A searing, authentic journey into and out of a broken family situation.

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GOODBYE, SARAJANE

A FOSTER CHILD WRITES LETTERS TO HER MOTHER

A girl chronicles her harrowing journey through the American foster and adoption system. 

Novelist Griffin (Love and Victory, 2015) expresses an enduring love for her birth mother, Katherine, who was forced to give up her children in 2000, when the author was just 10. In a series of letters with commentary, Griffin attempts to catch her mother up on her formative years, when she was shuffled from one unhappy foster-family experience to another. An illuminating chapter familiarizes readers with Katherine herself—a woman who was brought up in a religious family and who ultimately succumbed to drug addiction when Griffin was a child. This biographical section is pivotal and informative, forming a foundation for the later story. The author’s tone is notably gracious and heartfelt and never accusatory, embittered, or resentful. Instead, Griffin writes earnestly in delicately detailed, chronological episodes. While living with her first foster family, she was mistreated, she says, and found herself in a constant state of “uncertainty, anger, and depression.” Child Protective Services removed Griffin and her siblings from that home and placed them in different, crowded houses, filled with other, unsupervised kids who abused them. When Griffin and her family members were all finally adopted by a family from upstate New York, their heartbreaking cross-country journey from Nevada presaged great homesickness and jarring changes for which they weren’t mentally or physically prepared. The new family’s son punched Griffin in the face immediately upon meeting her, and the adoptive mother despised the author’s temperamental attitude. Years of violent aggression between the adoptive family and Griffin’s siblings followed, the author says. The strict, churchgoing adoptive mother decided to change all of the siblings’ names; Griffin’s became “SaraJane.” She also forced all of the children to be baptized. The author writes of various fear tactics and mind games that Griffin and her brothers and sisters had to deal with while living in their new home. By the time the author became a teenager, her animosity for her adoptive mother had risen to violent levels, and investigations of the household by social workers became frequent. Stuck with the family until she would be emancipated at 18, the author struggled to overcome the fear and shame that her adoption experience had instilled in her. Griffin has a distinct talent for expressive prose and exacting detail. However, this can make for difficult reading, particularly during the foster-care years, when her experiences were so challenging and melancholy. She concludes her memoir with a series of dramatic foster-care–related statistics and one final missive to her birth mother about her advocacy for foster children and their parents through a new venture called Katherine’s Place. Although there isn’t much uplifting material in this remembrance of childhood trauma, there is a sense of forgiveness and inner peace, particularly in a late account of the author’s reconnection with her biological father, Stanford. This feeling of empathy and resolution ends the book on a particularly poignant note.  

A searing, authentic journey into and out of a broken family situation.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9992325-0-7

Page Count: 452

Publisher: Key Purpose Books LLC

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2020

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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