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Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood Paperback – September 22, 2009
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About the Author
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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Author Melissa Hart describes an unyieldingly strong mother-daughter bond that cannot be broken by time, distance, or the mean-spirited court ruling, prevalent in the 1970s, by which courts cast aside responsible, loving, nurturing lesbian mothers and granted custody of their children to often cruel and abusive fathers.
Chapter-by-chapter, the memoir Gringa shows how both the mother and initially ten-year-old daughter deal with being allowed to see each other only a few days a month, and how the daughter-- seeking a new identity for herself, and desperate for a new life-- absorbs the Latino culture in the city in which her mother takes refuge from the father's continued threats.
We follow the daughter's transition through her telling of the story, but also through her recipes as she learns to cook. Each authentic , replicable recipe helps portray each phase in the girl's life through both its relevance to that life-stage, but also through her additional ingredients.
In her younger years:
Tortilla Flats: "Serve hot, garnished with a deep desire for someplace else."
While making White Girl Cookies: "Ponder your sentence of a lifetime of despair."
Indian Fry Bread: "Eat them under an oak tree with plenty of butter, honey, and rage."
Then, when she's older:
Chaulafan: "In your high-heeled fuchsia pumps, whisk four eggs in a bowl."
Flan: "Daydream about the boy with soulful brown eyes, as you beat three whole eggs together . . . ."
Student Council Satay: "First, cut your hair in an asymmetrical New Wave bob. Put on your drill team skirt and sweater, and get out a shallow pan.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Terrific memoir, excellently written! A coming of age story both unique and compelling.Published 17 months ago by treeguy
I bought my copy of this memoir after attending a writer's conference in Southern Oregon featuring the author giving workshops. Read morePublished on March 20, 2013 by Pandorasecho
Gringa is an engaging memoir that flows easily and wonderfully with all the traits of a great story including heartbreak, family tensions and craziness, fleshed-out characters,... Read morePublished on September 20, 2012 by Amazon Customer
I was fascinated by the presentation from Melissa Hart in first person. It felt like I was experiencing her journey along with her, even while she was torn between two worlds of... Read morePublished on September 3, 2012 by Phyllis C.Franklin
Melissa Hart is not afraid to tell it like it is. In her latest memoir, "Gringa", Hart explores her childhood growing up as a Califorian WASP, with a belligerent father, lesbian... Read morePublished on April 28, 2011 by E.L. Ouellette
Hart's content, humor, beginnings and endings are right-on in my opinion. She weaves many threads together keeps an authentic self-deprecating humor throughout. Read morePublished on February 6, 2010 by Stefanie Freele