GAL by Ruthie Bolton


A True Life
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 A young African-American woman born and raised in Charleston, SC, movingly relates in unsparing detail her struggle to overcome a legacy of abuse and neglect. Choosing to write under a pseudonym to protect her family, the author showed her manuscript to another Charlestonian, novelist Josephine Humphreys (The Fireman's Fair, 1991), who describes in the foreword how she suggested that the story would be better told in the old Southern way--orally. And this they did, with Humphreys taping and transcribing each session. Born in 1961, when her mother was only 13, Ruthie was raised by her grandmother and Clovis Fleetwood, the man she called Grand-Daddy, in the Hungry Neck section of Charleston. Though shabby and rundown, it was a place of special pride to local African-Americans, who have owned land there for more than a century. Fleetwood, who gave Ruthie the nickname ``Gal,'' enjoyed an honorable naval career, winning numerous awards and achieving the rank of chief petty officer, but off duty he was a sadistic monster. He beat Ruthie's grandmother to death in front of her, punished minor infractions with savage beatings or humiliating punishments, and though he spent money freely on drink and other women, he refused to provide the girl and her sisters and young aunts with proper clothing or adequate food. Ruthie developed a stutter, began to steal, and as she grew older smoked dope and drank. ``I was evil as a child,'' she confesses, ``but I was evil because I was being treated evil.'' Her despair-fed anger and self- destructive behavior finally ended when she met Ray Bolton and his affectionate kin, who showed her that some families, unlike her own, could truly give love. An inspiring journey of a contemporary pilgrim who, beset by all the worst demons, learned to love and forgive. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-15-100104-9
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1994