Kathleen Blackburn Reads from her Memoir

The Memoir You Cannot Miss

Announcing Loose of Earth: A Memoir

Book Tour Dates | Praise | Audio Excerpts

For anyone who has experienced the death of a parent, telling the story of that loss can be daunting, but at times, cathartic. For writer Kathleen Dorothy Blackburn, it took a writing workshop with Pulitzer Prize finalist Luis Alberto Urrea for her to sit down and try to write the story of her father’s diagnosis and decline—many years after he died and after over a decade of writing creatively and professionally.

Kathleen Dorothy Blackburn, author of Loose of Earth

Urrea asked the workshop, “Why do you write?” A version of that question had been kicking around in Blackburn’s head since she’d read an interview between writers Amy Hempel and Gordon Lish: “What is the one thing that if people knew about you, would undo your identity?”

Kathleen wrote, “I’m here because I was with my father when he died.”

On writing Loose of Earth

She then received a thumb drive out of the blue from her mother: digitized family home videos beginning in 1984, the year she was born, through the late 1990s. This was unusual, as her family did not speak about their past. “It wasn’t something I ever talked about,” she says. “It wasn’t something my family talked about. It wasn’t a story I had ever told.”

Kathleen Dorothy Blackburn rolls out of Texas like a tornado of rainbows. You think her voice is tender as a hymn, then she uses it to kick in your back door and steal your bourbon. The song she’s singing is as melancholy and rocking as your favorite Joe Ely record. This book is that good.

Luis Alberto Urrea

What followed was a “month-long fever dream.” She wrote the first draft of her debut memoir Loose of Earth. She told her story, an incredibly vulnerable story of wrenching desperation, “a formidable portrait of the thin line between faith and delusion” (Publishers Weekly). Her book, out April 16, is an unflinching but blazingly poignant story of family, faith, toxicity, and disease.

Blackburn was the oldest of five children, a twelve-year-old from Lubbock, Texas, when her father, a former air force pilot, was diagnosed with cancer at the age of thirty-eight. The Blackburn family was evangelical and their faith preferenced homeschooling over formal education, extreme diet and prayer over medical treatment. They sought healing from a traveling tent preacher, a Malaysian holy man, a local faith-healer who led services called “Miracles on 34th Street.”

On discovering PFAs were part of her story

What her family didn’t know at the time was that their lives were entangled with a larger, less visible environmental catastrophe. Fire-fighting foams containing carcinogenic compounds had contaminated the drinking water of every military site where her father worked. Commonly referred to as “forever chemicals,” the presence of PFAS in West Texas besieged a landscape already burdened with vanishing water, taking up residence in wells and in the bloodstreams of people who lived there.

We are so eager for readers to experience what we experienced when we read Kathleen’s manuscript. Readers will have the opportunity to hear Kathleen read and get a signed copy of Loose of Earth while on book tour this spring! Check out the dates below, RSVP to let these excellent bookstores know you’re coming to support writers and booksellers, and soak up some incredible conversations with the special guests who will be joining her.


𝗦𝗮𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝗔𝗽𝗿𝗶𝗹 𝟭𝟯
10:30 AM
San Antonio, TexasSan Antonio Book Festivalwith Denise Tolan, moderated by Georgia Erck
𝗧𝘂𝗲𝘀𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝗔𝗽𝗿𝗶𝗹 𝟭𝟲
6:00 PM
Austin, TexasFirst Light Books
RSVP + preorder
with Juli Berwald
𝗪𝗲𝗱𝗻𝗲𝘀𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝗔𝗽𝗿𝗶𝗹 𝟭𝟳
7:00 PM
Houston, TexasBlue Willow Bookshop
RSVP + preorder
with Tabitha Forney
𝗙𝗿𝗶𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝗔𝗽𝗿𝗶𝗹 𝟭𝟵
6:00 PM
Dallas, TexasInterabang Books
RSVP + preorder
with Amal Ahmed
𝗧𝘂𝗲𝘀𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝗔𝗽𝗿𝗶𝗹 𝟮𝟯
7:00 PM
Chicago, IllinoisMadison Street Books
RSVP + preorder
with Peter Coviello
𝗦𝗮𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝗠𝗮𝘆 𝟰
5:00 PM
Washington D.C.Politics & Prose Union Market
RSVP + preorder
with Lily Meyer
𝗙𝗿𝗶𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝗠𝗮𝘆 𝟭𝟬
6:00 PM
Chicago, IllinoisSeminary Co-op
RSVP + preorder
with Daniel Raeburn

Blackburn Reads from Loose of Earth

On her father
On the Ogallala Aquifer and attending tent revivals

Praise for Loose of Earth

Loose of Earth is a profoundly soulful quest for sacred truth across a vast sea of loss. Kathleen Blackburn’s tender intelligence and rock-solid compassion are ballast through storms of illness, religion, family, girlhood, and the unthinking desecration of this earth, ultimately offering harbor on a new shore, where we arrive transformed.

Claire Vaye Watkins

Fierce yet compassionate, poetic yet clearly spoken, Loose of Earth draws us into a world made strange by disease, fear, and faith. Riotous with magic and mayhem, a sublime juxtaposition between the ordinary and the surreal, Kathleen Blackburn’s debut memoir evokes innocence, anger, honor, and redemption and speaks to the lengths one family will go to keep hold of its own, no matter the cost. Loose of Earth is a coming-of-age story that will lift your heart and sail it out on a sea of love, loss, and endurance.

Kim Barnes

[A] blazing debut . . . [Blackburn’s] sentence-level excellence and gift for subtle characterization help this take flight. It’s a formidable portrait of the thin line between faith and delusion.

Publishers Weekly

Loose of Earth is a poignant memoir—at once a family story and a bold exposé of the lasting effects of ‘forever chemicals.’

Foreword Reviews

“[A] captivating memoir . . . Loose of Earth is an important read on the precarious state of America, as the dangers of religious fanaticism and the damage humans have caused to the planet continue to creep forward.”

Chicago Review of Books

[A] gimlet-eyed debut…A thoughtful coming-of-age memoir from an American hinterland.