If This Were Fiction: A Love Story in Essays

‎American Lives series, University of Nebraska Press, September 2022

If This Were Fiction: A Love Story

Published by University of Nebraska Press

If This Were Fiction is a love story—for Jill Christman’s long-ago fiancé, who died young in a car accident; for her children; for her husband, Mark; and ultimately, for herself. In this collection, Christman takes on the wide range of situations and landscapes she encountered on her journey from wild child through wounded teen to mother, teacher, writer, and wife. In these pages there are fatal accidents and miraculous births; a grief pilgrimage that takes Christman to jungles, volcanoes, and caves in Central America; and meditations on everything from sexual trauma and the more benign accidents of childhood to gun violence, indoor cycling, unlikely romance, and even a ghost or two. Playing like a lively mixtape in both subject and style, If This Were Fiction focuses an open-hearted, frequently funny, clear-eyed feminist lens on Christman’s first fifty years and sends out a message of love, power, and hope.

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University of Georgia Press

Darkroom: A Family Exposure

Winner of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award for Creative Nonfiction

Darkroom: A Family Exposure is Jill Christman’s gripping, funny, and wise account of her first thirty years. Although her story runs the gamut of dramatic life events, including childhood sexual abuse, accidental death, and psychological trauma, Christman’s poignant memoir is much more than a litany of horrors; instead, it is an open-eyed, wide-hearted, and good-humored look at a life worth surviving.

Never sentimental, Jill Christman is brutally honest and surprisingly funny. She deftly blends narrative, quoted materials, her uncle’s letters, and her father’s photography to create a family saga that is both heartbreaking and exhilarating.

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‎from SheBooks

Borrowed Babies: Apprenticing for Motherhood

Read on your favorite device for $2.99! Released on May 2015

Until the 1960s, infants were plucked from orphanages and maternity wards and used as ‘practice babies’ in college home economics departments across the country. Award-winning writer Jill Christman was determined to find out what happened to them. Along the way, five months pregnant herself and her hormones (and anxiety) raging, she also hoped to discover what it means to be a mother.


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Tiny Books

Longreads and extended essays


Published by Iron Horse Literary Review
Winner 2021 Long Story Contest


Winner of the Iron Horse Literary Review Long Story Prize
“Falling”—a longform essay—won the 2021 Iron Horse Literary Review Long Story Contest and was later released by IHLR released in a beautiful, illustrated, e-single that you can download for free. The essay’s core narrative chronicles the writer’s son’s fall from a sugar maple tree and explores how we navigate the scariest things and most profound losses.

Published by Creative Nonfiction Magazine
True Story, Issue #12

Spinning: Against the Rules of Angels

Creative Nonfiction Magazine’s True Story, Issue #12

For years, Jill Christman has been waiting for her long-lost lover to communicate with her from beyond the grave. Finally, he walks into her early-morning exercise class, setting her world awhirl. Read the full essay on CNF or in If This Were Fiction: A Love Story in Essays.

Essays in Anthologies

River Teeth: 20 years

Editors Dan Lehman and Joe Mackall chose “Going Back to Plum Island,” about returning to a place of trauma to reclaim beauty and safety, for River Teeth: Twenty Years of Creative Nonfiction (University of New Mexico Press, 2020).

The Best of Brevity

Editors Zoë Bossiere and Dinty W. Moore chose “The Sloth,” about grief and the temperature of blood, for The Best of Brevity: Twenty Groundbreaking Years of Flash Nonfiction (Rose Metal Press, 2020).

Not That Bad

Editor Roxane Gay chose “Slaughterhouse Island,” about a long-ago houseboat rape and the continuing epidemic of campus sexual assault, for Not That Bad: Dispatches from a Rape Culture (HarperPerennial, 2018).

Editor Erin Wood chose “Burned Images,” an excerpt from Darkroom: A Family Exposure about a childhood accident, for Scars: An Anthology (Et Alia Press, 2015).

Editor Lee Gutkind chose “The Eleven-Minute Crib Nap,” about a baby who wants to be held and a mother who wants to write, for Oh Baby!: True Stories About Tiny Humans (In Fact Books, 2015).

Editor Joy Castro chose “Chewing Band-Aids: One Memoirist’s Take on Telling the Truth,” about the danger of a kept secret, for Family Trouble: Memoirists on the Hazards and Rewards of Revealing Family (University of Nebraska Press, 2013).

Editor Kate Hopper chose “Three Takes on a Jump” and “The Allergy Diaries,” about memory and fear, respectively, for Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers (Viva Editions, 2012).

Editors Dana Sullivan and Maureen Connelly chose “Weaning Ella,” about—you guessed it—weaning Ella and the changing shape of intimacy, for Unbuttoned: Women tell the truth about the pains, pleasures and politics of breastfeeding (Harvard Common Press, 2009).