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A compellingly honest coming-of-age memoir.

A prizewinning nonfiction writer’s account of a troubled adolescence spent immersed in alcohol, drugs, and crime.

Massachusetts native Stanton (English/Univ. of Massachusetts, Lowell; Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: Seeking History and Hidden Gems in Flea-Market America, 2011, etc.) grew up in the shadow of the Walpole State Prison between the “hopeful early days of the 1960s” and the more turbulent ones of the decade that followed. Her own early life was filled with such happy, middle-class childhood staples as tennis lessons, babysitting, and slumber parties. But as she reached adolescence, the quality of her life eroded. Her parents separated and suddenly became part of the emergent “divorce boom.” Caught in an economic slump that characterized the early and middle part of the decade, her newly impoverished head-of-household mother shoplifted for clothes while a rebellious Stanton started on a path of substance abuse. She writes that just as “Nixon declared ‘an all-out, global war on the drug menace’ and formed a superagency, the DEA,” she had become an eighth grader who “smoked dope regularly and drank nearly every weekend.” By high school, Stanton had graduated to getting “dusted” on PCP, the large-animal tranquilizer that became the go-to drug for Walpole youths unable to obtain marijuana. Wanting to leave her outwardly good-student, cheerleader image behind, the author also engaged in petty theft and eventually became involved with a boy who was on probation for breaking and entering. For all her dangerous experiments, which included driving under the influence or being driven by “people so fucked up they could barely stay in the lane,” the author survived through a combination of luck and her own efforts to seek help. Powerful and probing, Stanton’s book offers a sharp portrait of a wayward girl “leaping backward” into disaster. Along the way, she reveals the way individuals are as much a product of time and place as they are of the families to which they belong.

A compellingly honest coming-of-age memoir.

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-90023-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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

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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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