Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress

Tales of Growing up Groovy and Clueless

Susan Jane Gilman
Warner Books 2005

"When I was little, I was so girlie and ambitious, I was practically a drag queen." An uncool white kid in a tough Puerto Rican neighborhood twirling around in her tutu.

So begins this collection of Gilman's stories about struggling to get a life and a clue, and engaging in some spectaculary demented behavior along the way.

Her parents were hippies but all she wanted to do was wear a tutu- and she did- to school!!

” I was the child who bragged and lied in Show and Tell to distinguish myself from the hordes of crying and pee-crazy 5-year-olds in Kindergarten. I admit I lied not to be difficult but to be special. I conjured and fantasized on what I wanted to be when I grow up. I wanted to be a doctor, a ballerina, a social worker, a fireman and a nun. All the while feigning nonchalance when the girls in my class also had grander ambitions. I even firmly believed that we’d all be riding flying saucers by the year 2000 just like in the Jetsons.”

Susan Jane Gilman was raised in Upper West Manhattan in the 1970’s, before it became gentrified. Her family was pretty laid back and “groovy” - her grandmother claimed to be a Communist and her mother signed the whole family up for Transcendental Meditation. Throughout it all, Susie retained an active imagination and developed a sense of humor. Her family motto was, “Reality is for people with no imagination.” This is her memoir. It starts in her pre-school years and ends when she moved to Geneva shortly after her marriage

When I saw the little blond scowling girl dressed in a tutu, tiara, fairy wings, striped stockings, and combat boots (and of course carrying a “magic” star wand) I was hooked

Frank McCourt said, 'thank you, O Lord, for sending us Susan Gilman's tales', and Laurie Notaro said, "If you don't absolutely love this book, you are simply dead inside." A bit extreme maybe, but then Laurie was always extreme. I didn’t absolutely love this book, but it was a good read, amusing, and often laugh-out-loud funny.

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