Thursday, July 5, 2012

"Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?" by Jeannette Winterson

230 pages
In this funny but often heart-breaking memoir, Winterson recalls growing up in a Protestant fundamentalist home with her adopted parents. Nothing was ever good enough for her mother, who raged with untreated paranoia and anxiety disorder. Her father was more mild but didn't want to get between Jeannette and her mother, so she had no one on her side when her mom locked her out of the house or called her a devil child. When Jeannette grew older and realized she was a lesbian, things became even more strained between her and her parents, who believed that homosexuality is a sin. As an adult, she eventually began searching for her birth parents, and in the process learned to love herself and trust other people to love her too. 

Jeannette has a very interesting story, but for some reason I couldn't get into it. The narratives and themes seem all over the place, so I had trouble following it. Winterson does a really good job of bringing individual scenes to life and making them feel real, like we're right there with her, but the whole thing as a whole could have been arranged better, I think. I also felt like the author tries to be funny at parts that aren't really that funny, at least to me (but, to be fair, my sense of humor is, um, unique). Despite these complaints, I did enjoy this story after a while. As I said, Jeannette certainly had an unusual upbringing. Though my family is not as conservative as Jeannette's, I did grow up in a Southern Baptist Church and knew people who reminded me of Jeannette's relatives. I think she does a good job of pointing out the idiosyncrasies of fundamentalism without being unfair or whiny. 

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