HOW I GOT CULTURED by Phyllis Barber

HOW I GOT CULTURED

A Nevada Memoir
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Barber (The School of Love, 1990) tells of her childhood and early adolescence in Nevada, and of her yearnings for some indefinable circumstance that would allow her to transcend tawdry Las Vegas and the strict dictates of her Mormon religion. The author writes of a family car-trip into the desert to witness an atomic-bomb test; of pilgrimages to the man-made marvel of the Hoover Dam; and of a visit by Hawaiians who performed a wild, semiclad show at the local high school and who stayed at Barber's house, marking her first contact with the wonders of the world outside Nevada. The discovery of her own musical talents seemed to Barber to open up a path to greater things: She studied piano, was praised by family and friends, and got a job playing for a ballet studio. But she avoided lessons with a new teacher who threatened to demand more of her than the flashy popular favorites that impressed everyone else. High school brought the chance to try out for the Rhythmettes, a kick-line/cheerleading squad; channeling all of her ambition and longing into this quest, Barber succeeded in making the team. Among the Rhythmettes' duties was greeting visiting celebrities at the airport--and Barber took it personally when Leonard Bernstein ignored her. Then sex reared its head, causing painful conflict with the principles of purity upheld by her religion. Barber is at her best when she is most concrete, contrasting the garish Sodom of Las Vegas with the simple-living, high-minded ways of her Mormon family and with the forbidding beauty of the desert. When she tries to home-in on peak moments of emotion and epiphany, though, her writing tends to go purple and hazy. Overall, an engaging coming-of-age memoir by a writer of charm and spunk. (Eight illustrations--not seen.)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-8203-1413-7
Page count: 216pp
Publisher: Univ. of Georgia
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1992




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