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Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter

Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter

4.1 47
by Melissa Francis, Cris Dukehart (Read by)

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When Melissa Francis was eight years old, she won the role of lifetime: playing Cassandra Cooper Ingalls, the little girl who was adopted with her brother (played by young Jason Bateman) by the Ingalls family on the world’s most famous prime-time soap opera, Little House on the Prairie. Despite her age, she was already a veteran actress, living a charmed


When Melissa Francis was eight years old, she won the role of lifetime: playing Cassandra Cooper Ingalls, the little girl who was adopted with her brother (played by young Jason Bateman) by the Ingalls family on the world’s most famous prime-time soap opera, Little House on the Prairie. Despite her age, she was already a veteran actress, living a charmed life, moving from one Hollywood set to the next. But behind the scenes, her success was fueled by the pride, pressure, and sometimes grinding cruelty of her stage mother.

While Melissa thrived under pressure, her older sister — who had tried her hand at acting and shrank from the limelight — was often ignored by their mother in a shadow of neglect and disappointment. Tiffany could do nothing to please her mother, but it wasn’t until after Melissa had graduated from Harvard University with a degree in economics, found love, and married that Tiffany’s personal problems culminated in a life-and-death crisis. When Melissa realized the role her mother continued to play in her sister’s downward spiral, she resolved to end the manic, abusive cycle once and for all.

Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter is a fascinating account of life as a child star in the 1980s, and also a disquieting tale of a family under the care of a highly neurotic, dangerously competitive “tiger mother.” But perhaps most importantly, now that Melissa has two sons of her own, it’s a meditation on motherhood. She asks the questions so many of us ask ourselves: how hard should you push a child to succeed, and at what point does your help turn into harm?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A recounting of her mother’s abusive behavior sets the stage for Melissa Francis’s compelling memoir. Francis, now a broadcast news journalist, once played Cassandra Cooper Ingalls on the television show Little House on the Prairie. By the time she landed the plum role she was already a television pro. Her older Tiffany disliked performing, which antagonized their neurotic mother. She lavished attention on Francis and constantly belittled and harangued her sister, and their mother’s mercurial temperament created continuous family tension. “When we were at home, my sister and I lived in a state of constant wariness, always reading Mom’s mood and bracing for impact when that mood turned ominous.” As Francis departed for Harvard, her older sister’s life was a shambles. Though once very close, their intimacy had dissipated, a fact Francis deeply regrets. The author’s personal and professional life flourished; her sister’s spiraled downward in a cloud of loneliness, depression, and drugs resulting in a family tragedy and her mother’s ultimate act of betrayal: “It had been more than a year since I had given her the choice of coming back to help Tiffany or losing us forever, and she has chosen to throw all of us away.” A thoughtful trek across a troubled family landscape resulting in a bittersweet yet hopeful final act. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews
Chilling memoir by a Fox Business Network anchor and child star chronicles the misery of growing up with a cruel, controlling and abusive stage mother. Francis' narrative grabs readers immediately. She became a TV actress at age 8, when she captured the role of Cassandra Cooper Ingalls on the prime-time soap opera Little House on the Prairie. She chafed but thrived under her mother's relentless pressure to succeed: "My mom had a power over me, over all of us, for a long time. I was hostage to her moods, her violence, her praise, her favor, all doled out in random doses and with confusing inconsistency, which had been designed to control me, training me to crave her attention like a starving dog." By contrast, their mother neglected or harangued Francis' older sister, who disliked being in the spotlight. By the time Francis left home to study economics at Harvard, her sister's life was crumbling, and the intense closeness they once shared had evaporated. As the author's romantic life and TV news career began to gel, her sister remained mired in a lonely, directionless existence. This destructive pattern ultimately resulted in a family tragedy; Francis still feels guilty about not doing more for her sister. But now that she is the mother of two children, she understands that each child is unique and requires his or her own style of nurturance. "The one size fits all, hard line approach to pushing children as hard as you can and demanding the very best doesn't fit them both," she writes, "as it didn't fit both Tiffany and me." One of those intimate, heartbreaking, doubled-edged stories that is hard to read, impossible to put down.

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Brilliance Audio
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5.00(w) x 5.60(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Melissa Francis grew up in Southern California. As a broadcast journalist, she has anchored CNBC’s Power Lunch, The Call, and On the Money, and served as a regular contributor to the Today show and Weekend Today. Currently she hosts two daily business shows on the Fox Business Network, including Money with Melissa Francis. She lives in New York City with her husband and their two sons.

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Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
CharlotteLynnsReviews More than 1 year ago
Melissa Francis, childhood star of Little House on the Prairie, writes a book about her life growing up with a stage mother. Having been an actress her whole life with her mom there every step made growing up anything but normal for Melissa. Between missing school for auditions and her mother’s crazy mood swings her childhood was very emotional and challenging. Not remembering Melissa Francis from Little House on the Prairie, I was not sure how much I would enjoy reading her story. I was very happily surprised by how much of her story really was about her mother and older sister, Tiffany. This was not a story only about Little House on the Prairie, this is a story about a mother who would only accept a perfect child and a picture perfect life and the kids that had to grow up with that mother. Immediately I despised Melissa’s stage mother. How could a mother ever treat her daughters as she had? I do believe that she felt she was doing the absolute best for the girls, but nothing is further from the truth. As a mother myself, I would hope my kids would never feel the fear and pity Melissa and Tiffany felt towards their mother. I loved following Melissa through her childhood journey to adulthood. My heart broke at her youth, getting put down and beat up one minute and the built up the next minute. I find it amazing that she made it to adulthood and to a normal adulthood with a successful career. It truly shows the strength Melissa has. If you read this hoping for the inside scoop on Little House on the Prairie you will be disappointed. If you read the looking for a heartwarming and sometimes sad story about a young girl breaking away from her sometimes cruel mother and becoming a successful journalist, mother, wife and woman you will love this story as much as I did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Give it a few chapters and the juvenile writing steps up a notch. The story in itself is compelling. As a big fan of Little House on the Prairie I remembered the scenes that Melissa describes and she really was so cute and a fine little actor. Her personal story is harrowing, though. Melissa writes very convincingly of her struggle with an ultra-abusive, manipulative mother and a weak father who apparently cannot see his daughters are being hit and kicked out of cars by their own mother - let alone save them. He does not stand up to this mother and yet he is a successful business who chose the entrepreneur route because he could not take orders; somehow, though, he is so helpless and weak under his wife. A bit contradictory but the mother is a real monster. I felt so very badly for Melissa and her sister Tiffany but it was also clear that Melissa had a special inner strength from her earliest days and that strength carried her through. She was awake the the wrong that was her mother and she knew she had the power to stop that family cycle.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sad, juicy and tragic look into the author's life as the daughter of a stage mother. I tore through it.
Bojosmom More than 1 year ago
Wow. I was blown away by how her Mother treated her and her sister. This is a very emotional book. I was heart broken by the way they were raised. That woman needs serious mental help. I am truely impressed that Melissa turned out to be succesfull in her career and can see her Mothers mistakes for what they are. She's an inspiration for overcoming such a disasterous childhood.
JustMyTwoCents More than 1 year ago
A Quick Read-- However, there were too many unanswered questions, such as what EXACTLY was the cause of Tiffany's death. I had to find out elsewhere on line. Also, I have trouble understanding the father in this book. He loved his children, but seemed emotionally absent. He seemed to be aware of the mother's problems, but not willing to intervene. And if it crossed her mind that her sister was bi-polar, why didn't it cross Melissa's mind that her mother had some sort of mental illness?Too many questions marks in this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is worth every penny it cost!!! At first i thought her and her sister were spoiled brats , but keep reading and you will see it is so awful and unforgiveable the way her mom treats her whole family
David_Bremmerton More than 1 year ago
Stage mothers get a bad wrap for many good reasons. This is a fascinating book that shows the affects of a stage mother on a child actress.
Shari4 More than 1 year ago
Little House on the Prairie is only a backdrop to this story of a power crazy stage mother who demands perfection of young Melissa. A fascinating portrait of a very disfunctional family. Five stars!
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings  Although Little House on the Prairie is not the show I know a lot of, I still wanted to read this memoir to hear an insight into the inner workings of childhood stardom and how it affects not only the child star, but the entire family.  Melissa Francis takes you into the inner workings of her family to show you the good, the bad and the ugly when you have a child star and a mom who wants nothing more than complete fame.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very sad story, brought me to tears a few times. Makes me examine my relationship with my children.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was a Little House On The Prairie fan. Would recommend it to fans of the show.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I saw my mother in this book, it was so good! Worth the time and money
FranklyMyDear1 More than 1 year ago
Although Ms. Francis makes an effort to recount her life in a fair and balanced way, hostility towards her mother drives this well-written memoir. She convincingly presents herself as intelligent, ambitious and responsible, and her mother as volatile, controlling, depressive and generally difficult to live with. Yet through most of the book, the author’s underlying hostility seemed disproportionate to her mother’s wrongdoings. Paradoxically, Ms. Francis tacitly acknowledges her mother’s contributions to her success without really giving her any credit. She writes about how her mother staunchly supported her childhood activities, instilled in her the belief that she could accomplish anything if she worked hard enough, and lavished her with luxuries (many of which were probably bought with the author’s own income as a child actor.) By the time Ms. Francis wrote of leaving home for an Ivy League school, I was impressed with her achievements yet disengaged due to the woe-is-me tone. I wondered if her memoir was written in retaliation against her mother. However, an unexpected outcome brought me around to empathize deeply with her position. I found her book interesting and touching, and I hope writing it gave her some closure.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BuffaloGal 11 months ago
Certainly an interesting book, but something kept nagging at me as I read it. Melissa was honest in what she wrote, but her motives are cloudy. Does she want to get back at her mother? Is she angry with herself for being okay though her sister is not? Was she really a good actress or just a cute little face with huge eyes? Finally I decided what bothered me most. The father. How can a father stand by and see his daughters beaten, thrown out of the house/car, and repeatedly belittled for no good reason? How can any adult human being stand by for this? He did eventually try to help, when it was too late. Yet, Melissa is still close to him. Puzzling. Very puzzzling. I'm glad she survived, but wonder how much she too is hiding from herself.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nothing makes a better read or a better movie than a crazy stage mother! Great details, remembered by Melissa....the mother's greed, the mother's refusal to help out when Melissa's father was going broke and refusal to stop spending, so she could have the best house, the best clothes, etc....tragic story of her sister who was also a child actor at one time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The beginning is a little choppy but the author's voice soon arrives. Hard work is shown throughout her life. It is a testament about perseverance. She had much to overcome. Well worth the money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much. It is very nice to see a young child star decide that she wants more out of life than stardom. She made good decisions to get an education, get married and have children and not let her mother dictate the life she felt her daughter should have. The sad part is the death of her sister which I feel influenced the author's life and something she will never forget. A good read with a happy ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Iloved this book her mother was bipolar and it was sad that she mad her kids lives misserable missy was great in little house regina montclair nj