The Orphaned Anything’s: Memoir of a Lesser Known by Stephen Christian

            So, I don’t remember exactly how I came upon The Orphaned Anything’s. I’m pretty sure that it’s only available to buy on amazon so I guess I must have ordered it at some point. Stephen Christian, the author, used to sing in a favorite band of mine, Anberlin, so that probably had something to do with my discovery of it.

The Orphaned Anything’s is the perfect size to hold. It’s hard to explain what exactly I mean by that until you buy it for yourself and just hold it.

When you open The Orphaned Anything’s, you’ll notice without even reading a word that this book is different—the kind of different that you’ll either love from the get go or else have to work past in order to really get the book. It drew me in immediately. The Orphaned Anything’s doesn’t use proper capitalization. It doesn’t use proper punctuation or indentation. There are spelling and grammatical errors. And it’s not because Christian doesn’t know how to write. It’s because Ayden doesn’t care enough.

Ayden is the protagonist of The Orphaned Anything’s. “I’m up, what more do you want from me?” says the sticker on Ayden’s bedroom door. It’s how he operates: going to work, being bored and disenchanted with life, just getting by and wasting away. But when Ayden finds himself at the end of the barrel of a gun in an accidental(?) suicide attempt, he has to learn how to be alive and mean it, and figure out what exactly that looks like for him. The book is surprising and exciting, eye opening in hilarious scenes and heartbreaking scenes, allowing Ayden and the reader alongside him, to think about their own relations to ideas such as mental health, relationships, and faith.

I have two copies of The Orphaned Anything’s. One is my personal copy and the other is the copy I’ve lent out. My personal copy is full of margin notes. Like, fullfull. Every time I reread The Orphaned Anything’s, I read it with a different colored pen in my hand. It’s always interesting reading my own story alongside Ayden’s, remembering the pain I was in as the pink-penned-Gabriela and disagreeing with the green-penned-Gabriela. The most recent time I read my copy of The Orphaned Anything’s, I was in the best place I’ve been in a while concerning my own mental health. It was a new experience reading the book in a good place, catching elements of the story that I didn’t when I was identifying so closely with Ayden, and mourning the younger me that I read in the margins. The Orphaned Anything’s grows up with you, changes with you.

The copy that I lend out is in New York right now with a good friend of mine. The notes in the margins of my version got a little too personal diary for me to just hand out to everyone, which is why I bought this sharing copy. I’ve lent it out to tons of friends and mentees and family and this cool tradition began in it that I never planned for. Every time the book finds its way back to me, it’s filled with more notes. I don’t know if it’s just impossible for someone to read this book without taking notes, without being pulled into the pages, but my sharing copy is full of sticky notes and margin notes and notes to me. It’s this gorgeous representation of some of the themes of the book—the way we can learn from others and the dangers of trying to do life alone.

The most common comment I hear when having a conversation with people about The Orphaned Anything’s is, “that could have been me.” Ayden in his self-destructive spiral looks back at us through the mirror that is this novel and it’s scary. We see the broken, ugly parts of ourselves that we pretend are not there and we are unnerved. I remember reading the book so many times and thinking, what am I going to do so that I don’t end up here? It’s a scary thing for a book to do—to invade your thoughts, to invade your feelings. This is a dangerous book. This is a real book. And so this is a book that will change your life. This is my all-time favorite book.

I remember sitting outside with someone I care very deeply for and talking about The Orphaned Anything’s. It was finals season and we were both anxious messes. He was telling me how much he liked the book.

“It’s just the kind of book you can hold while you sleep,” we said at the same time. It was unsettling. It was strange. It was community and connection. It was not being alone. It was vulnerability and intimacy. It was a start of learning what I can do so that I don’t ever find myself in the same place as Ayden again.

This is what I want to do as a writer. I want to make people feel seen. I want to make people find each other. I want to make people feel less alone. I want to make people feel understood. I want to love everyone through my words.

Before I released my first chapbook, I remember getting the proof. It was this small blue book and I held it to my chest. It took me a second before I ran to my backpack and pulled out my copy of The Orphaned Anything’s, held my proof up to it. They fit against each other exactly. They were the same size, the perfect size to hold.

Book Cover Source:

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