A painful but wonderfully written memoir that should create greater awareness of a bizarre disorder; that so many medical...

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THE MEMOIR OF A MUNCHAUSEN BY PROXY CHILDHOOD

Horrific first-person account of child abuse by a survivor with keen self-awareness, a sharp eye for detail, and an original, poetic voice.

In Munchausen by Proxy (MBP), a caretaker, usually the mother, falsifies or induces physical and/or mental illness in a dependent person, usually a child, to gain sympathy from others and control over the dependent. Gregory’s mother did this to her for many years, dragging her to doctor after doctor, coaching her to act sick, punishing her harshly if she didn’t do it convincingly enough, demanding endless treatments, tests, and invasive procedures, including surgery. At first the illnesses were relatively minor—nausea, headaches, allergies—but as her mother’s collection of home medical books provided information about more symptoms and tests, they escalated. When heart catheterization failed to reveal the abnormalities the mother insisted were there, she demanded that open-heart surgery be performed on her daughter. It was not, but nose surgery later was. At home, Gregory suffered other forms of child abuse, including beatings and semi-starvation. That she survived this miserable childhood seems remarkable, for as Marc Feldman (Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology/Univ. of Alabama) notes in his foreword, many victims of MBP do not. Amazingly, Gregory never stopped loving her manipulative mother and ineffectual but sometimes brutal father. When she learned about MBP in a college psychology course and grasped what had happened to her, she began gathering her childhood medical records, some of which she has inserted into relevant passages here. Her attempts as an adult to reconnect with her parents were at best bitterly disappointing and deeply disturbing in the case of her mother, who had begun MBP behaviors with an 11-year-old girl in her care.

A painful but wonderfully written memoir that should create greater awareness of a bizarre disorder; that so many medical professionals and social workers were oblivious to what was really going on in the Gregory household attests to the need. (8 pp. b&w photos)

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2003

ISBN: 0-553-80307-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2003

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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