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Strange Tribe: A Family Memoir Hardcover – May 1, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
That is just part of the troubled legacy that John Hemingway, grandson of Ernest Hemingway, dealt with growing up. Throughout his childhood, John Hemingway was shuffled between his mother and father, his step-mother and various relatives. Despite the fact that many would assume the grandson of Ernest Hemingway would live a privileged life, he most definitely didn't.
But this book isn't necessarily about John and his dealings with his famous family's problems. Rather the early focus of the book is on the relationship of Ernest and his son, Gregory, John's father.
We learn that Ernest, who wanted a daughter, was angry when Gregory was born, because he wasn't a girl. We also learn that Gregory eventually became a cross dresser, and once was caught trying on his step-mother's nylons by Ernest. Whether Ernest's desire for a daughter influenced this or not, no one can be certain. What is certain is that Greg would become Ernest's most troubled child.
John initially examines the fact that both his father and grandfather had a fascination with androgeny, although Ernest hid his better. While his novel, "The Garden of Eden" focuses on the issue, it was published postumously and you have to wonder if Ernest intended it that way.
It's fairly fascinating stuff, but even more fascinating is the recounting of the relationship Ernest and Gregory had which would eventually color John's relationship with his father.Read more ›
Hemingway's tale is told mostly in illustrative vignettes, not an in-depth or intricate narrative searching for the roots of the gender abnormalities of the characters. The style is honest, genuine, and engaging. Hemingway does not strive for the luridness, sensationalism, confessional slant of so many contemporary memoirs. Undoubtedly, the memoir was purgative in some respects for him. But he wrote it as much to present his unique contribution on the Hemingway legend and its reverberations in succeeding generations of his family.
The title is taken from Ernest's comment when he discovers Greg as a young boy trying on a pair of nylons. The legendarily macho Ernest is not shocked nor punitive. He merely comments that they are part of a strange tribe suggesting that he recognizes inherited family problems surfacing in his young son.
The author, Greg's son, John, notes some gender bending episodes of his macho grandfather, but is more persuasive in documenting Ernest's bouts of depression and his coldness, and sporadic (but not infrequent) hostility towards Greg.
The book describes the life that mental problems mixed with alcohol force two generations to lead. Parents shirk responsibility moving kids around from one unstable situation to another. John's visit to his father in Montana reminded me of the young Christopher Lawford's visit to his father, Peter, which describes in Symptoms of Withdrawal : A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption. In both cases, the child is more mature than the addicted parent and vulnerable because of a need to please a father figure who can never be reached.
The book has universal things to say about mental illness. While the focus is on this famous family, this sort of drama is present throughout society.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The Hemingway Family story is one of great talent and dysfunction. This book shared the sad and tragic psychological trials of gender and sexual confusion. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Robert T. Myers
This is a well-written and well-researched book on the Hemingway family, its lore, and its challenges. The author is a grandson of Ernest and son of Gregory, Ernest's third son. Read morePublished 15 months ago by M. Anderson
Excellent memoir! Hemingway's grandson John Hemingway offers new insight into his father Gregory's personality and parallels between Gregory's and Ernest's.Published 21 months ago by Marjorie G. Edwards
I have read all of Hemingway's books and have toured two of his homes (I grew up near the one in Piggott Arkansas). The family is unique and very talented with a tragic history. Read morePublished 24 months ago by Ruth A. Jacobs
There's good reason to be suspicious of overtly 'macho' men who spend their lives flexing their biceps and beating their chests. Read morePublished on October 12, 2013 by Dark Knight