Monday, November 11, 2013

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?  by Jeanette Winterson

"Books, for me, are a home.  Books don't make a home-they are one, in the sense that just as you do with a door, you open a book, and you go inside.  Inside there is a different kind of time and a different kind of space.  There is warmth there too - a hearth.  I sit down with a book and I am warm.  I know that from the chilly nights on the doorstep." pg. 61

Jeanette Winterson grew up in an unhappy, abusive, and religious Pentecostal family.  She was adopted at a young age and her mother planned to mold her into a missionary of God.  Yet Jeanette heard time and time again that her parents were led to the wrong crib. Jeanette grew up with the knowledge that she never really belonged.  She didn't belong to her adoptive parents, she didn't belong to her birth parents, she didn't belong to her public school because she was so religious and she didn't belong to her church because she was a lesbian.  She spent many nights outside, alone on her doorstep.

She was kicked out of her home at the age of 16 and was homeless living in her car.  Growing up, books were forbidden in her house and so the library became a haven and she began to read every author from A to Z in English Literature.  She applied to Oxford and to her surprise got in as the "working class" experiment.  Jeanette then writes her first book, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, when she was 24.  Some words of advice:  Read Oranges are Not the Only Fruit before you read this book.  It will make a big difference.

I once heard that if you don't deal with the trauma of your past, that the trauma will find you and make you deal with it.  Well that is what happened to Jeanette.  She sunk into a type of madness, became depressed and emerged forever changed.  When Jeanette decides to go on with her life she then makes the decision to find her birth mother.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal is an amazing memoir.  It is not told in a linear fashion but it is full of life and passion.   Complex, yet simply told, Winterson bares her soul, telling her readers that she never learned how to love nor how to be loved.  Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal is an explanation of her book, Oranges and a confession of a very painful past.  She divulges her tumultuous past with style, wit and grace all the while showing her readers, wisdom and the strength to endure.  I was so inspired and riveted to Jeanette's story and have many passages of wisdom marked in my book.  This memoir is deeply personal to Winterson and to me, as the reader.  I felt I was looking into the window of her soul.

"Nobody can feel too much, though many of us work very hard at feeling too little.
Feeling is frightening.
Well, I find it so."
Pg. 187