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Girls of Tender Age: A Memoir Paperback – January 9, 2007
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More About the Author
I cannot resist beginning by saying there is a new ebook edition of MASTERS OF ILLUSION: A Novel of the Great Circus Fire, long out-of-print.
I was born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut and have lived in Connecticut all my life except for the two years I served as a Peace Corps volunteer on Mt. Cameroon, an active volcano rising nearly 13,400 feet above the equatorial sea. I have a most lovely family including my first dog, a Labradoodle named Salty.
My grandparents on my father's side immigrated from the north of Italy, and on my mother's, Quebec. My fondest childhood memories are of sweltering summers blue-crabbing with my French-speaking grandfather from 5 A.M. until 5 p.m., my grandfather wearing a worn three-piece suit and cap, and me, my underpants. When I told my Italian grandfather that I would be going to Cameroon as a Peace Corps volunteer he told me there were very good grapes in Africa.
My brother was autistic, a savant, who would not allow singing, laughing, sneezing, electronic sound (including television, radio and anything that produced music), and the flushing of the toilet except when he was asleep and he never seemed to be asleep. He had a library of over two thousand books all on WWII. As his adjutant, I attained a vast pool of knowledge on such things as identifying fighter bombers from their silhouettes and why we dropped the atomic bomb: "To win the war," Tyler told me. Then: "It didn't work so we dropped another one. Victory at last." Once he tried to kill my cat by dropping his latest acquisition, Jane's All the World Aircraft on its head. I rescued the cat in the nick of time as Tyler shouted, "Prepare to drop depth charges, men!" As an autistic person, his senses were fine-tuned to a state none of the rest of us could possibly understand: bright colors (especially red), odors (especially perfume) and noise (particularly a cat meowing), sent him into paroxysms of agony.
The relationship with my brother was one of three influences on my writing; the second, my father's bedtime stories consisting of poetry and prose. Right after the "Our Father" and "Hail Mary," he would recite: "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings. Look upon my works ye mighty and despair!" The third influence was the shelf of classic children's literature my mother kept stocked with such gems as The Swiss Family Robinson, Bambi, Tom the Water-Boy, Silver Pennies, King Arthur and the Round Table, The Child's Odyssey. Somehow, The Bedside Esquire (1936) found its way to the shelf and before I was eight years old, I'd read the extraordinary short fiction within including Hemingway's "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," Paul Gallico's "Keeping Cool in Conneaut," Salinger's "For Esmé with Love and Squalor," Ben Hecht's "Snowfall in Childhood," and my favorite, "Latins Make Lousy Lovers," by Anonymous. In the collection was an excerpt from the novel, Christ in Concrete by Pietro Di Donato which so bowled me over that I decided then and there that I would be a writer, too, just like all the writers who wrote fiction for Esquire Magazine in 1936.
Instead of studying at college, I read and wrote. I graduated with a 2.01 grade point average not knowing I'd fulfilled my academic requirements until graduation week when my dean called and asked why I hadn't picked up my cap and gown. When I told him my grade point had fallen under 2.0 he told me it was a good thing I hadn't majored in math or it certainly would have. Together we recalculated and I finally believed him when he told me it wasn't 1.89 as I'd thought. To this day, I can't remember my multiplication tables six through twelve, and even though my fourth grade teacher wrote in my report card, Mary-Ann will not be able to function in life if she does not learn her six through twelve tables, I have. Also, I have come to learn that there is a dysfunction called something like dyscalcula, the math equivalent of dyslexia, which I obviously have since if you say to me, "What's 6 times 7?" my palms will start to sweat, my knees get wobbly and I start having a heart attack. This recent revelation of my learning disability has allowed me to stop fantasizing about studying math all over again starting with Algebra I, which I managed to pass with a D though I failed Algebra II, since I'm discalulic.
After Peace Corps service, I taught, worked as a librarian and got my first freelance writing job with Reader's Digest. The Digest editor assigned me sports and games for How to Do Just about Anything, a book which sold 50 million copies world-wide. Reader's Digest made a vast fortune on that book alone, while me and the other writers earned $25 to $75 dollars per article. I learned economy of language writing such pieces as "How to Play Tennis" in fifty words. My first writing collaboration with my son began with this book: I described how to play "Hangman" and the Digest used his piece of paper with a name I couldn't get--yacht-- and so I was hung. This made me feel guilty since the games I played his older sister didn't make the Digest cut, so unfair since she taught her brother how to read when he was three.
I have published nine novels: THE BOOK OF PHOEBE, LAMENT FOR A SILVER-EYED WOMAN, THE PORT OF MISSING MEN, MASTERS OF ILLUSION*, AN AMERICAN KILLING, the Poppy Rice Mysteries--LOVE HER MADLY*, SHE'S NOT THERE*, and SHE SMILED SWEETLY--and THE HONOURED GUEST*. My memoir, GIRLS OF TENDER AGE*, is a favorite of book clubs. (The paperback edition has a great book club guide.) In addition, I collaborated on a novel with my son, Jere Smith, DIRTY WATER: A Red Sox Mystery, which centers on the 2007 World Champions, the team that showed Sox fans that it could happen again.
*available in e-book editions.
In 2010, I was awarded the Diana Bennett Fellowship at the Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. When I wasn't at MGM Grand being disappeared by David Copperfield, I spent that academic year writing the first draft of The Honoured Guest, a story of the commencement of the American Civil War.
My books have been reprinted in seven foreign languages.
I have also had short fiction and essays included in several collections.
I have taught fiction writing at Fairfield University and has participated in writing seminars throughout the country. In March 2001, I was guest teacher-writer at the University of Ireland and on the Aran Islands; and writer-in-residence at Suomi College in Michigan.
I teach memoir writing at the Mark Twain House in Hartford.
And finally, I am now working on a new memoir: My Décolletage Has a Scar.
So Happy Reading. And remember: "It's not what you read, or how you read, but that you read."--me
Top Customer Reviews
Ms. Tirone Smith's older brother is autistic but nobody talks about that other than to say he's "retarded". She descibes in loving detail his eccentricities - his obsession with World War II and polka music, his aversion to loud noises. Without seeking pity, she describes how this disorder has a profound effect on the functioning of the family. (This book should be required reading for family therapist's. It does a great job of describing how a "dysfunctional" family organizes around a problem. However, it also shows how functional a "dysfunctional" family can be. Illustrating this point, there is an aside very late in the book in which she attends a support group for siblings of adult autistics. It's hillarious.)
The core element of the story is the rape and murder of a classmate, Irene. Ms. Tirone Smith recounts both the events of the murder but also looks at how her family and the town reacted to it. Later in life, she also realizes that she has repressed much of what has happened. She embarks on a journey to reconstruct the case, trial and execution.
All of this is set against the backdrop of a Catholic/ethnic Hartford neighborhood in the 1950's. The story is told in loving detail and can be appreciated on so many levels. (Also, don't skip the "Notes" at the end, they include a recipe for Pinapple Cream Pie.) THIS IS AN OUTSTANDING BOOK!!!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is one of the best books I have ever read . the authors personality is a lot life my wife's It laugh a lot reading this book even though it was a murder mystery . Read morePublished 20 days ago by Ronald M Ward
A book written about the author's childhood, filled w a touch of dark subject matter , yet stylishly written,leaving you laughing at her wonderful wit.Published 2 months ago by LABRADOODLE LOVER
Well written. The weaving of innocence and evil extremely well done.Published 8 months ago by barbara stacks
This is a moving memoir about a girl growing up in the suburbs in Connecticut in the 1950’s. When one of her classmates is molested and killed in the neighborhood, the whole town... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Luis A. Hernandez
Just used for my book club. Nice discussion. Funny, and yet deadly serious.Published 15 months ago by Lyn Dahl
A second read of this book because I am familiar with the period and the area. Very well done and interesting.Published 16 months ago by Mary Ellen Collins
This was great! The author Mary-Ann Tirone Smith does a great job writing from her POV as a child then switches flawlessly to an adult. It was a really good book to read. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Dina Hill