Julia Ridley SmithFeb 4, 2022
The Sum of Trifles
University of Georgia Press 2021
We all live surrounded by objects: some practical, some personal, some handed down from family generations past. But though we interact with material things every day, we don’t often stop to consider the complex histories and stories of the objects in our lives—what they say about our culture, our families, and ourselves. Over a lifetime we accumulate these things, and when we die, they serve as evidence of who we once were and how we once lived.
When writer Julia Ridley Smith’s parents passed away, they left behind a home full of treasures. As lifelong antique dealers, they collected scores of unique objects Smith struggles to sort through as she processes her grief. From her mother’s miniatures to her father’s favorite record albums, the objects of their lives cataloged their passions and humanity. How could anyone just give those things away?
In her debut essay collection, The Sum of Trifles (University of Georgia Press, 2021), Smith considers the complex relationships we share with objects through artifacts from her childhood home, expertly braiding original research and personal narrative to get to the heart of how our loved ones can live on after death, whether through the things they cherished or our memories of them.
Zoë Bossiere is a doctoral candidate at Ohio University, where she studies and teaches creative writing and rhetoric & composition. She is the managing editor of Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction, and the co-editor of its anthology, The Best of Brevity (Rose Metal Press, 2020).