Warner, 2003 (2003)
Read an Excerpt
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
his memoir is dedicated to children caught in the social welfare system who only want to be
. Like her mother before her, Regina (Gina) is a neglected child left at Big Mama's (no relation). There she tries to fit in but is regularly beaten by Lula Mae, '
more ornery than a tick full of turpentine
'. Gina shares a room with Sister (her older half-sister) and dreams of being rescued, taken home and loved by her mother, Ruby. There are heartbreaking accounts of times when Gina waits patiently for a Mama who never shows up.
fter an especially severe beating, Gina runs away to her father's mother. Unfortunately her injuries are glimpsed at school and well-meaning interventions plus an aunt's insensitivity result in her being sent alone by bus to her mother Ruby in North Carolina. At first this seems like the realization of all Gina's dreams, but everything starts to fall apart after Sister arrives to join them. Then Ruby's boyfriend Benny moves in and begins to abuse both girls. Gina is sent away again, this time to her father Glenn in California and his white wife Nadine.
hen things go from bad to worse, Gina ends up in a shelter, where a white lady, Miss Claire, calls her '
', teaches her manners and takes her to the opera. When with Claire, Gina's heart feels '
smooth and light, like one of them balloons that floated free up in the sky.
' Gina fights every attempt at foster placement that her social worker makes, wondering '
Why come everybody else like Oliver and Annie got to go with folks who really wanted them?
' Though Gina makes many mistakes, Claire is always there for her.
is a poignant story of a needy child whose thirst for love and frustration with adults speak passionately from the pages. It reminded me in some ways of
The Color Purple
. The author makes clear how a well intended system can fail children badly, and how children caught up in it can become their own worst enemies. I only hope that there are more Miss Claire's out there for kids who so badly need them.
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