Bourke’s Bookshelf: ‘This stuff only happens to me’

This week's featured author is Crosby writer Joan Hasskamp and her memoir "We Don't Care Who Wins as Long as Joan Loses."

Book cover
"We Don't Care Who Wins as Long as Joan Loses" by Joan Hasskamp.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

For those who have kept up with my last couple months of reviews, you’ll know I picked different themes in September and October around which to center my reading.

Theresa Bourke headshot

In September I celebrated frequently banned and challenged books, while October saw me immersed in a world of darker tales perfect for the month of Halloween.

My desire to continue on with a theme, paired with my love of alliteration, led me to the idea for Nonfiction November.

As I’ve said before, I’m usually a novel gal. I enjoy made up stories that help me escape reality for a short while much more than reading about things that actually happened.

Or so I thought.


While I think novels will always be my go-to, I have been pleasantly surprised in the last couple years just how entertaining memoirs can be as well. And since my shelves hold several such books that I swear try to guilt me for not reading them, I figured this month would be a good time to dive in and see what kinds of stories they contain.

‘We Don’t Care Who Wins as Long as Joan Loses’ by Joan Hasskamp

It’s not often a book makes me actually laugh out loud, but Joan Hasskamp’s did just that.

Mostly memoir, partially embellishment and totally hilarious, Hasskamp’s 2021 work is sure to elicit a few giggles.

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Crosby resident Joan Hasskamp details her life growing up as the odd man out, of sorts, in her family. She was the short one among her siblings and extended family, the overly competitive one kids hated to see win and the funny one who has found the joy in being able to laugh at herself.

From a childhood obsession with toilets, to teenage driving escapades in the cemetery and an impromptu bar photoshoot with men in Speedos, there don’t appear to be many crazy scenarios Joan didn’t get caught up in.

Her writing is clever, witty and engaging, providing the reader with an inside look at life in small-town, north-central Minnesota and a few important life lessons behind the humor.

I don’t know Joan personally, but after reading her memoir, I feel like I’ve gained a friend — a fun, good-humored friend who taught me it’s OK to laugh at myself every now and then, especially if those around me already are.

More memoirs

I’ve read a few other memoirs in recent years that really stuck with me. I especially feel the need to mention “ Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen ,” written by Julie Powell, who just died of cardiac arrest Oct. 26 at the age of 49. Powell’s book details her endeavor to cook all 524 recipes from famed chef Julia Childs’ book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume 1.” Her writing is full of crude humor and complex analogies that had me laughing one minute and contemplating the deeper meaning of life the next.


The book was turned into the 2009 movie “Julie & Julia” directed by Nora Ephron, starring Amy Adams as Powell and Meryl Streep as Julia Childs.

Other memoirs I’ve enjoyed include: “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom, “Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt , “ The Answer Is… ” by Alex Trebek, “ The Glass Castle ” by Jeanette Walls and “ I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings ” by Maya Angelou.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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