Linda C. Wisniewski
A Woman's Journey to Peace with Scoliosis,
Her Mother, & Her Polish Heritage
Linda C. Wisniewski lives with her husband and teen-aged son in Bucks County,
Pennsylvania, where she is a substitute librarian, writes for a weekly newspaper
and teaches memoir workshops.
Her memoirs, essays and articles have been published nationally, and she was nominated for a Pushcart
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Biographical data, list of publications and
Off Kilter related information pertinent to
Amsterdam, NY & New York City area,
Doylestown & Philadelphia,
& Austin, TX area.
Click here to
listen to a March 11, 2009
Pearlsong Conversation with Linda C. Wisniewski
"Off Kilter opens a window into a woman's life as she comes to peace with
her Polish ancestry, her mother's depressive behavior, and her own scoliosis, a side-to-side curvature of the
spine, discovered when she was thirteen. Linda Wisniewski weaves the threads beautifully together, sometimes
on a slant, as she leads the reader into the compelling story of a survivor. After a few pages, the reader is
captured by the author's voice―both heartfelt and perceptive, that of a friend―and by the narrative
"Wisniewski's memoir is a tapestry, each thread connecting back to memories of her Polish
Catholic childhood in a postwar mill town in upstate New York―the two-story clapboard houses, the polka
weddings, the house full of talking relatives, the best kielbasa from the Polish butcher―struggling to find
herself in the midst of her father's torments, her mother's tears, and the discipline of the Sisters at
school, their voices cold as ice.
"As the author writes her way through the remembered moments of her life, she finds herself no
longer at loose ends with her childhood, but instead fitting the ends into the pattern of her life. Even her
mother finds her place. When Linda sews, each sound, each touch becomes a thread to her mother. 'The feel of
the tissue paper pattern, the placement of the pins attaching it to the fabric just the way I watched her do
it. The chop, chop of the scissors taking me back to the kitchen table that was her cutting
"The broken yardstick from her mother's sewing becomes the talisman of her life. 'The
yardstick resembles my life; it has broken parts. Nothing has been a straight line from here to there.' Her
back has been twisted by scoliosis. Her body and life have been off kilter. But the yardstick, mended and
carefully glued back together, is now hers. It measures her struggle to stretch not only her spine but also
Bravo for this well-written, well-conceived memoir. The many different scenes of Wisniewski's
life are beautifully described―specific details that the reader sees, touches,
and feels. And always with honesty and integrity."
Wisconsin: The Way We Were
Devastation on the Delaware
"Unflinchingly honest, Off Kilter immediately feels like a rare,
soul-baring chat with a treasured friend. Author Linda C. Wisniewski turns her clear-eyed gaze on the lessons of
lonely childhood stifled by the ask-no-questions authoritarianism of an insular immigrant culture. Yet it's also a
love letter to the beloved customs and sense of belonging that arise out of a sense of being 'other.'
"...Off Kilter gives readers permission to take a compassionate look at their own
inherited psychic wounds. No indulgent navel-gazing, the gentle rhythm of Wisniewski's disciplined, well-crafted
prose and incisive observations make Off Kilter a gift to anyone who has fought to create an
authentic individual identity.
"Forgoing the easy temptation to simply blame, Wisniewski instead seeks the grace to understand, forgive and
somehow connect with those who hurt her most. Ultimately, this book is testament to the triumph of determination
over acquiescence, of love over fear. It touched me deeply and will remain in your heart long after you've turned
the last page."
Praise from Elise Browning Miller,
Iyengar Yoga teacher & author of
Yoga: Anytime, Anywhere
Yoga for Scoliosis (DVD)
'Off Kilter' is a perfect title for this book. All of us can
relate! Linda Wisniewski is diagnosed with scoliosis, a lateral curve of the spine, at age fourteen, and is also
troubled by her childhood with an abusive father and a depressed mother in a Polish Catholic community. Always
trying to please, Linda finds herself contorted and off balance from childhood to adulthood. Off Kilter is an eye
opener nto the life of a woman who learns to deal with the challenges of life and as an adult finds peace in
honoring herself. Learning to live with her less than perfect body and childhood, yoga helps Linda find alignment,
flexibility and strength to discover her own inner balance."
More Praise for Off Kilter
"Writing in a style reminiscent of Frank McCourt, Wisniewski conjures the ghosts of a troubled
and emotionally fraught childhood throughout the majority of her memoir so that she can exorcise them in the
final chapters....Expertly balancing pathos and triumph, Wisniewksi never wallows in self-pity. Rather, she
gathers strength from her setbacks and finds a renewed sense of purpose with each curve life sends her way.
In this sense, Off Kilter is a fine testament to the resilience of the human spirit and to the healing
power of the written word."
Small Press Reviews
"Wisniewski comes to terms with her 'off kilter' life by revisiting in vivid images a
childhood that insisted 'suffering is good.' Readers with very different histories will recognize their
own struggles against forces that threaten to criipple them, and will be heartened by Wisniewski's
journey to understand and forgive, to heal and make peace, and to create and live a new
author of the memoirs
Teaching Lost Selves to Speak
A Skeptic's Pilgrimage
"This splendid first memoir is about the difficult business of finding balance in our lives.
Funny, honest, deeply moving, Off Kilter reminds us just how hard it is to adjust to
the physical pain, the emotional loss, and even the surprising beauty of being fully who we are. Kudos to Linda
Susan Wittig Albert
Spanish Dagger &
"Many memorists are asked by family members, 'Why are you bringin' this up now?' In Off
Kilter, Linda Wisniewski succeeds in answering this question. Exploring her Polish Catholic heritage
in upstate New York with an emotionally distant mother and constantly feeling off balance from the shape
of her spine, Wisniewski stretches herself emotionally and spiritually as an adult to find solid ground to
stand on. A courageous insightful book, particularly relevant for anyone who grew up feeling
On Memoir and Memory
"After darkness comes light, and in Off Kilter Linda Wisniewski takes us on her
personal journey to overcome her challenging past to emerge a balanced, compassionate woman."
A Year and a Day &
Pears on a Willow Tree
"Off Kilter is one woman's testimony to the effects of childhood abuse, which left her 'off kilter' in
more than one way. Her spine was not straight but her heart and mind were always on a sight-line to what is
right, what is good, and what is redeeming in the human heart. Linda writes with candor and honesty about her
healing journey to forgiveness and wholeness, and the blessings of a life that is heart-centered. Everyone
should read this lovely book!"
Linda Joy Myers
Writing Your Healing Story
Don't Call Me Mother