Final Girl: And Other Essays on Grief, Trauma, and Mental Illness

Final Girl: And Other Essays on Grief, Trauma, and Mental Illness, Blue Crow Books, 2020, Final Girl Books, 2023.

From the award-winning author of Sexism Ed and Grace Period comes a “haunting, mesmerizing” memoir-in-essays about survival, hope, and the strength we find within ourselves to survive a world that tries to break us.

When Kelly J. Baker was two years old, her mother fled Baker’s abusive father. But then a custody arrangement left Baker behind for much of her childhood, the new target of his violence. Out of this traumatic childhood Baker patched together a new life. From the trailer park to college and on to a doctoral program, she succeeded against all odds. But the pain of her childhood trauma didn’t abate—it only burrowed deeper.

These stark, haunting essays are not about brokenness, but rather about the slow realization by the author of what she survived and how she grew stronger from a place of vulnerability. Final Girl reckons with what it means to be shattered by those you love and trust and what it takes to pick up the pieces and forge ahead. Baker tackles family trauma, parental abuse, grief, and her own mental illness with striking honesty and grace. By facing the moments she would rather forget, she shows us how survival is just the beginning: we mend ourselves and surround ourselves with love—and then we rise.

If you enjoyed Tara Westover’s Educated and Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle, you will love Final Girl.