. It helps a lot that I did not read one page without intelligence and humor, and more often than not, both at once.--Michael Parker "author of Prairie Fever"
I love reading about rules, and I also love reading about stuff, so of course I loved Julia Ridley Smith's moving, witty, beautifully written look at what it means to reckon with the trifles and treasures left behind by her parents, former antique store owners and perennial, opinionated collectors. This book is a pleasure to read from beginning to end, and Smith's keen observations and insight provide a great opportunity for conversation: how women navigate family responsibilities in that 'sandwich generation' time of life when they have both children (those magpies) and elderly parents needing care; how Americans care for our elderly people; how white Southerners can reckon with their ancestry; and what it means to grieve and remember people through the things they have left behind.--Belle Boggs "author of The Art of Waiting"
Recommended for anyone who has lost a parent, for lovers and wranglers of ephemera, for amateur epistemologists, and for incorrigible musers.--Kelly K. Ferguson "Indyweek"
This book is about loving even when loving is hard, and about letting go. As Smith works through her grief, she comes to understand that a tag sale can be its own kind of memorial service, and that her parents will live on in stories. In beautiful writing that doesn't hide from hard truths, Smith brings us a clear-eyed view of her family, herself, and the Southern culture that shaped them all.--Mary Lambeth Moore "Our State"
Smith's sharp and well-timed humor offers the reader something more than just a chance to take a breath. It reminds us of how human, how redemptive, a laugh can be, even --or especially--at the hardest times.--Molly Sentell Haile "North Carolina Literary Review"