Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal?
by Jeanette Winterson
Grove Press, 2011. 230 pgs. Biography
Suppose you were adopted by a Fundamentalist mother, a "religious" woman without a hint of compassion, who is so disappointed with you that she tells you the Devil led her to the wrong crib when she picked you out. This is Jeanette Winterson's story as told in her new memoir, a rich, exquisitely painful look at the childhood of a genius who ended up in a household that could hardly have been less fitting. Winterson's mother did not want her to read books, locked her in the dark in the coal hole for any infraction--real or imagined, locked her out of the house all night for any offense. And when Jeanette realized she was gay, her mother went up like a Roman candle. Winterson was saved by the kindness of friends, teachers and neighbors, by her own stubborn will and intelligence, and by libraries and reading. Working her way through the Classics of British Literature, from A to Z, she found voices that spoke to her and directed her to a life previously beyond her imagining. Winterson recognizes and documents the psychological problems she would have later in life because of her difficult upbringing, and, surprisingly, dedicates the book to her adoptive mother, showing forgiveness and compassion for a woman who simply did not know how to love her. Beautifully thoughtful and well written. (A few sex scenes.)