Mary Childers's intimate and frank memoir tells the story of growing up in a family in which five out of seven children dropped out of high school and four different fathers dropped out of sight. While her mother's romantic charisma occasionally brightened their dim, roach-infested two-bedroom apartment, her alcohol-inspired moodiness and irresponsibility often left her children hungry and desperate. Determined to live differently, Childers finds refuge first in books and then in work. Self-sufficiency, she realizes, is her only reliable ticket out of Bronx neighborhoods increasingly characterized by arson, rampant crime, and racial conflict. With this lyrical and often amusing examination of how she became the first person in her family to attend college, Childers illuminates the causes of welfare dependence, generational poverty, and submission to a popular culture that values sexuality more than self-esteem and self-sufficiency.
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