Girl from the tough side of Brooklyn leaves behind her domineering mother and invents a new, fake life for herself in Manhattan in this hard-bitten autobiography.
Growing up poor in sketchy neighborhoods, her skin too pale to hang with the black and Hispanic kids, her hair too kinky for the white kids, Sullivan had a rough childhood. Her mother was a violent, monstrously selfish drug addict and thief with a thing for men who abused not only her but her daughter. The author tried to self-medicate her way past the damage. She had her first blackout from alcohol at age 17, from cocaine at 24. Escaping to Fordham University on a scholarship, she determinedly made friends with the blondest, preppiest girls she could find, doing everything possible to block out the past. But she still indulged in risky behavior, including constant drug use that got her fired from just the kind of secure white-collar job that would have helped put the old neighborhood behind her. She led a schizophrenic existence, her memories constantly besieged by her mother’s manipulative, brazen insistence that the pain and neglect she remembered never happened. “I fumble for pieces of artifact that are not tainted by her voice,” Sullivan writes. “For things that are real.” Her narrative hops around, but this isn’t a fault—the lurching chronology accurately replicates the synapse misfires of a beleaguered brain.
Sullivan’s bracing, pared-to-the-bone prose evokes compassion by being impressively free of the narcissistic self-worship that so often infects books of this stripe.