My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When I first learned of this sensationally titled book with the pinky perky cover photo of the author from the New York Times Book Review, I knew I had to read it because of its boldness and frankness that I believe would strike the chords of many who must have felt or wished it (let’s be honest). However, it was more like seeking a kindred spirit in such a titled book because I felt exhilarated with camaraderie and, once exonerated from such membership, a desire to revolt against mothers.
But the book isn’t an angst-ridden, hate-filled, violence-saturated memoir nowadays in-vogue among celebrities who live to tell their dark life histories. Although it isn’t precisely wholesomely hall-mark like loving family history, it is worth pointing out the moments of love and warmth that childhood memories sometimes invoke because we thrive as human beings on those memories. McCurdy’s mother may not have been perfect, but who is an ideal mother anyway? The Bard once said that look not with the eye but with the mind. She was the one who saw talents in her daughter, encouraged them, and made them blossom into a pink dandelion when many parents either ignore or overlook the bests of their children for their future. Although I can understand McCurdy’s disaffection with her passionate mother controlling her life, I am envious of having such a mother who was willing to sacrifice her hard labor for her daughter’s success.
The cover photo is puzzling. The author has a smile but not smiling, or instead trying to smile but is subdued as if her emotions are changing instantly or frozen in the moments between joy and sadness, independence and confusion in the transition of belonging to freedom. I can’t honestly fathom what the author thinks inside, but one thing is certain she loves her mother, who is now unburdened with the cares and pain of the world. Perhaps, that is why she is glad her mother died.
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Elsie Robinson (1883-1956) was an unforgettable writer whose nationally syndicated column “Listen, World!” spanned over 30 years and garnered more than 20 million readers. Yet, her legacy has not met with the justice of recognition, forgotten in the careless oblivion under the shadows of her contemporary starry women writers. Nelie Bly was sensational as an undercover in a mental asylum and an ambitious challenger to Phileas Fogg of Around the World in 80 days. But Elsie Robinson was a champion of writers whose heartfelt writings touched the finer tissues of the millions of hearts who found solace and support in her words. She was honest, and her words were real, alive, and alike, and there was none other like her.
Robinson was my kind of model writer who wrote from her experience and heart. Edgar Allan Poe would praise a type of writer with a passion for intoxicating the heart and the truth to satisfy reason. The fates had let her go through trials of life, but her mind exceeded the compass of her wheels. She didn’t mind working as a miner as a single mother before a tide of fortune finally took her to her literary career in the Oakland Tribune. While her peers and contemporary writers took the naval-gazing, angst-ridden narratives a la mode, Robinson used her writing to communicate with readers seeking elbow room in her column. They recognized themselves in the plight of a stranger and found commonalities in it, making them feel that they were not uniquely flawed. I guess that’s why Robinson didn’t get recognition as much as her contemporary peers, who enjoyed the stardom of literary legacy. She wanted to tell her woebegone readers their problems were not theirs but yours, mine, and ours.
Like Kurt Vonnegut, Robinson wanted to let readers know that to express ourselves in the form of art is to allow our souls to grow, however poor or good, by encouraging us to write our own columns. In that regard, blogging is a great platform to express one’s artistic self without fear of rejection or ridicule, freed from the devil’s advocates of literary purists intent upon finding grammar faults in anyone’s writings. To that end, Robinson is a scintillating writer with an eye for truth and a heart for passion – like the sun in the twilight, remitting the splendor while retaining magnitude, dazzling the eyes of the beholders with the hearts’ contents. As a result, Robinson has become one of my darling writers.
The devil came upon a poor miller
In exchange for wealth with luster
And wanted his daughter’s hands
Though it pained her in blood and tears.
Now the girl without hands wandered off
Day and night with her tears washing off
The pain she suffered from the promise
Her father made with the devil for riches.
The girl without hands came upon a garden
Where Tree of Fruits of Grace seemed to beckon
with the susurrus of leaves coaxing her
And she saw a besotted king approaching her.
The girl without hands became a queen
But the devil returned with a scheme
To kill her and her son for their pure souls
As bounty for his region against angels.
The girl without hands fled with her son
Deep into a forest where seven years began
Until the king found them in Angel’s Hut
And the girl with no hands was no more.