Daughter of the Queen of Sheba: A Memoir (4 Cassettes)

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As a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, Jacki Lyden has spent her adult life on the frontlines in some of the most dangerous war zones in the world. Her childhood was a war zone of a different kind. Her mother suffered from what we now call manic-depression; when Jacki was a child in a small Midwestern town, her mother was simply called crazy. Jacki would return home from grade school to find her mother wrapped in a toga of bedsheets, with eyeliner hieroglyphics drawn on her arms and a tiara on her ...
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Overview

As a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, Jacki Lyden has spent her adult life on the frontlines in some of the most dangerous war zones in the world. Her childhood was a war zone of a different kind. Her mother suffered from what we now call manic-depression; when Jacki was a child in a small Midwestern town, her mother was simply called crazy. Jacki would return home from grade school to find her mother wrapped in a toga of bedsheets, with eyeliner hieroglyphics drawn on her arms and a tiara on her head. In her manic phases, she became a woman with power, Marie Antoinette or the Queen of Sheba; in real life, she was trapped in a destructive marriage to the villainous local doctor. With their mother beyond reach, her children turned to their hardscrabble grandmother, a woman who had her first child at age 14 and lost her husband in a barroom brawl. Jacki eventually set out on her own impassioned journeys -- if her mother could escape to exotic places, so would she. In her 20s she joined a low-rent rodeo. Later, as a radio journalist, she interviewed Yasir Arafat and maneuvered her way through Baghdad at the height of the Persian Gulf War, her reports from faraway lands strangely echoing her mother's travels of the mind. This memoir is a mother-daughter story of the most deeply moving kind, a testimony to obstinate devotion in the face of bewildering illness. Jacki Lyden recalls her calamitous childhood with a child's aching regret and an adult's keen wisdom.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
One day in 1966, when the author was 12, she returned home from school to find her mother, Dolores, garishly made up and convinced that she was the Queen of Sheba. For the next 20 years, Lyden and her two younger sisters were subjected to their delusional parent's frequent episodes of manic-depressive behavior. In vivid and gripping prose, the author describes how her childhood was disrupted when her beloved father became deaf and was later divorced by Dolores, who then married an abusive physician. Lyden's stepfather institutionalized Dolores and prescribed inappropriate drugs for her. He also beat his stepdaughters until he and Dolores divorced. The author, a correspondent for National Public Radio, conveys her feelings of helplessness during these years, when her mother struggled to support them by working as a waitress between periods of mental illness. She also clearly expresses her love and empathy for Dolores, who now functions on Lithium. Lyden provides as well a sharply etched portrait of her eccentric grandmother.
Library Journal
In this colorful memoir, Lyden, senior correspondent for National Public Radio, describes her early life as the daughter of a mother suffering from manic depression. In her manic states, Dolores Lyden had delusions of power and acted on them. She was the Queen of Sheba, a hostess of bizarre dinner parties, a promoter of outrageous business ventures. Dolores' imaginative escapades inspired Lyden in her career as a journalist covering the Persian Gulf War, taking risks, rising to challenges, and facing unforeseen danger. As her illness progressed, Dolores defied every attempt made by her daughters to force her to seek treatment until she was finally arrested for assaulting a judge at a court hearing. Lyden has written a brilliantly descriptive, fast-moving tribute to her mother's vanquished eccentric alter ego. -- Lucille M. Boone, San Jose Public Library, California
Library Journal
In this colorful memoir, Lyden, senior correspondent for National Public Radio, describes her early life as the daughter of a mother suffering from manic depression. In her manic states, Dolores Lyden had delusions of power and acted on them. She was the Queen of Sheba, a hostess of bizarre dinner parties, a promoter of outrageous business ventures. Dolores' imaginative escapades inspired Lyden in her career as a journalist covering the Persian Gulf War, taking risks, rising to challenges, and facing unforeseen danger. As her illness progressed, Dolores defied every attempt made by her daughters to force her to seek treatment until she was finally arrested for assaulting a judge at a court hearing. Lyden has written a brilliantly descriptive, fast-moving tribute to her mother's vanquished eccentric alter ego. -- Lucille M. Boone, San Jose Public Library, California
Booknews
In this memoir, Lyden (foreign correspondent for National Public Radio) writes about her past, in particular her relationship with her mother, who was manic-depressive (though her small midwestern community simply saw her as 'crazy') and married to a villainous local doctor.
Chicago Tribune
The great strength of Lyden's memoir lies. . .in the poetic power and virtuosity of her language. . .a beautiful family testament.
Kirkus Reviews
Three powerful women form the backbone of this beautifully written narrative about the wish, both rational and not, to be elsewhere: crusty, earthy Mabel; her daughter Dolores, the self-styled Queen of Sheba in her manic visions; and the author, Dolores's daughter, a reporter for NPR. Anyone who has heard Lyden's crisp journalistic voice on the radio will be surprised by the lush (at times overly lush) imagery and riptides of emotion that characterize her writing in this memoir of her mother's madness. Compassion, fury, love, hatred—all battle within Lyden during three decades in which Dolores's periodic bouts of mania disrupt her and her two sisters' lives. Her rage with Dolores's refusal to accept treatment jostles with her wonder at the rich fantasies her mother creates and admiration for the sensual vitality and sheer force of will that keep her alive. In one of the tragicomic scenes related here, Lyden brings some friends home to her small Wisconsin town for a local celebration, only to find a mother who fancies herself Marie Antoinette, dressed only in 'a black bustier with garters, which dangle over a transparent lilac half-slip.' With each manic outburst, Mabel, who has a mouth like a sewer and a spine of steel, calls Lyden with her plaintive refrain, 'Cantcha come up, Jack? Cantcha come up?' With her education and artistic gift frustrated by her father, a first husband who became deaf after falling off a roof, a second husband who was wealthy and abusive (the click in Lyden's jaw is a permanent reminder of the time he smashed her head against a wall)—Dolores' life gives her good reason to flee. Lyden links her own journalist's wanderlust to her mother's escapeinto madness, and finds herself in places like Iraq and northern Ireland, where the whole world seems crazier than Dolores. Lyden memorably illuminates both the alluring fantasy and the shocking reality of madness in a volume filled with poetry and awe.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553525212
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/15/1998
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Abridged, 4 Cassettes, 6 hrs.
  • Product dimensions: 4.16 (w) x 7.08 (h) x 1.16 (d)

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