GRACE PERIOD: A Memoir in Pieces

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From INDIE-Gold-award-winning author Kelly J. Baker comes a breathtaking memoir about building a new life upon broken dreams.

When Kelly J. Baker finished her Ph.D. in religion, she imagined that she would end up in the tenure-track job for which she trained. She had done everything right: written a provocative and well-researched book, given presentations at national conferences, published articles, and created and taught a number of popular classes.

Doing everything right, however, doesn’t guarantee anything if the career you trained for is no longer sustainable. The economic depression in 2008 gutted the job market for tenure-track jobs in the humanities, so she couldn’t find her dream job. Instead, she worked for years as an underpaid non-tenure-track instructor. But after five years of job rejections and a new baby on the way, she took a year off to figure out if the career she trained for was actually the life she wanted: a grace period.

Baker documents her transition out of academia and the emotional turmoil of rebuilding a life beyond what she had dreamed of. Baker resists telling an easy story about her exit from the academy into a post-academic career; she does not smooth over the hard reality of transitions. She describes the importance of patience and the realization that the lives we imagine for ourselves are tenuous at best and often are impossible to achieve. In the end, she lets go of the dream, building a life with her family and a new career. Along the way, she provides a ray of hope for all who desire a new path in life.

“As much as Grace Period is a memoir,…it is a book about dreams: what they give us, what they take from us, how they break us, and how they re-make us.” –The Tallahassee Democrat

“In a series of vivid and beautiful essays, Baker uses her changing relationship to academia to reflect on ‘grace periods,’ those moments (or strings of moments) when you leave one possible future behind without quite knowing what’s next.” -Derek Attig, Ph.D., Book Riot


Praise for GRACE PERIOD:

In December 2019, GRACE PERIOD was named one of the 12 best “New Religion Journalism” Books of the Decade by Religion Dispatches Magazine.

Grace Period tracks the trials and triumphs of Baker’s post-academic transition from 2013 to 2017 with great insight and humor. Baker deftly balances personal struggles and broad institutional inequities as she confronts the trauma of leaving the academy. Recounting the many miseries of applying, adjuncting, interviews, rejection, writing, book contracts, disappearing jobs, and a certain disciplinary task force on contingency, Baker makes her way to the personal turning point, smack in the middle of the book: “I’m no longer transitioning away from academic work and life. I’m moving forward, one small step at a time.” Her journey will help many traverse their own paths forward. —Karen Kelsky, Ph.D., author of The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job

Have you ever had a plan for your life not go the way you had hoped? Have you spent weeks or months or maybe a decade with a particular future in mind, only to have that future fail to happen, leaving you unmoored and lost and unsure what to do? Kelly J. Baker has. And even though I know it’s painful (been there!), I can’t help but see a big upside in her case: this lovely book. In a series of vivid and beautiful essays, Baker uses her changing relationship to academia to reflect on “grace periods,” those moments (or strings of moments) when you leave one possible future behind without quite knowing what’s next. Grace Period’s form serves it especially well: Baker has been writing about her transition since 2013, and Grace Period collects those essays and reflections together into a whole both fragmentary and so, so whole. Each essay is dated and presented in chronological order, so you watch Baker grow—as a person, a thinker, a writer—without the book erasing her “missed turns” (in her phrase) in retrospect. That’s how we all live our lives, unsure of what’s to come, and I’m thrilled to see that experience explored so sensitively and so beautifully in Grace Period—Derek Attig, Ph.D., Book Riot

Book Information:

  • Author: Kelly J. Baker
  • Publication Date: October 2, 2017
  • Paper ISBN: 978-1-947834-04-0, Ebook ISBN: 978-1-947834-37-8
  • Distributed through Ingram