White elephants are the odd, old, and discarded things that end up at yard sales and flea markets—and Katie Haegele loves them all. Well, an awful lot of them, anyway. She lives a few blocks from the house she grew up in, and every summer she and her mother scour the neighborhood tag sales, looking for treasure. In this unusual, touching memoir, she chronicles the places they go and the things they find there, describing every detail in her singular, charming voice. In the end she finds more than just ugly table lamps and frilly aprons, ultimately discovering a real friendship with her mother, a deeper connection to her father, whose death left a hole in her life—and even a bit of romance.
"Katie Haegele's writing is a miracle. No matter how grumpy you've gotten, White Elephants will inspire you to turn your days into adventures again—whether or not that includes looking through weird shit on other people's lawns."
—Ariel Gore, author of Atlas of the Human Heart and The End of Eve
"This charmingly curious book...will have you thinking you are listening to a soothing friend. Perhaps Katie Haegele might be a unique, American version of Sylvia Smith."
—Tama Janowitz, author of Slaves of New York
”Katie's smart like this, too—smart about the insides of people's lives and the retro-contemporary nostalgia of bygones and medleys I've never heard of. White Elephants is about the trips Katie takes with her widowed mom to yard sales and the things they buy—things like weird wicker belts, working typewriters, grandmother quality dresses, foldable purses, vintage stationery (the good, the bad, and the ugly), fashion plates. It's about how her own apartment absorbs the after stuff of others, and how it defines her, in many ways, and releases her from the thing she will never, through all the digging, find: her dad, who died of cancer when Katie was still a college student. White Elephants is also about a boy named Joe, who loves what Katie loves, and about a power outage after a storm in Nova Scotia, and about swimming in your underwear, and about getting past the migraine. It's earthy and near in its language, a conversation Katie has, a book so small and lovingly made that you can hold it in the palm of your hand.”
—Beth Kephart, author of National Book Award Finalist A Slant of the Sun: One Child’s Courage