On Thursday, September 21, at 7:30pm, Margaret Kimball, a visual artist and writer, will present on “Word and Image” as part of the Prout Reading Series at Bowling Green State University.

Kimball holds two MFAs, in visual communication and creative writing, both from the University of Arizona. Her first book, published in 2021, is a visual memoir titled And Now I Spill the Family Secrets: An Illustrated Memoir. In it, Kimball traces her family’s history, attempting to reconstruct events from her childhood and adolescence as she rewatches old family videos, interviews family members, and sifts through photographs, diary entries, legal documents, and medical forms. The book centers around mental illness, particularly how her mother’s illness shaped the childhoods of Kimball and her siblings. Throughout, Kimball grapples with the very nature of her project: the illusiveness of the past, the challenge of understanding others’ experiences, and the tensions of putting family secrets into writing. Near the end, she questions her desire to make narrative sense of events that exceed the structure of a linear story, reflecting that “Mental illness defies logic. That was and probably still is the limitation of my pattern-seeking brain, a mind that wants a clear story—point A to point B with narrative arc and all that.”

Kimball’s direct, thoughtfully crafted narration can stand on its own, but is perhaps best encountered in its intended form: a blending of text with beautiful black and white artwork. The pieces below, from a series on Kimball’s website titled “Diagrams for Self Improvement,” complement her reflections in the memoir on the non-linear nature of writing:

In spite of the seriousness of her subject, Kimball’s writing is sprinkled with humor, whether it’s the volume of thoughts impeding meditation, criticism of her childhood clothing and haircut, or commentary on her decision to alter reality a bit by rendering a duvet color in a more pleasing pattern or a cat in her preferred color.

In addition to her memoir, Kimball’s writing has been published in Creative Nonfiction, The Believer, LitHub, Ecotone, Black Warrior Review, South Loop Review, and elsewhere. She created a mural for the city of Cleveland in 2016, as well as a series of postcards. As an illustrator and hand letterer, she has produced work for a wide range of clients, including Verge, Smithsonian Magazine, Macy’s, Marks & Spencer, Boston Globe, Little, Brown, Simon & Schuster, Diageo, Ogilvy, and Random House. Her forthcoming memoir, A Brief History of My Affairs, will be published in 2025.

–Jane Wageman, Mid-American Review