Thursday, September 10, 2009

From The Dysfunctional Families Files

The Book: Three Little Words
The Writer: Ashley Rhodes-Corder
The Dealio: (NOTE: This is from the audio book). This non-fiction account is one of those rare books read by the author, in which that fact actually adds to the ambiance and enjoyment of the experience. Hello, John LeCarre and Madeline L'Engle. Are you listening?!The reader is immediately plunged into the thick of things, as 2 year old Ashley, under the care (ha!) of her teenage mom and mom's twin sister, relates a typical day at the trailer where all the cool kids hang out, but Ashley is more in the nature of a mascot, and has been on self-care for some time now. Precocious and tough-thank God, because she will have to be- Ashley plays a pivotal, but recurring, role in getting her mom and her mom's boyfriend, out of scrapes with the law. ('If we are pulled over, get really noisy and whiny. Really act up' she is told over and over again). Naturally, it is not long before there are more traffic stops, and more babies, and finally forced separation from her mother by the state. Thus begins Ashley's transformation from 'ordinary kid' to property of the foster systems of several states. Throughout the many separations, and reunions (usually under the watchful eyes of social workers and lawyers, sometimes with her mother in handcuffs, sometimes while she is high or paranoid), always ending on the same note: "Don't you ever call anyone but me 'Momma'. I am the one who loves you best. And I will come and get you. Soon.'Corder tells her story with a matter-of-factness which is at once disarming and alarming. The things that children will learn to tolerate is truly terrifying. Her half brother is sometimes in the same foster home, sometimes not; he has not learned the knack of just fitting in, of gliding below the radar. But Ashley knows, almost too well. She has worked out a system, honed by heartbreak, broken promises and cruelty, for turning herself into the perfect chameleon. What is most engaging. to me about this story is the total lack of sugar-coating Ashley gives to her observations of her own behavior and reactions. In a cruel, challenging and illogical world, fraught with violence and short on happy endings, she is a true survivor, and her story is a standout.
The Grading Session: 4.999 stars out of 5. I felt compelled to shave a widget off, only because the stories involving her crises with 'the wicked witch' and the detailed retelling of this or that birthday celebrations went on just a skosh too long.
Lessons Learned: Truth absolutely is stranger than fiction. But so much more rewarding when justice is served, piping hot. NOTE: you can do an Internet search of Ashley Rhodes-Corder and see actual pictures of her and the major players in the story. And, remember, as you are reading this, the writer was less than 24 years old when she wrote it.

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