In a gray Mickey Mouse T-shirt and cowboy boots, New York Times bestselling author Koren Zailckas and her tiny frame is anything but what her readers expected. But just one word and all those around can tell that this young author is smart, strong and determined.

Published a year ago, her bestselling book Smashed has climbed to the top of booklists everywhere while revealing Koren’s personal battle with alcohol from the young age of 14. The book, as the cover says, tells the “story of a drunken girlhood,” from middle school, to high school, and through college.

As the story unfolds, Smashed is about a “normal” girl who drinks to the point that she fails to see her own emotional distress, the false sense of comfort she finds in alcohol and the friends that aren’t really friends. Consumed by alcohol and dismissing its degenerative effects, it’s only until Koren moves to Manhanttan after graduation that she begins to realize her abuse of alcohol that leads to her quitting alcohol altogether.

On a tour around the country doing readings and speaking to groups of all ages, Koren’s appearance at Books and Books in Coral Gables is both surprising and intimate. With an audience of less than 30 people, Koren reads a powerful passage about her experience with her sorority and fields questions from the crowd while repeating their questions and speaking in her almost brash but strikingly eloquent voice. Sipping on Evian water, she tells with unabashed honestly her feelings about drinking, her experiences and her plans for the future.

Given only six months to write her story, Koren says she wrote the story for two reasons, one personal and one cultural. Aside from wanting to share her story, Koren felt that culturally, studies reported about women and alcohol weren’t quite reflecting the true sentiment of women’s interactions with alcohol. While proclaiming that women’s use of alcohol was increasing because women were expressing their freedom, Koren says she disagreed with the “bursting with girl power” image that the media was projecting.

Instead, Koren says that, from her experience, “drinking is more about expressing our unhappiness or our desire to bond with each other.” And this idea is shown explicitly throughout the chapters of her book, entitled “Waste,” “Excess,” and “You’re Pretty When I’m Drunk.”

As Koren tells an eager listener, “I was told alcoholism is abuse and addiction and that definition has always worked for me; I’m trying to show people that you don’t have to be an alcoholic to have a problem with alcohol.”

Although Koren does not consider herself to be an alcoholic, she says did have an addiction to it. She says that alcohol was a way to have an “inability to be denfenseless and feel the comfort of inclusion.” Now, writing has filled the void that alcohol once did for Koren and her story is inspiring men and women of all ages.

Koren says smiling, “Smashed is not a self-help book. It is just there to open eyes and provide an open dialogue.” Self-help it isn’t, but an eye-opener on so many levels, Smashed tells the all-too-familiar story of self-discovery with a refreshing sense of self-examination and criticism of how our culture has heightened alcohol to its alluring status as a scapegoat.

While Koren plans to continue writing, her feminist side explains that she is exploring issues of anger and aggression in women. Intelligent, fierce and strong, Koren Zailckas is a writer to expect more great things from. For more information visit www.korenzailckas.com.

Joanna Davila can be contacted at j.davila1@umiami.edu.

February 24, 2006


The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami

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