Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood by Melissa Hart | Paperback | Barnes & Noble
Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood

Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood

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by Melissa Hart
     
 

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Torn between the high socioeconomic status of her father and the bohemian lifestyle of her mother, Melissa Hart tells a compelling story of contradiction in this coming-of-age memoir. Set in 1970s Southern California, Gringa is the story of a young girl conflicted by two extremes. On the one hand there’s life with her mother, who leaves her father to

Overview

Torn between the high socioeconomic status of her father and the bohemian lifestyle of her mother, Melissa Hart tells a compelling story of contradiction in this coming-of-age memoir. Set in 1970s Southern California, Gringa is the story of a young girl conflicted by two extremes. On the one hand there’s life with her mother, who leaves her father to begin a lesbian relationship, taking Hart and her two siblings along. Hart tells of her mom’s new life in a Hispanic neighborhood of Oxnard, California, and how these new surroundings begin to positively shape Hart herself. At the opposite extreme is her father’s white-bread well-to-do security, which is predictable and stable and boring. Hart is made all the more fraught with frustration when a judge rules that being raised by two women is “unnatural” and grants her father primary custody.

Hart weaves a powerful story of fleeting moments with her mother, of her unfolding adoration of Oxnard’s Latino culture, and of the ways in which she’s molded by the polarity of her parents’ worldviews. Hart is faced with opposing ideals, caught between what she is “supposed” to want and what she actually desires. Gringa offers a touching, reflective look at one girl’s struggle with the dichotomies of class, culture, and sexuality.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Hart (Journalism/Univ. of Oregon; The Assault of Laughter, 2005) takes a second crack at recording her coming-of-age years in 1970s Southern California. While the author's first memoir focused on her relationship with her lesbian mother, this one deals with not only that issue but also with her conflicted feelings about being white. When her parent's marriage dissolved and her mother moved out of their upper-middle-class suburban home, taking the author and siblings with her to Oxnard, a farming community north of the city, Hart was drawn to the color, warmth and especially the food of the large Hispanic families nearby. Chapters end with tongue-in-cheek recipes for making such dishes as tortillas, frito boats, chimichangas and chili. Her father soon won primary custody of the children, and the end-of-chapter recipes change to such delicacies as "WASP Milkshake" and "White Girl Cookies." Hart viewed her cultural background as pallid, banal and insipid, and her awkward teenage attempts to make her way into more vibrant and tradition-laden cultures were often disconcerting and disappointing. As a misfit college freshman at UC-Santa Cruz, she hooked up with a Mexican-American janitor, believing that as his girlfriend she had finally achieved cultural legitimacy. For a time they lived together in a ramshackle trailer on his parents' ranch, but the disparities in their backgrounds and in their expectations and ambitions doomed the relationship, apparently ending her search for an identity in the Hispanic world. The concluding chapter recounts a disastrous post-college trip to Spain with her mother in which the two women were totally out of synch with each other. The book is filled withdetailed conversations and particulars of dress, mannerisms and facial expressions that give it the feeling of a novel. A quirky narrative of artfully reconstructed memories.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781580052948
Publisher:
Avalon Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/22/2009
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Melissa Hart grew up in Southern California. She earned her BA in literature from UC Santa Barbara's College of Creative Studies, and her MFA in creative writing from Goddard College. She taught at Ventura College and Santa Barbara City College before moving to Oregon. She currently teaches Magazine Writing at the University of Oregon, and teaches Introduction to Memoir for UC Berkeley's online extension program. The latter course is available to the general public.

Hart has led workshops for Oregon Writers' Colony, the Willamette Writers, North Coast Redwood Writers, and Oregon's chapter of The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She teaches distance-learning Humanities courses for Laurel Springs School, and writes resource books for Teacher Created Resources.

Melissa Hart lives in Eugene, Oregon, with her husband, photographer Jonathan B. Smith, and their three dogs, five cats, and four rabbits. She enjoys international and local travel, gardening, running and hiking, and working with owls at the Cascades Raptor Center.

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