Patricia Foster's lyrical yet often painful memoir explores
the life of a white middle-class girl who rew up in rural south Alabama
in the 1950s and 1960s, a time and place that did not tolerate deviation
from traditional gender roles. Her mother raised Foster and her sister
as "honorary boys," girls with the ambition of men but the temperament
An unhappy, intelligent woman who kept a heartbreaking secret
from everyone close to her, Foster's mother was driven by a repressed rage
that fed her obsession for middle-class respectability.
By the time Foster reached age fifteen, her efforts to
reconcile the contradictory expectations that she be at once ambitious
and restrained had left her nervous and needy inside even while she tried
to cultivate the appearance of the model student, sister, and daughter.
It was only a psychological and physical breakdown that helped her to realize
that she couldn't save her driven, complicated mother and must struggle
instead for both understanding and autonomy.