Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes: A Memoir of Dublin in the 1950s
  • Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes: A Memoir of Dublin in the 1950s
  • Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes: A Memoir of Dublin in the 1950s

Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes: A Memoir of Dublin in the 1950s

4.2 5
by Martha Long
     
 

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When Martha Long's feckless mother hooks up with the Jackser ("that bandy aul bastard"), and starts having more babies, the abuse and poverty in the house grow more acute. Martha is regularly sent out to beg and more often steal, and her wiles (as a child of 7, 8) are often the only thing keeping food on the table. Jackser is a master of paranoid anger… See more details below

Overview

When Martha Long's feckless mother hooks up with the Jackser ("that bandy aul bastard"), and starts having more babies, the abuse and poverty in the house grow more acute. Martha is regularly sent out to beg and more often steal, and her wiles (as a child of 7, 8) are often the only thing keeping food on the table. Jackser is a master of paranoid anger and outburst, keeping the children in an unheated tenement, unable to go to school, at the ready for his unpredictable rages. Then Martha is sent by Jackser to a man he knows in exchange for the price of a few cigarettes. She is nine. She is filthy, lice-ridden, outcast. Martha and Ma escape to England, but for an itinerant Irishwoman finding work in late 1950s England is a near impossibility. Martha treasures the time alone with her mother, but amazingly Ma pines for Jackser and they eventually return to Dublin and the other children. And yet there are prized cartoon magazines, the occasional hidden penny to buy the children sweets, the glimpse of loving family life in other houses, and Martha's hope that she will soon be old enough to make her own way.

Virtually uneducated, Martha Long is natural-born storyteller. Written in the vernacular of the day, the reader is tempted to speak like Martha for the rest of a day (and don't let me hear yer woman roarin' bout it neither). One can't help but cheer on this mischievous, quick-witted, and persistent little girl who has captured hearts across Europe.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Bestselling memoirist Long (Ma, I've Got Meself Locked Up in the Mad House) takes readers to 1950s Dublin, where it is nothing short of a miracle that she survived her childhood. Long chronicles her life from ages three to 11, letting the child she once was "tell the story in her own voice:" a dynamic, colorful Irish dialect. Born to a destitute teenage mother, Long endures shocking privation and abuse, particularly at the hands of her mother's lascivious long-term boyfriend, who does indeed sell her for a few cigarettes. Trapped by her circumstances, Long must care for a growing brood of siblings, and though barely educated she finds ingenious ways to provide for her family. A penny candy, a broken roller-skate, a meal from a stranger: small treasures and kindnesses, though rare, give Long the strength she needs to hope for a better future. Her tale can be repetitive, but the repetition aptly mirrors the punishing cycle of poverty. Not for the faint of heart, Long's story is a gritty, grueling, and heartbreaking testament to one girl's unbreakable spirit.
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Kirkus Reviews
The story of a poverty-stricken young girl growing up broke--but not broken--in 1950s Dublin. In the first of four volumes, Long lays the groundwork for the tale of her lifetime of hardships. Just 4 years old at the start of the book, the author had to grow up fast in the extreme poverty that engulfed her. Born to a teenage mother whose primary talent seemed to be childbearing, Long was forced to do anything she could to survive, including drinking milk from a sibling's bottle. "Me Ma doesn't give me anthin te eat these days," she writes, "so I share the babby's bottle wit him." These desperate acts are continually on display throughout the book, and they are made most apparent on the day of Long's first Communion, when she was told to fast until after receiving the Lord. "I don't want Holy God," she wailed, "I want a bit of bread." Yet poverty was but one of many struggles Long faced. The other main one, her cruel-hearted stepfather, Jackser, proved the more complicated of the two. In a particularly horrific scene, Jackser demonstrates his villainy by dangling Long's baby brother over a bannister to show his resentment at having to take in another man's children. After much pleading, Jackser relented. "Here, take it," he grumbles, handing the baby over to its mother. "An count yerself lucky he's not splattered in the hall." Yet Long knows little of luck, and her book demonstrates her impressive determination and perseverance. Coming-of-age hardships skillfully recounted by way of the colloquial Irish tongue.
From the Publisher
"The destruction of our common humanity through the manipulation of imposed poverty, misogyny, alcoholism and drug abuse, is a major source of our misery, world-wide; and has been for a long time. Reading this startling testament to one child’s valiant attempts to live until the age of sixteen (four years to go!) is a worthy reminder that we can do better as adults if we turn to embrace the children who are suffering, anywhere on earth, who are coming toward us, their numbers increasing daily, for help."—Alice Walker

"Coming-of-age hardships skillfully recounted by way of the colloquial Irish tongue."—Kirkus Reviews

“Beautifully written and packed with detail. Miraculously, Martha is attuned to the simple wonders of the world around her: a BBC radio music program, young nuns having a snowball fight. It's a world she is determined to become a part of just as soon as she is old enough to flee.”— The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“One thing readers will notice is the unexpected theme of courage and hope throughout this dark, heart-breaking tale. This story was one of the most unique, surprisingly inspiring memoirs available.”—Yahoo Voices

"Stands head and shoulders above everything else in the category . . . a remarkable personal and literary achievement for the author and an unforgettable experience for the reader."—Irish Independent 

"[Long's] story is unique in its rawness and its honesty. Entirely self-educated, she narrates her own life in a way which is both riveting and moving."—Greenock Telegraph

"A tale of strength, bravery and sheer determination of not letting life beat you."—Irish Post

"An ultimately uplifting story which salutes the strength of the human spirit."—Irish World

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781609804145
Publisher:
Seven Stories Press
Publication date:
11/13/2012
Pages:
480
Sales rank:
1,209,499
Product dimensions:
5.88(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.49(d)

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