Kirkus Reviews QR Code


A Memoir

by Tracy Ross

Pub Date: March 8th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4391-7297-1
Publisher: Free Press

In her debut memoir, Ross examines the complications involved with being the victim of childhood sexual abuse.

The first corruption occurred on a camping trip, when the author awoke to “sandpaper…crawling on my skin. At least that's what I thought it was, until I felt hot breath against my cheek.” The “hot breath” belonged to her stepfather, a man who lingered near his stepdaughter's bed for years, making her feel “scared and sick.” When Ross reported the transgression to her mother, she denied the claim, preferring to believe that her husband was simply tucking her daughter in. The author’s mother continually served as an accomplice to her husband's crime, rejecting the truth by shrouding herself in “omission and self-imposed blindness.” As Ross grew older and the abuse continued, she began blaming herself, believing it to be a punishment for wearing her nightgown too often or for arousing her stepfather by doing workout videos in the living room. After the author's unsuccessful suicide attempt, her stepfather's crimes came to light, trapping Ross in a downward spiral of foster homes and meetings with welfare services until she enrolled in an art school states away. Ross's seesawing of emotions left her in a constant state of flux, but this uncertainty of emotion is one of the narrative’s primary strengths. Ross continually explores the boundaries of father-daughter intimacy, never demonizing her stepfather, but instead, humanizing him—a far more difficult task. The climactic scene, in which her stepfather fully admits his guilt, is written in screenplay form, allowing both participants to fully express themselves without interruption, though the outcome is a bit melodramatic—a rare misstep in this otherwise tightly wound book.

A fully competent firsthand account of the author's struggles with the aftereffects of molestation.