Debut memoirist Louise eloquently indicts a family and community that abused and neglected her.
Worst of all, the author states in her colloquial first-person narrative, they made her feel unwanted. Regina’s teenaged mother, Ruby, already had another daughter, born when she was 13, so the new baby was handed off to Big Mama, a foster mother in Austin, Texas, who provided the bare necessities for the children in her care. Beaten badly by Big Mama’s daughter, Regina ran away to the woman she believed to be her father’s mother, who was not only abusive but also unwilling to raise her; soon she was back with Big Mama. Louise describes a troubled childhood that included truancy and rape. Initially happy when she was moved from Big Mama to her biological mother, now living in North Carolina with two sons by another man, Regina soon learned that Ruby favored her sons, and she endured sexual and physical abuse from Ruby’s current boyfriend. She moved to California to be with her father, married to a white woman, but he was no better, and 12-year-old Regina landed in a county shelter. There, she met Claire Kennedy, an employee who treated her with kindness, appreciation, and growing affection. Regina wanted to stay in the shelter near Claire, but the authorities insisted she be placed in foster homes, oppressive and uncaring places from which she ran away. Another hurtful blow landed when her parents gave up custody and she became a ward of the state. Regina, whose experiences with black families had not been good, longed to live permanently with Claire, but the state objected to a white woman adopting her. The end of this volume, first in a planned pair, finds the traumatized girl still in limbo.
A searing visit to a Dickensian world of cruelty and indifference to children.