The prequel to Gordon’s Mockingbird Years (2000), which told of her life in and out of therapy.
While that book included some of her childhood memories, this one deals exclusively with her preteen years growing up in Williamstown, Mass., home of Williams College, where her father was a professor of economics. Her father does not fare well in these pages, nor does her mother; her older sister is almost entirely absent, and her younger brother, Andy, is fondly remembered only in their very early years together. This is the author’s story, one of a child out of sync with the world around her. Her best times seem to have been traipsing freely about the Williams campus, exploring it and the surrounding countryside. She was, she insists, happy as a child, but the memories she conjures up seldom bear out this claim. The picture that emerges is of an introspective, physically unattractive child, often alone, failing in school, and for years the victim of other children’s teasing. She says that she cried a good deal as a child, but that her tears were “the manifestation of a particularly satisfying kind of lyrical sadness.” To comfort herself, she engaged in a kind of internal writing, not putting her words on paper, but mumbling aloud descriptions of herself and her own behavior and her observations about those around her. It is difficult to know what to make of Gordon’s memoir as a document of a childhood; adult sensibilities can’t help but inform the work. Her writing, however, is skillful, and her account is replete with lucid scenes, capturing moments of pleasure and pain, awkwardness and confusion, torment and temporary triumph.
A wistful coming-of-age tale.