I often think of memoirs as stuffy reflections written by people much further down in life with very different experiences than me. As a result, they were never my go-to place. I guess part of that attitude stems from only being exposed to the memoirs of celebrities and politicians who are no longer in touch, leading me to believe that they are the only ones capable of writing such works .
When I discovered that an extraordinarily talented colleague of ours at Bates was about to release his micro-memoir, I was deeply intrigued. Craig Selbrede ’22 announced this work, “Every Speck of Rain, a World,” to his Instagram followers on March 30th. Illustrated by Gabrielle Jolie, this memoir addresses every friend Selbrede has ever had at four stations in his life: Aquinas Montersorri, Folly Quarter Middle, River Hill High and Bates College. After the preview, the reader can expect a touching, honest, and occasionally sad look at what it means to have a friend in all walks of life.
When I opened the manuscript, my eyes jumped to the dedication. Similar to what he wrote on his Instagram page, he notes that his memoir is dedicated to those friends, “especially the ones I have yet to meet.” I like that dedication because after reading the stories I realize how open Selbrede was and will be to all sorts of experiences, even the rougher ones.
His memoir contains 30 chapters, each with a separate story about someone who played a role in his life. With bold, cute illustrations, you might think it’s a light-hearted and carefree look at bygone memories. But it’s not at all.
While the memoir is by no means a downer, she makes an extraordinary effort to speak openly to Selbrede about people who initially presented themselves as friends but eventually hurt him. The balance between chapters like this and the happier ones makes it all the more realistic.
A direct example is found in Chapter 2, “Young Enough to Forget,” where we are introduced to a friend who seemed to have a strong bond with Selbrede; He finds that a more popular girl has made efforts to pit the two against each other. However, we learn that this friend tricked Selbrede into flirting with another of her friends who, unbeknownst to Selbrede, wasn’t remotely interested. Then he says he feels ashamed when he thinks about that person.
You may be reading this and find it odd to include a chapter about someone who has hurt you, but I find it incredibly refreshing. It is far too unrealistic to write a compilation of dedications to all the people or experiences that were just wonderful. It’s dishonest to you to exclude the feeling of “shame,” as Selbrede puts it, because that’s an aspect of life we all experience in order to get where we are now.
As I read, I was touched by Selbrede’s inclusion of such memories, which did not always result in a positive experience. It got me thinking about some of my more negative interactions and how I should view them now that I’ve gotten older.
The illustrations are subtle yet powerful. They often capture a poignant part of the story being told. A humble-looking Taco appears before Chapter 25, “The Soccer Player,” a chapter exploring the fading friendship Selbrede had with a student at Bates, where the only photo he has of them together is a shot of them with Taco Bell is. Jolie’s supplements to each chapter contain one thing from the text that almost serves as a way for the reader to connect what he is reading to a simple physical object he is likely to see in his life.
Another moving illustration is for Chapter 6, “Around Your Finger”. This is the first and most significant dedication to someone who has truly crushed Selbrede. He writes about the popularity of this person and the subsequent refusal to even recognize him. This section takes place largely in Aquinas Montessori, and he writes: “I often think of how small you made me” (15). Since school is the prominent setting, a miniature figure of a person stuffed into a tray of lunch serves as an illustration for this chapter. It’s a beautiful yet sad way of depicting how this person made Selbrede feel at school.
The final chapter allows Selbrede to further explain the title. The friend of interest here is an amazing person who Selbrede had the pleasure of meeting at Bates. He writes about how they met during orientation, started studying together as a freshman, and shared many late nights and inside jokes. In the end, he admits that they are both nearing the end of their college careers, where their lives will soon take very different directions. However, he does not find this sad, as he considers this great friendship of theirs to be a raindrop that holds a world within. Returning to the introduction, he writes that every memory is like a raindrop on a windshield. Everyone is distorted and mixed up, but when they look at them, they see more than just themselves.
In the last words of the memoir, Selbrede reflects on this metaphor and says that as he thinks back to these worlds in every droplet, “I will know that for a moment I was not alone” (48). I like to think that Selbrede’s decision to close the memoir this way is representative of his deep appreciation of getting to know people throughout his life. While some of these stains take Selbrede back to stressful points in his life, these closing words suggest he would rather endure that than be alone. I couldn’t agree more.
Selbrede will release Every Speck of Rain, a World through his company in May ACC Pub Ink. If you are interested in pre-ordering, you can fill that out interest form; There is no financial obligation associated with completing the form.