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Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood Paperback – September 22, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Melissa Hart grew up in Southern California. She earned her BA in literature from UC Santa Barbara's College of Creative Studies, and her MFA in creative writing from Goddard College. She taught at Ventura College and Santa Barbara City College before moving to Oregon. She currently teaches Magazine Writing at the University of Oregon, and teaches Introduction to Memoir for UC Berkeley's online extension program. The latter course is available to the general public.

Hart has led workshops for Oregon Writers' Colony, the Willamette Writers, North Coast Redwood Writers, and Oregon's chapter of The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She teaches distance-learning Humanities courses for Laurel Springs School, and writes resource books for Teacher Created Resources.

Melissa Hart lives in Eugene, Oregon, with her husband, photographer Jonathan B. Smith, and their three dogs, five cats, and four rabbits. She enjoys international and local travel, gardening, running and hiking, and working with owls at the Cascades Raptor Center.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Seal Press (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580052940
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580052948
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,286,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Melissa Hart grew up in Southern California and earned her B.A. in Literature from the College of Creative Studies at U.C. Santa Barbara. She earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Goddard College in Vermont.

She teaches Feature Writing at the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon. Her essays and articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The Advocate, Hemispheres, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Mothering, Brain Child, Orion, High Country News, and numerous other publications. She's a columnist at The Writer Magazine.

Hart lives with her husband, their daughter, and three rescued cats.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood

Coming of age is probably the most difficult, angst ridden time of our little lives (not to mention how fashion ridiculous we were) but for Melissa Hart, her girlhood went from ideal, to all of the above, including her parents divorce thrown into the mix but a divorce made all the more difficult by her mother leaving her father for another woman. In the 1970's, where a gay parent was even more taboo, Melissa and her siblings could only see their mother on weekends, courtesy of her father who thundered, "You can't be parented by two women. It's unnatural."

To make things even more interesting, the physical topography go from Manhattan Beach with her overbearing father, to Oxnard, California where her bohemian mother has establishes herself in a Latino neighborhood. Miss Hart's world of perfection and propriety with her loving but subservient step mother and tyrant of a father, chafes at every turn, for with her mother, she is encouraged to be herself and she learns to embrace the easy and genial Latino community. In turn this sparks her need to belong to a "culture" and the results are funny, heartrending and will strike an all too familiar chord in all of us.

No matter what era we came of age, no matter the circumstances, we all want to be accepted and belong, somewhere, somehow. With Miss Hart, the usual phases were complicated by not knowing which world she belonged. Moreover, if we doubted our sexuality, Melissa's doubt were exacerbated by wondering if she should be like her mom. Again the results of exploring those avenues are poignant, sometimes hilarious and always leaving her wondering if she will ever belong.

The best part of this book is traveling with Miss Hart and the cast of characters that populate her world.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Squeak Matteson on October 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
I loved it! In a nutshell, Gringa is the vivid retelling of a girlhood/young womanhood spent searching for a sense of place -- both internal and external. Lush, gorgeous images and tart, enjoyable dialogue keep us hooked until the end. This book is an intense, fast-paced and full-circle tale of a girl coming to terms with self-identity in the midst of complicated family dynamics. Every reader will enjoy Gringa, but women (mothers, daughters, young women struggling to solidify a sense of self) will feel an intense solidarity with the author and her shockingly honest depiction of the small daily traumas involved in growing up in the velvet vise of conflicting female role models and societal expectations. This is how memoir is supposed to be done! Hart keeps us hooked until the very end, and shows us through sometimes cringe-worthy scenes and careful shadow and light exactly what we need to reach the understandings that she does throughout her journey. I very much look forward to future books from this exciting author.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Story Circle Book Reviews on November 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
In Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood, Melissa Hart finds her 1970s life in a Los Angeles suburb disrupted when her mother takes her three children and leaves the family's gated community to live in Oxnard, 60 miles away, with her Hispanic lesbian lover. For Melissa, her new life in the poor Latino neighborhood where they settle seems joyous and free. But it is interrupted again when her father appears with a court order for Melissa's custody saying, "You can't grow up parented by two women. It's unnatural."

And so the contradictions and conflicts begin. Melissa's longing to live with her counter-culture mother, rather than with her "normal" father and her stepmother, is maintained as a long thread throughout this memoir of a young girl's rebellion. She is conscious enough to appreciate her stepmother's efforts to be a good mother, but also knows that her father cannot understand her. She portrays her mother as a delightful, independent woman, but one who sometimes wonders how she produced her driven daughter. It takes fine writing and courage to give oneself the contrary, often unsympathetic, image seen in these pages--a young woman struggling to find her own path within very different and contradictory cultural and family expectations.

The secondary theme of Gringa is Melissa's deep desire to join the warm, Chicano community to which her mother seems to belong--a desire that is frustrated by her own middle-class Anglo background. She can't speak fluent Spanish and she has trouble making Hispanic friends. Her first serious boyfriend drinks, does drugs, and is uneducated. His Mexican family disapproves of her because she will not stay in the kitchen with the other women.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Maxwell on October 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
Gringa is a memoir rich with sensory detail that takes the reader into the author's very private life from the time she was young until she finished college and set out on her own. Her love of the Mexican/Spanish culture and desire to be part of it drives the story line. With each chapter she includes `dressed up' recipes for Mexican dishes. Anyone interested in the struggle of children shuffled between divorced parents, children of gay/lesbian partners, Mexican/Spanish culture, and/or the difficulty of choosing and following a path in life will find the book a worthwhile and interesting read.
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