Maryann grows up alone within a family of six, shrouded by her sister’s anorexia, her brother’s cancer, and her mother’s affair with alcohol. With her childhood consumed by her sister’s eating disorder, she braces for a future fraught with loss. Sinking deep into depression as a teenager, she struggles to understand what it means to love those around her, and questions whether being loved is worth the cost. After her sister’s recovery and her brother’s remission, she’s left to comb the depths of her loneliness and confront the darkest pall of her adolescence: her mother’s drinking. In moving from her hometown in Montana to New York City, she finds a place where those who are alone are not always lonely, and begins to define love, loneliness, and intimacy for herself.
Through experimentation with form, the book captures the perspectives of Maryann’s adult and childhood selves, as well as her experience of mental illness. Flipping through its pages, readers will discover a tapestry of image and white space, scenes written in screenplay, faux news articles, a one-woman show, math problems, and more. Little Astronaut is a literary kaleidoscope blending the cerebral and emotional, and humor with darkness. The book explores anxiety and depression next to the intricacies of Barbie sex and a failed driving test. These essays dig into the tiny, intimate moments that stitch us together: awaiting sunrise on Christmas mornings with a brother, the unexpected grief of finding a wounded bird, and the meaning of objects passed between sisters. Little Astronaut is, at its heart, the story of a woman redefining intimacy after a lifetime of self-imposed detachment.
PRAISE for LITTLE ASTRONAUT
“Hurtling through the galaxies of the past, the essays in Little Astronaut remind us that the events we have lived through can become black holes. Maryann Aita grows up in Bozeman, Montana amid her sister’s anorexia, her brother’s cancer, and her mother’s alcoholism, piecing together her world through what is misnamed or left unsaid. These essays, lovely experiments which range from course surveys to play scripts, are luminous constellations Aita has arranged around the supernovas of the heart, naming the star shrapnel that has settled around its jagged core as she still reaches for the moon.”
–Kristine Langley Mahler, author of Curing Season and director of Split/Lip Press
“In her beautiful collection of essays, Little Astronaut, Maryann Aita pulls everything off the shelf—atlases, board games, histories of the world—and lays them open beneath the light of distant stars. Come for the entertainment and stay for the heartfelt wisdom of this wonderful book.”
–Jacob Slichter, author of So You Wanna Be A Rock & Roll Star
Selected essays from Little Astronaut:
Vanishing Star in The Porter House Review, about growing up alongside an older sister’s eating disorder
Artifacts in The Exposition Review, about excavating trauma in the aftermath of a break up
Frostbite in perhappened mag, about defining home in an empty house