How did we get to where we are now? What were the scrapes, stutters and blemishes on the way here? There are little ornaments of memory decorating all of us. These moments may seem unassuming as they happen, even insignificant, but one day when we drive past an old street sign or catch sight of a crack in a coffee table, we realize that they’ve somehow morphed into the structural parts of how we came to be.
Mirrors and other reflections by rural Louisiana native, novelist and professor David Armand is a collection of essays that shares brief snapshots of his life after being adopted. In this cluster of memories Armand packages for his readers, you will find a teenager in poverty, a young adult working odd jobs to support his adoptive family, a man realizing his potential as a writer and a dad searching for his own biological father.
With all of the nooks and crannies that make a person’s life, it is easy to say that everyone’s life is interesting. However, not everyone has the ability to make their lives into a masterpiece, and though David Armand’s years have been full of twists and struggles, his candid and expressive voice makes Mirrors and other reflections a story worth experiencing. Armand’s recounting of his teenage years is alarmingly relatable and artfully executed—especially for those that spent adolescent years in the sticky Southern heat riding around in a beater car because there was nothing better to do. Through his writing, he transforms even the dullest and gray landscapes (like a telemarketing call center) into pensive hotbeds for emotion and intrigue.
Armand’s prose is subtle and elegant. His depictions of rural Louisiana, from a crusty pizza parlor to a small public library, feel honest and often wistful. This oddly striking combination of settings creates the perfect environment for a story of a man looking to his history, his ornaments of memory, to understand himself in the present.
Fascinatingly—and maybe a little uncomfortably—Armand’s novel does what every writer can only hope of their work. It coaxes its readers towards introspection. Something about the descriptions of teenage debauchery in all of its restlessness and turmoil (and farm-grown Psilocybin mushrooms) will urge even those with the tamest of upbringings to look back.
The most refreshing thing about Mirrors and other reflections is its lack of bitterness. With the abuse and neglect that Armand sustained in his life by the people he called family and the subsequent backbreaking labor that he performed throughout his early adult life to make ends meet, no one could blame him for creating a darker tale. Instead, the work is a testament to the elasticity of the human spirit. Rather than complaining about spending long days in sweltering buildings not making enough money, Armand expresses gratitude for how this sweat and drudgery molded him.
This collection of bite-sized memoirs is a lived and published proof of hope.
For more information about the author, read our interview with David Armand upon winning the 2022 Louisiana Writer Award.