PHOTOGRAPHY BY MICHAEL BOOINI
Jeannette Walls’ intimate memoir, “The Glass Castle” (2005), begins as she is on her way to a swanky New York party. She is dressed to the nines and ready to sip Champagne and mingle with her fellow intellectuals when she spots her mother, filthy and digging through a Manhattan garbage can. Jeannette never makes it to the party. The book continues with a whirlwind of stranger-than-fiction stories from Jeannette’s youth.
Jeannette struggles to convince her homeless parents to let her care for them; she wants so badly to help them begin a new life. They accuse her of having a confused value system. Because they will not accept her help, she is forced to find other ways to understand her long-suppressed feelings of pain, anger, embarrassment, and guilt that surround her family and childhood memories. She tells tales of running from “the man,” surviving in the desert, throwing cats out of windows, and battles with scorpions. Though her parents are almost definitely mentally ill and certainly were neglectful of their three children, one cannot help but feel affection for them. They meant well, they believed in the resilience of children and in testing that resilience. They instilled art and free thought in their children, yet they forewent stability and sometimes basic human needs like food and shelter. As I read this book, it was clear that a huge part of Jeannette’s heart is grateful for her eccentric childhood and all the pain and joy that came with it. But, as a mother, I found her stories horrifying. The book describes how Jeannette, a two-year-old at the time, was cooking her own hotdogs when the tutu she was wearing caught fire, causing severe burns over much of her torso. Yet, at other times, I questioned how sheltered my own child is and whether or not he would benefit from a bit more freedom to make mistakes. I recommend this book to all mothers, and especially to anyone who loves a weird true story. In short, I could not put it down.
ABOUT SARA BOOINI
Sara Booini is a middle and high school language and arts teacher for Palm Bay Prep Academy. She revels in the opportunity to introduce young people to great literature and teach them how to connect their own ideas to the ideas of great authors. Though being the mother of a feisty toddler and constantly being surrounded by stacks of literary essays that need grading can make it hard to read for pleasure, she always manages to carve out a slice of time for reading mystery novels, memoirs, political satire, and plays. She lives on Panama City Beach with her husband Michael and their son Felix.
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