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Nunzilla Was My Mother and My Stepmother Was a Witch Paperback – June 1, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 179 pages
  • Publisher: Vantage Press (June 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0533160677
  • ISBN-13: 978-0533160679
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 4.9 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,508,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Terry Gelormino Silver was born in Bellaire, Ohio and spent her early childhood in St. Ann's Infant Asylum and in St. Vincent's Orphanage, both in Columbus. She went on to earn her high school diploma from the Ohio Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphans home in Xenia, Ohio before relocating to New York City. Having worked for the Air Force Institute of Technology for many years, Ms. Silver is now retired and living in Georgia.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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I laughed and I cried reading it.
Katherine R. Nash
Even though some of the memories were sad, the book was tempered throughout with original poems, songs and happier recollections of her childhood.
CC
I also experienced many of the humiliating, derogatory treatments as well.
A. Samuel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By J. Chambers HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on October 29, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Terry Silver's memoir of her childhood years is one of the best written memoirs that I've read in quite some time. Being placed in an Ohio orphanage in 1929 with her four young siblings after their mother was committed to a mental hospital and with her ailing father unable to support them, she spent virtually her entire youth in orphanages. She was initially placed in St. Ann's Infant Asylum in Columbus, Ohio, which was operated by an order of Catholic nuns who inexplicably changed her name from her given "Concetta" to "Terfina." I can only imagine how frightening this must have been for a four-year-old who only spoke Italian, her parents' native language. After two years at St. Ann's, she was transferred across the street to St. Vincent's Orphanage, which was also run by nuns. In 1940, at her father's request, the teenaged Terfina was transferred to the Ohio Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphans' Home (OS&SO) in Xenia, Ohio, where she lived until graduating from high school.

Reading about life in St. Vincent's was eerily reminiscent of reading "Oliver Twist," with orphanage life being remarkably similar in some ways to life in the children's workhouses of 19th century England. Reading about the harsh treatment by some of the nuns, the wretched food, and the spartan living conditions made me extra grateful for growing up with two loving parents. And I understand why Ms. Silver refers to the nuns as "Nunzilla" in the title of her book.

Life at the OS&SO, a secular institution run by the State of Ohio, was much different and much better than at St. Vincent's. Children were much freer there, and living conditions and food were much improved compared to St. Vincent's. But even there, as the author hated some particularly cruel nuns at St.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Annis Ward Jackson on September 24, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
Terry Gelormino has written an account of her life that should be required reading for all social workers involved with children. Outside of the fascinating story, the facts support the idea that orphanages, with all their faults, were more likely to guide children to a normal and productive adult life than today's foster home system.

That said, the author tells a story so intriguing in its truth that I found it difficult to put it down. As soon as I finished it, I read it again.

If anyone doubts the story just as the author wrote it, please reconsider. My husband, his older sister and younger brother grew up in a different orphanage in a different part of the country around the same time. Many of their experiences were much the same as Terry's, including emotional trauma, isolation from the mainstream community, and encounters with orphanage employees who should never have been hired to work around children.

However, they also attained a foundation of self-discipline, tolerance, and perserverance that has served them well in adulthood.

Excellent writing, well-edited and formatted. Highly recommend!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Karl G. Larew on August 23, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This little book is the fascinating, true story of life in several orphanages during the Depression and WWII eras. The author, Terry Silver, spent her young childhood in two Catholic institutions in Ohio, then moved to the Ohio Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphans Home, where she graduated from high school in 1945.
After all these decades, Silver remains hostile to (most of) the nuns who ran the two Catholic orphanages, albeit her bitterness has become muted somewhat upon reflection. She remembers a few happy times, and a few worthy nuns, but most of them she still regards as religious fanatics and neurotic, sadistic tyrants. Hence the term "nunzilla." Deprived of love, hungry all the time, nevertheless she, and many of her fellow orphans, struggled on and survived in their irrepressible youth.
Their Catholic-related experiences were often self-contradictory. The nuns were full of hatred and fear concerning the human body, and anything pleasurable, yet they sat through Hollywood movies with the children, romantic episodes, luxurious life-styles and all, and did no more than avert their eyes during, e.g., kissing scenes. The children were terrified of incurring God's wrath, yet they enjoyed, e.g., reading comic books while supposedly at their devotions.
I think most children are like that, but Catholic kids in this poverty-haunted orphanage some 80 years ago were all the more so.
The Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphanage was a far pleasanter experience, though Terry initially feared contact with Protestants and secular temptations, against which the nuns had warned her. There was also one dreadful housemother--the "witch" in the book's title. Yet again, Terry won through, an academic success, though scarred by the ham-handed attentions of the Home's psychologist.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Katherine R. Nash on June 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
I highly recommend this book. I laughed and I cried reading it. The second time I read through it, I noticed wonderful things I hadn't noticed the first time. It is illuminating and an important true story everyone should read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth A. Copley on June 3, 2009
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed reading about another way to live. It was very interesting. Ms Silver made the best with what she had. She is an excellent writer. If she writes another I will be glad to read it. Doris Reed told me about this book, she loved it too.
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