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A Private Family Matter: A Memoir Paperback – Bargain Price, April 11, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Rivers's childhood toy, a broken GI Joe action figure, spoke only one phrase: "I've got a tough assignment." The author, an advocate against domestic violence, took on this motto early in life to help himself endure the "war zone" of his upbringing. His story starts in Cuba, where his mother's "gift of sight" didn't help her see through the seductive elegance of Tony Rivas, nephew of Batista's minister of agriculture. As Rivers tells it, his mother's natural radiance was soon beaten down by her demanding, jealous and moody husband. The family moved to Chicago to escape Castro, yet young Victor could not escape his father, who began beating him when he was only 15 months old. An imaginative child, Rivers steeled himself against brutal whippings by emulating tigers, "tensed and ready to pounce or flee at all times." By the time Rivers was 15, he fought back, throwing Rivas to the floor. But when the older man returned with a knife and, experiencing deep feelings of guilt, yelled, "Kill me!" Rivers ran away. Helped by a series of "angels"—a schoolmate's lawyer father, supportive teachers and coaches, a family that informally adopted him, and his own brothers—Rivers overcame his rage and self-loathing. He tells this inspiring story of emergence from isolation and despair into love and community with passion, optimism and tenderness. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Like Jeannette Walls in The Glass Castle [BKL F 1 05], Rivers unfolds a story of a difficult childhood, but his was one of horrific physical abuse at the hands of a violent, controlling parent. Writing with an extraordinary memory for situation and detail, and even some self-deprecating humor, Rivers, now an actor and national spokesperson for the National Network to End Domestic Violence, reconstructs the childhood hell that he endured until, thanks to a concerned coach, a kind teacher, and a series of informal foster parents, he escaped as a teen. The many vivid descriptions of abuse are grueling to read, but they are nicely balanced by Rivers' hard-won successes in later life (including a short stint in professional football) as he struggled to overcome his vicious temper and fear of emotional commitment, both legacies from his father. His determination to speak out to help others who have endured similar trials caps an inspiring record of a life reclaimed. Stephanie Zvirin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
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This book sat on my shelf for almost a year because I didn't think I'd be interested in reading about domestic violence, but I couldn't put it down once I opened it.
Victor Rivas Rivers was the son of Cuban immigrants. His father, nicknamed El Ciclon (the Cyclone), was shockingly abusive to his whole family. He burned Victor's lips with a cigarette, tied him down and beat him with a dog leash, would wake him from sleep with a hard slap to the face, and punched his pregnant wife in the belly hard enough for the baby to be born developmentally impaired.
Victor, the second of three brothers and two sisters, received the brunt of the abuse for having the unlucky genetic fate of looking exactly like his dad.
I abhor violence (I've seen enough to last a lifetime), but I couldn't help but cheer him on when Victor outgrew his father and was able to return the favor.
The real story here, however, is how Victor, and the rest of his siblings, overcame his demons and became a successful student and athlete, playing football for Florida State under Bobby Bowden. He even had a short stint with the Miami Dolphins and managed to parlay that success into an acting career, starring in more than two dozen films.
It's taken me many, long, hard years to learn what Victor must have known instinctively: that nothing outside me can control me. A story like this strips away all the excuses I've made for the failures in my life, while at the same time inspiring me to live with more courage, integrity, and humanity.
David Allan Reeves
Author of "Running Away From Me"
A big, strong, tough man who was reduced to weeping when taken back to his horrific childhood in countless nightmares. So terrifying, so brutal for his wife to endure, she could only cry as he fought the demons of domestic violence.
Countless women have told their stories. Hoping to save, `just one person.' Reliving their own personal hell with each word. You will relive Mr. Rivers personal hell. He takes the reader from a little boy to a full grown man, still fighting the little guys fight. He tells his story to help others. I believe it will.
If you know nothing of domestic violence, you will have a better understanding after you read this book. You may find it hard to comprehend. You will ask yourself, `How do people let this happen?' `Why not just leave?' Read on.
If you're a victim or a survivor, it is graphic. Mr. Rivers does not soften his story. He shouldn't. You will ask yourself how every domestic violence story can be so similar. You will cry many times. You will laugh a few times. You will love him when his son is born.
No one looks at Victor Rivers, with all of his successes, and thinks of domestic violence. He was a victim, he is a survivor. For all of these reasons I thank him, and his family, for telling his story. I respect him for wanting to help, `just one person.'