Following her 2017 essay collection “Don’t Mind Me, I Just Died,” upper school English teacher Caroline Dumaine, who publishes under her birth name, Caroline Sutton, continued her exploration of family relationships in “Mainlining: A Memoir.”
Published by Montemayor Press, the memoir examines Dumaine’s “WASP heritage and the ways we pass on values and traditions to our children,” the publisher’s synopsis states. “This incisive memoir is simultaneously a portrait of an American family and of an iconic realm with an outsized place in American culture.”
Dumaine originally began the book as a portrait of the 1960s and 1970s Main Line region in Philadelphia, where she grew up. “As I thought about my contradictory relationship to [the Main Line], I began to realize the extent to which my mother and her past were bound up in those reactions,” Dumaine said. “So the book became, in part, a portrait of her.”
As the book took the shape of a memoir, it was informed, not just by Dumaine’s personal experience, but also by research into her family’s history. The author dived into Bryn Mawr College publications (her mother and grandmother were alumnae); family letters, written histories and informal narratives; and newspaper articles about the Main Line. Serendipitously, as she was writing the book, The New York Times detailed the discovery of the World War II Navy aircraft carrier U.S.S. Wasp, which was torpedoed in the Pacific. Dumaine’s father was a survivor of the attack. “Since the war had significant implications on my parents and their marriage, this discovery found its way into the latter part of my book, connecting threads and providing an immediate lens on an event that occurred 76 years prior,” Dumaine said.
Despite the time she spent studying her family’s history, Dumaine shared that “by far the most time-consuming part of the process was reflecting on and reliving interactions with my mother.” Beyond exploring this relationship, though, “the memoir presents a slice of American life during a particular time — its traditions and values, foibles and hypocrisies,” the author explained. “It also suggests that leaving behind our roots is not as simple as we’d like to think.”
Dumaine’s essays have appeared in Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, North American Review, Cimarron Review, The Pinch, The Literary Review, Ascent and Southwest Review. In 2012, she received Southern Humanities Review’s Theodore Christian Hoepfner Award for nonfiction.