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Sad Reflections of Lonely Little Girl and Woman
on January 24, 2001
There is a lot of disagreement about the authenticity of this material. Because of that, I have rated the book as three stars . . . to reflect not giving it a rating. I simply cannot tell if the book is authentic or not. If it is authentic, it reflects either someone living in a nightmare world or has been too heavily rewritten. Perhaps we will never know for sure.
Whether you read the book as Ms. Monroe's own words about the truth of her life, or as a fictionalized account of her life by her or someone else, you will be seared by the loneliness and desolation depicted. About being seven the book says, "I thought the people I lived with were my parents." "My mother . . . was the pretty woman [who sometimes visited] who never smiled."
The new introduction by Andrea Dworkin is marvelous for summarizing the book. "This memoir, the authorship of which is in some dispute, tells the childhod story of the world's loneliest orphan." She nicely captures the most emotionally wrenching moments in the book. Ms. Dworkin goes on to say, "I miss Marilyn. I wish I had known her."
From the point of view of the story, the book can be divided into three parts. First is the young Norma Jean growing up in foster homes. Second is the young adult trying to get work in motion pictures. Third is the beginning of a star's career. The book abruptly ends while Ms. Monroe is recounting her entertaining of U.S. troops in Korea during her honeymoon with Joe DiMaggio.
Ms. Monroe never knew her father except by a photograph her mother showed her. Ms. Monroe's mother could not afford to raise her, and eventually was committed to a mental institution -- a problem that many people in her family had experienced. Ms. Monroe was raised like an orphan even though a family friend adopted her. Her poverty dogged her well into her twenties. "I often felt lonely and wanted to die." Many such statements occur in the book, heavily foreshadowing Ms. Monroe early death.
Initially, her foster home status and pitiful clothes during the Depression set Ms. Monroe apart. No one wanted to associate with her. She tells the story of how one day she borrowed a too small sweater from a "step sister" and created a commotion with the boys in class due to her developing figure. From then on, she was apart because of the powerful physical attraction her appearance created for many men and the threat she represented to many women.
She tells stories of being molested and of receiving many unwanted and inappropriate advances while young. Her escape from all this was a marriage as a young teenager. The marriage did not work, but it got her out of the foster homes. At that point, she no longer considered herself as being Norma Jean, even though she would later revert to that personna at times when she craved attention.
Being an aspiring starlet mainly meant being hungry and fighting off the casting couch. There are several stories here about opportunities she had to marry wealthy men she did not love, that seem like day dreams rather than reality. Who knows? Undoubtedly, she received unwanted attention even more now. The book contains many black-and-white and color photographs that display an unusually attractive young woman. "Sundays were the loneliest." "I went to sleep hungry and woke up hungry."
Because she was beautiful, she was in demand as a date for publicity-hungry stars. She mostly avoided this scene, but would participate when she was really hungry (for the buffets). This section also tells about how her car was repossessed and she posed nude to get $50 to retrieve it.
Here is a flavor of the writing that makes people suspicious of the authorship. "I was the kind of girl they found dead in a hall bedroom with an empty bottle of . . . pills . . . ." This was "the Hollywood of failures." "We were the prettiest tribe of panhandlers that ever overran a town." "And all around us were the wolves."
As a movie star, her early roles all involved being a sex object. During this time, she experienced her first real love, but he did not love her. She did discover she liked sex. She worked on her education and her acting, so she could more fully participate in her world.
Whether the book is authentic or not, undoubtedly Ms. Monroe's life was heavily affected by her lack of family connections, her poverty, and her appearance. What would your life have been like if this had happened to you? How could she have taken a different path, and had a happier life? These last two questions will haunt you . . . no matter what this book represents.
Look beyond the surface appearance of beauty or ugliness to find the beating heart of truth beneath!