A debut author recounts her harrowing journey through addiction, poverty, and depression.
As a little girl, Fantroy-Johnson would daydream about growing up to be a teacher, living in a modest house, and having two kids—worthy goals inspired by her hardworking mother. Unfortunately, after her mother died when she was just 12 years old, the author was set on a path that would lead her to the dramatic moment she chooses for her memoir’s opening: the day she decided to wash down 30 muscle relaxers with rosé. She woke from a coma two weeks later, bitter that she was still alive. After explaining this lowest point, Fantroy-Johnson goes back to her childhood as an African-American girl in Detroit, remembering John F. Kennedy’s assassination and its aftermath. “My eyes got a bit clearer about our situation and position in life. I saw my neighborhood in a different way,” she writes about the tensions that eventually led to riots. In her personal life, turmoil reigned as well. After passing from one neglectful caretaker to the next, Fantroy-Johnson ended up with her own daughter, Tamiko, and an abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend named Thomas; this situation would eventually drive her to attempt suicide. It wasn’t until Tamiko was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia that Fantroy-Johnson would start to piece her life together, attending school, seeking better employment, and starting the process of recovery from her continued dependence on alcohol and drugs. The author’s constant, devastating honesty in describing this process keeps her memoir engrossing. “Each time that I set out to quit, I ended up drunk,” she writes of one of the many relapses that make her ordeal feel genuine and urgent. With simple, brutal sentences, Fantroy-Johnson concisely relays her feelings about each tragic event. Concerning her rape as a teenager, she writes: “I can still remember like it was yesterday the rape and losing my virginity, and I have been deeply scarred.” Her eventual triumphs, including climbing Mount Everest, receive much less attention, which makes for a heavy read. But her focus on her struggles remains highly compelling nonetheless.
A painful but deeply moving account about enduring the worst of times.