dysfunctional families

07/03/2012 - 4:00am
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? By Jeanette Winterson

“Most kids grow up leaving something out for Santa at Christmas time when he comes down the chimney. I used to make presents for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

When I picked up a copy of Jeanette Winterson’s recent memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, I couldn’t wait to start the first page. I’ve been fascinated by Winterson’s novels for years, but never imagined she would narrate her life in the coherent, linear style associated with memoirs. In Winterson’s fiction, she constantly manipulates the boundary between fantasy and reality, integrating personal experience, mythology, and philosophy into a fluid conglomeration. Although Why Be Happy does feature some of Winterson’s trademark structural experimentation, it is also an engrossing story about one woman’s experience of dysfunction, madness, violence, love, and religion.

11/30/2011 - 8:12pm

Living with an unpredictable, psychotic mother has taught Matthew how to survive. Constantly on alert, he and his sister, Callie, devotedly shelter their younger stepsister, Emmy, from their mother's abuse and worry about staying safe. Matt insists that fear isn't actually a bad thing . . . . It warns you to pay attention, because you're in danger. It tells you to do something, to act, to save yourself, but his terror is palpable in this haunting, powerful portrayal of domestic dysfunction, which is written in retrospect as a letter from Matt to Emmy.

11/30/2011 - 7:55pm

A fifteen-year-old Mexican American has experienced a series of tough breaks before finding himself completely on his own. He decides to try to keep his lack of a home a secret from his school while working hard and staying out of trouble.

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