Not a Hap­py Camper: A Memoir

Mindy Schnei­der
  • Review
By – December 9, 2011
Though the title sug­gests that Mindy Schnei­der is not a hap­py camper,” read­ers of her mem­oir will be hap­py indeed. Schneider’s tale of her 1974 sum­mer expe­ri­ence at a Jew­ish overnight camp is hilar­i­ous. Burn­ing bunks, heavy rain, cap­sized canoes, bro­ken camp vehi­cles, night raids to the boys’ side, and a teenage obses­sion with kiss­ing a boyfriend make for laugh­able cir­cum­stances, like the stuff of sit­u­a­tion com­e­dy; but, writ­ten as a mem­oir of her own life expe­ri­ence, the impact is fun­nier still. Orig­i­nal pho­tographs, poems, and lyrics to camp songs are vivid com­ple­ments to Schneider’s descrip­tive writ­ing. Apt ref­er­ences to 1974 fash­ion (bell bot­toms), pop­u­lar cul­ture (The Dick Van Dyke Show), and pol­i­tics (“I am not a crook”) evoke a par­tic­u­lar con­text for the oth­er­wise time­less strug­gles of ado­les­cents every­where to fit in and be liked. The book’s suc­cess is a cred­it to the author’s art­ful abil­i­ty to com­bine her own sar­cas­tic wit as a writer with the authen­tic voice of a naïve, yet per­cep­tive, thir­teen-year-old girl.

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