Joan Cusack Handler, author of Confessions of Joan the Tall, on tour in November/December 2012

Posted By on October 4, 2012

About Confessions of Joan the Tall

Paperback: 246 pages, appropriate for all ages

Publisher: CavanKerry (November 13, 2012)

A coming of age memoir written in the voice of a twelve year old Irish Catholic girl living in the Bronx in 1954, Confessions recounts one year in the life of Joan, a very tall, religious, funny, self-conscious, obsessive, resilient, guilt ridden, emotionally imprisoned, lovable girl whose journey takes her from innocence, isolation, and inhibition to the beginnings of freedom and awakening. Fiercely committed to seeing only the good –be it in her family or the world, the Joan who greets us is flush with the beauty and pleasure of family and the Lord.

Gradually however, she sinks into the devastation of adolescent self consciousness over her many physical problems including her height, her weak bladder and her body’s eruption with boils and colitis all of which set her off from the boys and girls her age and open her up to ridicule of the most vicious kind. Her battles are also spiritual: her unbridled guilt and view of herself as a sinner far from the girl Jesus and her father want and deserve and her abject terror of “having to be a nun”; and familial as well: her ambivalent relationships with her parents and siblings which deteriorate into extremely painful interactions and betrayals. Of particular importance are her relationships with her parents–while her father is the adored saintly ideal she struggles to model and please, her possessive often angry and withholding mother demands complete obedience of the very malleable Joan as she conducts her battle to control the family.

Confused by her Catholic commitment to confess all one’s wrongs on the one hand and her mothers’ dictate to say nothing of what happens inside the family ‘four walls’, Joan struggles to find a place where she can reveal all that torments her—this relief she finds in her notebook. And it is her compulsion to write her pain along with her resilience, maturity, her growing awareness of her parents’ imperfections, her sustained love affair with the beach and her emerging sexuality and attractiveness that ultimately save her and prepare her for life in the world outside her family and small community.

Confessions of Joan the Tall is a splendid book, and Joan the Tall is a splendid girl—brave, effervescent and vulnerable.  She flubs the rules of the Catholic church, she flubs the rules of family life, and amidst the quandaries, sins, punishments, and totally divine greedy moments in this story of her Irish American family, she grows into what tallness can mean—the ability to see from a mountaintop.  From her devout father to her feisty mother, from her well-groomed sister to her brothers–both bullies and allies–and from her big shoes to her fabulous white bathing suit, Joan grows, showing us (and herself) what it means to be larger than life.— Molly Peacock, poet & author of  Paradise Piece by Piece 

Confessions of Joan the Tall is a remarkable book.  It’s impossible not to like Joan, impossible not to feel for her in the depths of her coming of age struggles, and impossible for anyone raised in a devout Catholic family to keep from smiling and nodding at the author’s insights into the Roman Catholic mindset.  It’s a book that can be enjoyed by anyone between the ages of ten and a hundred—Catholics and non-Catholics alike– a real literary achievement that I both enjoyed and admired.  I wanted it to go on and on. Roland Merullo, author of Breakfast with Buddha and The Talk-Funny Girl 


About Joan Cusack Handler

Publisher and senior editor of CavanKerry Press, Ltd., a not-for-profit literary press that serves both art and community, Joan has two published poetry collections– Glorious and The Red Canoe: Love in Its Making.  Her poems have appeared in Agni, Boston Review, Poetry East and The New York Times among others.  She’s received five Pushcart nominations and awards from The Boston Review andthe Chester H. Jones Foundation.  She has also served as resident faculty at the Frost Place annual poetry festival. In her other life, she’s a psychologist in clinical practice.

Connect with Joan at her website,, or on her blog.

Joan Cusack Handler’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, November 26th:  Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, November 27th:  Pingwing’s Bookshelf

Wednesday, November 28th:  Fiction Addict

Thursday, November 29th:  A Catholic Mom Climbing the Pillars

Friday, November 30th:  Bookchickdi

Monday, December 3rd:  Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Tuesday, December 4th:  She Treads Softly

Friday, December 7th:  Confessions from a Rambling Mind

Monday, December 10th:  Speaking of Books

Wednesday, December 12th:  Bibliosue

Thursday, December 13th:  WV Stitcher

Friday, December 14th:  Luxury Reading

Friday, December 14th:  Simply Stacie

Monday, December 17th:  Day by Day in Our World

Tuesday, December 18th:  Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, December 19th:  Reading Between the Lines


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