Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Book - 2011
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This memoir is a tough-minded search for belonging, for love, an identity, a home, and a mother by the author of "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit"--winner of the Whitbread First Novel award and the inspiration behind the award-winning BBC television adaptation "Oranges."
Publisher: New York : Grove Press, c2011
Edition: 1st American ed
ISBN: 9780802120106
0802120105
Branch Call Number: 823.914 WINTERS
Characteristics: 230 p. ; 22 cm

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2012 Lesbian Biography/Memoir Winner


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m
MoeWhoHides
Jun 08, 2017

I have never read Jeanette Winterson's books before. I had "Sexing the cherry" on my "For Later" book reading list, but I did not know that Ms. Winterson was the author of that book. No, the reason I decided to read this book was the title. I have had depression since I was a teenager, and have had (much more mild than Ms. Winterson's) issues with my own mother. The title pulled me in, and then so did her writing.

I find a lot of myself in this book, and for that reason I would never recommend this book to anyone, unless I found a lot of myself in them. I could see why people might not like this book, especially how it jumps around in time. However, the poetic idea that time in our memories is not as linear as we like to think, and that when you're writing a story about your life, things can jump around quite violently made me appreciate how she went from one place to another.

I give this book 4 1/2 stars (messed up on my own rating!. I subtracted 1/2 star because at times I had a hard time with the way the narrative bounced around, but like I said, I also appreciated it in a way. Sometimes you get lost and wander when you are trying to get deep down into the core of yourself. Sometimes going round and round and bouncing around is the only way to finally catch those fearful emotions that you might not even really want to catch in the first place.

I glimpsed a lot of my own struggles in her story, one that is very different from my own. I felt her despair, and her anger, and her quite resignation to her life, as well as her pain. Especially her pain. I love her for that. In the "I appreciate that you are alive and were able to write this book and that I was alive to read it". Definitely a book for someone who may feel a little like an outsider, like they don't belong, like they have some learning to do, someone who feels like a work in progress.

This book was like a 3 year long self-discovery condensed into a 300 page book. Intense, moving, heartbreaking and healing.

r
rebmartin31
Jun 01, 2016

I thought I knew about Jeanette Winterson before I read this book. I had read two of her other books before--The Gap in Time, and Written on the Body. I knew that she was adopted in Manchester by a strict, Pentecostal couple, and I knew that she was a lesbian.

But, oh, how much I didn't know.

Winterson's upbringing was so starkly Dickensian...I could never have imagined that 1960s Manchester was so similar to 1860s London. Cold and impoverished.

Look no further for a defense of public libraries. Winterson's current life and career was only possible because of her expeditions to the local library for her mother's oddly beloved murder mystery books, where she stumbled into English Prose Literature A-Z. God bless her bravery and resilience.

Also, this is one of the most humbly honest accounts of an adoption reunification story I've ever encountered. Winterson is completely right that all other adoption stories are too preoccupied with a happy ending--expecting to fall in love right away with the found birth parent. I loved that we didn't get that fairy-tale happy ending here.

Overall, this book is beautiful and illuminating. If you haven't read Winterson's fiction, read this before you do, and you'll get a whole new perspective on things.

w
wyenotgo
Feb 03, 2016

If I could award this book more than 5 stars I would do so!
At times humorous and ironic, at times extremely moving, especially in the final chapters. Insightful, lyrical, completely engaging, right from the very first sentence. It's rare to encounter a writer who is willing to bare her soul to this degree -- and yet she is never maudlin, weepy or self-indulgent in doing so.
One of the best things I've read in the past several years.

BPLpicks May 15, 2015

A truly beautiful memoir, often painful and raw but always honest and thought provoking. It is also a tribute to the power of books and reading and how literature can sustain the human spirit.

LPL_TriciaK Feb 15, 2015

A beautifully written and compelling story about a woman who comes to terms with her dysfunctional adoptive family. Winterson is a fantastic writer, and this was hard to put down, even though the subject matter was difficult. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys memoirs that document the strength of the human spirit.

l
Lucky_Luke
Nov 28, 2014

Memoir about her growing up with adoptive parents who were extremely religious. She was fierce, independent, gay teen with artistic sensibility and had huge conflicts with her blue collar mother. Still she is not disowning her mother, having adopted a view that she did the best she could.

c
c_anderson
Mar 10, 2014

What a wonderful book! Tragicomic, as many of her novels are, with wry, clear prose.

o
ownedbydoxies
Mar 03, 2014

Maybe I'm just jaded or something, by the number of biographical tell-alls dealing with dysfunctional family relationships, but despite the great title, I just couldn't make myself become interested or get into this book.

n
nhoj
Sep 26, 2013

Autobiographical novel about growing up adopted with an extremely brutish and emotionally abusive Mom and subservient father. The author describes in vivid detail how she managed to become a writer and an adult despite her ugly childhood. I "enjoyed" this book and marvelled at the author's resilience - others might crumble under such a childhood.
The title refers to a comment her Mom made when she told her she was gay.

Barcode55 Dec 13, 2012

Loved this book! I need to read it again for all the thought provoking statements she makes.

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rebmartin31
Jun 02, 2016

"There are markings here, raised like welts. Read them. Read the hurt. Rewrite them. Rewrite the hurt."

r
rahoward
May 30, 2012

When people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn’t be read at school because it is irrelevant or any of the strange and stupid things said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language—and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers—a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place. (40)

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