A prizewinning poet's account of her convict father and the impact he had on his family.
Brodak (A Little Middle of the Night, 2009) was 7 the first time she stole from a store. Six years later, her father, Joseph, who was conceived in a German concentration camp, was arrested for robbing 11 banks in Michigan. Here, the author examines the tortured relationship she and her family had with her father. A gambling addict, Joseph lived life with greedy amorality. He was already married with children when he met Brodak's mother, but that did not stop him from starting a second family with her. Their relationship was a rocky one; they married and divorced twice. The second and final time they ended their union, Joseph took Brodak’s younger sister with him. While he treated her like a princess and spoiled her with fancy clothes and a Corvette, he sometimes sent the angry and confused teen back to Brodak and her mother “as punishment, or maybe to loose himself from her care during gambling binges.” During what would be the first of her father’s two jail sentences for bank robbery, the author became an expert shoplifter not because it was “good or cool” but because it was simply a way for her to make money. Later, she realized that it was really a way for her to work through the “pattern of theft that destroyed my family.” Brodak’s story is undeniably compelling, but what makes the book even more fascinating is her in-depth reflection on the gambling habit that drove her father into a life of crime. “Maybe gambling is a kind of wound-replay wound-fascination,” she writes, “because it’s so obviously unwise that it seems like self-harm.” An individual may feel empowered because of the choice involved; but for Brodak, gambling is really a form of self-harm that distracts from the hard business of living and maintaining healthy relationships.
An intelligent, disturbing, and profoundly honest memoir.