February book selection: Don’t Worry About the Mule Going Blind: Hazel’s Daughter by Betty Tucker
Betty Tucker came of age in Belle Glade, Florida, infamous for its poverty and violence (e.g., see the Wikipedia entry and the 2006 documentary One Percent). Her childhood was one of debilitating poverty, borne of racism: exploitive migrant labor, multiple rapes and other abuse, chronic illness among her family and acquaintances … the list is long and bitter. Betty survived not only by sheer hard work but also by nurturing a nascent belief that she deserved better. She moved to California, earned her college degree, and raised a family. Then, in 1997, she began a long and eventually successful search for the twin girls she had given up for adoption thirty years earlier. Fear, insecurity, sexual abuse, want, neglect: This memoir will look beyond the description of these difficulties in the author’s life to examine how they stifled her ability to shape her own life, how she acquired the tools she needed to take more control of her life, and what impact her choices, both intentional and unintentional, had on her life and those of her children.
January book selection: Not the Mother I Remember: A Memoir by Amber Lea Starfire #motherdaughtermemoirs
When Amber discovers cardboard boxes containing a lifetime of her mother’s journals and letters, she realizes she’s been given a rare chance to unlock the enigma that had been her mother—but will her mother’s writings reveal the woman she remembers, or someone else altogether? Not the Mother I Remember tells the story of a sensitive girl raised by an exceptional and unconventional woman during a time of social change, gradually exposing the true nature of their relationship and their extraordinary bonds.
The complex, deeply binding relationship between mothers and daughters is brought vividly to life in Katie Hafner’s remarkable memoir, an exploration of the year she and her mother, Helen, spent working through, and triumphing over, a lifetime of unresolved emotions.
Dreaming of a “year in Provence” with her mother, Katie urges Helen to move to San Francisco to live with her and Zoë, Katie’s teenage daughter. She and Zoë had become a mother-daughter team, strong enough, Katie thought, to absorb the arrival of a 77-year old woman set in her ways.
Filled with fairytale hope that she and her mother would become friends, and that Helen would become close to her exceptional granddaughter, Katie embarked on an experiment in intergenerational living that she would soon discover was filled with landmines: memories of her parents’ painful divorce, of her mother’s binge drinking and neglect of Katie and her sister, of dislocating moves back and forth across the country, and of Katie’s own widowhood and bumpy recovery. Helen, for her part, was also holding difficult issues at bay.
How these three women from such different generations learn to navigate their challenging, turbulent and ultimately healing journey together makes for riveting reading. By turns heartbreaking and funny- and always insightful- Katie Hafner’s brave and loving book answers questions about the universal truths of family that are central to the lives of so many.
Josephine Hurst has her family under control. With two beautiful daughters, a brilliantly intelligent son, a tech-guru of a husband, and a historical landmark home, her life is picture perfect. But living in this matriarch’s determinedly cheerful, yet subtly controlling domain hasn’t been easy for her family, and when her oldest daughter, Rose, runs off with a mysterious boyfriend, Josephine tightens her grip, gradually turning her flawless home into a darker sort of prison.
Resentful of her sister’s newfound freedom, Violet turns to eastern philosophy, hallucinogenic drugs, and extreme fasting, eventually landing herself in a psych ward. Meanwhile, her brother, Will, recently diagnosed with Asperger’s, shrinks further into a world of self-doubt. Their father, Douglas, finds resolve in the bottom of a bottle—an addict craving his own chance to escape. Josephine struggles to maintain the family’s impeccable façade, but when a violent incident leads to a visit from child protective services, the truth about the Hursts might finally be revealed.
September book selection: Who Do You Think You Are? by Alyse Myers #motherdaughtermemoirs
August book selection: Pieces of My Mother by Melissa Citaro #motherdaughtermemoirs
“This provocative, poignant memoir of a daughter whose mother left her behind by choice begs the question: Are we destined to make the same mistakes as our parents?
One summer, Melissa Cistaro’s mother drove off without explanation. Devastated, Melissa and her brothers were left to pick up the pieces, always tormented by the thought: Why did their mother abandon them?
Thirty-five years later, with children of her own, Melissa finds herself in Olympia, Washington, as her mother is dying. After decades of hiding her painful memories, she has just days to find out what happened that summer and confront the fear she could do the same to her kids. But Melissa never expects to stumble across a cache of letters her mother wrote to her but never sent, which could hold the answers she seeks.
Haunting yet ultimately uplifting, Pieces of My Mother chronicles one woman’s quest to discover what drives a mother to walk away from the children she loves. Alternating between Melissa’s tumultuous coming-of-age and her mother’s final days, this captivating memoir reveals how our parents’ choices impact our own and how we can survive those to forge our own paths.”
Fire Shut Up In My Bones is a profound moving memoir of Charles Blow’s coming-of-age as a black boy in the Deep South, of the way his sensitive and gifted intelligence slowly begins to kindle, becoming ablaze with wonder at the world and his place in it. Above all, this is the story of a courageously honest man arriving at his decision to stop running like the river… and just be the ocean, vast, deep and exactly where it was always meant to be.’ Blow has written a classic memoir of a truly American childhood.
–Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
June book selection: GOD Help the Child by Toni Morrison
Spare and unsparing, God Help the Child, the first novel by Toni Morrison to be set in our current moment–weaves a tale about the way the sufferings of childhood can shape, and misshape, the life of the adult.
At the center: a young woman who calls herself Bride, whose stunning blue-black skin is only one element of her beauty, her boldness and confidence, her success in life, but which caused her light-skinned mother to deny her even the simplest forms of love. There is Booker, the man Bride loves, and loses to anger. Rain, the mysterious white child with whom she crosses paths. And finally, Bride’s mother herself, Sweetness, who takes a lifetime to come to understand that “what you do to children matters. And they might never forget.”
A fierce and provocative novel that adds a new dimension to the matchless oeuvre of Toni Morrison.
May book selection: Ruby by Cynthia Bond
Ephraim Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with long braids running through the red dust and piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. For Ruby Bell, Liberty was a place of devastating violence from which she fled to seedy, glamorous 1950s New York. Years later, pulled back home, thirty-year old Ruby is faced with the seething hatred of a town desperate to destroy her. Witnessing her struggle, Ephraim must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy. Utterly transfixing, Cynthia Bond’s Ruby is a soaring novel of passion and courage.