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Change Me into Zeus's Daughter: A Memoir Paperback – Bargain Price, July 31, 2001
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In the tradition of Bastard Out of Carolina and Angela's Ashes, Change Me into Zeus's Daughter chronicles a child's coming of age in an abusive and dirt-poor environment. With the gripping narrative drive of both of those bestselling books, Barbara Robinette Moss's candid yet lyrical account takes hold of our hearts and doesn't let go until the final page. Her story juxtaposes heart-rending adversity with the playful chaos of eight siblings growing up in the 1960s South, with its creeping kudzu and soybean fields, its forthright and sometimes peculiar inhabitants, and its boiling racial tensions.
The hardships related here are both familiar and unique: the Christmas presents exchanged for drink money, the failed businesses, the decrepit shacks that served as temporary homes, the disturbing early-morning discipline. Under the tyrannical rule of a father who "inflicted pain recreationally, both physical and emotional," the only bright spot in Moss's childhood was her mother, Dorris. Slavishly devoted to her husband ("she seemed to crave him as much as he craved alcohol"), Dorris held the family together by absorbing most of the abuse. But in the end she lacked the courage to leave him, and her children had to act as their own protectors. As if poverty and her father's mistreatment weren't enough of a burden, Moss also had to contend with a face disfigured by malnutrition. As a result, she sought refuge in whatever elusive beauty she could find: the poetry her mother taught as a substitute for material things; the fertile, red Alabama soil; the love of her baby sister Janet. Her urge to create beauty and her longing to embody it culminate in surgery that transforms her face but brings with it a crisis of identity.
In her outpouring of memories, Moss occasionally gets lost in her tale, embedding flashback within flashback. More problematic is the portrayal of her father: he's relentlessly cruel until a near-fatal beating, after which he begins to briefly connect with his children. For us, it's too late, and we can only react to his death with a sigh of relief. But these minor quibbles are just that. Moss's extraordinary memoir enthralls us from its alarming introduction--in which Dorris feeds her starving children a meal of potentially poisonous seeds--to its poignant conclusion. --Lisa Costantino --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In the sepia-toned photograph on the cover of this touching memoir, Moss, her brothers and sisters, and their mother squint into the sun in a tableau that evokes Depression-era images of the rural South. On the back cover, a colorful self-portrait by the author shows a beautiful woman with huge hazel eyes. The contrast between the two images is symbolic of Moss's journey from poverty and despair to artistic and personal accomplishment. Many of the difficulties Moss suffered as a child will remind readers of Angela's Ashes, although the setting for her family's grinding poverty is rural Alabama. She remembers vividly the day her mother tasted corn and bean seeds coated with poisonous insecticides, figuring that if she survived, she could let her children appease their hunger. She lived, and the children ate the seeds. Moss's alcoholic father would often come home in a drunken rage and rouse her and her eight brothers and sisters to punish them far into the night for imaginary misdeeds. Moss was singled out for being left-handed; he attempted to "cure" the problem by tying down her left hand. Her mother, although weak, tried to protect the children from their father's irrational behavior. Most humiliating to Moss was the abnormal growth of her facial bones because of malnutrition and lack of dental and medical care. But Moss's childhood was not all despair and deprivation: she describes with nostalgic warmth the good times she shared with her siblings, and her mother's appreciation of music and poetry, which fueled Moss's aspirations. Moss has structured her memoir in layered, impressionistic flashbacks gracefully revealing the joys and sorrows of her remarkable life's journey. Photos. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is the most beautiful memoir I've ever read and the one of the most memorable books I've ever read in my life. It is about the author's childhood in Alabama, about poverty, abuse, and alcoholism, but even more it is about love, family, and what is "normal". Despite the dark subject it is not a depressing book, but rather, a book of hope and love. I cannot imagine anyone having had a more troubled or abusive childhood than did the author, but the central theme of family love is what, most affects the family members and holds them together above all.
When you finish the book, you are really sorry, as you hate to see it end. Fortunately it continues with a second memoir about the author's life as an adult called "Fierce". Both are worth purchasing in hardback and rereading throughout your life; they are not books to be read once and then donated to a book sale.
It is not simply well-written, but it is so moving, honest, and matter-of-fact, that you really feel like you know and love all of the real people in the author's life. When I read "Alice"'s review (see above...Alice is the author's sister) I was so moved because I feel like I "know" her from the memoir. Of course I don't, but the memoir was that real.
I read this book as slowly as I could to make it last. It was just so good. I can't imagine anyone buying it and thinking they didn't get more than their money's worth, as it delivers on all levels---style of writing, suspense and plot, authenticity and transparency, the ability to draw you into the author's world.
"Fierce" takes place mostly after the author is an adult and leaves home although there are many flashbacks to childhood. "Change Me Into Zeus' Daughter" is about the author's childhood. I would buy both books together in hardback and save them forever to be read again and again.
Moss, with pitch perfect prose, describes a father who is gone more than around, which is mostly preferable given his propensity for inflicting pain:
"I had just turned seven years and didn't think Dad's disappearance was such a bad thing; no more dishes shattering into the wall, no more whiskey breath and smell of urine, no more fear of being discovered, of having to peek into a room before entering to see if he was slumped in a chair waiting for you to walk within his reach.
"Now I've got ya," he would shout, like he had just caught a raccoon raiding the corn patch, pulling his leather belt from the loops as the unwary one struggled to get free. You didn't have to do anything - anything at all - to get pinched, poked, shoved or hit, just be where he could reach you when he was drunk. "You belong to me and I'll do with you what I want."
Unless, which often happened, he decided you didn't belong to him at all."
The whole awful time, Moss's mother, Dorris is pathologically, unconditionally devoted to her brutal, irresponsible husband. Her weakness makes her unable to protect her children from his drunken rampages, and his bizarre three in the morning routine of waking the kids up and demanding they clean the house - or else - inside and out.
To make matters even worse, Moss has to live with a face - a "Silly Putty-stretched face" - disfigured by malnutrition. Even so, to characterize Moss's memoir as all sad and hopeless would be far from right. There is humor and sweetness in her depictions of her siblings, who, despite the large number of them, are each distinctly drawn and indelibly stamped on the reader's mind. There are priceless anecdotes about other colorful family members or neighbors whose life stations, and psychological circumstances, are not far removed from the author's troubling childhood environment. Saddled with these extreme disadvantages - and some might argue because of them - Moss grows up to be a superb writer, and an accomplished artist.
There were only a couple of places I felt "lost" in the author's direction/writings, however, I was quickly back on track and following the ongoing plight. Part of the lure/hook of the book was that it was a rather contemporary look at someone's unique life (for a baby boomer like myself).
I finally brought the book to work so I could read it during my lunch breaks...it was one of those "can't put it down" books. Enjoy!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Again don't have anymore to say and minimum words is a pain to a person that is helping...Read more