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

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by Martha Long
     
 

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"Not for the faint of heart, Long's story is a gritty, grueling, and heartbreaking testament to one girl's unbreakable spirit."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

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…  See more details below

Overview

"Not for the faint of heart, Long's story is a gritty, grueling, and heartbreaking testament to one girl's unbreakable spirit."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

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.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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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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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:
9781609804152
Publisher:
Seven Stories Press
Publication date:
11/13/2012
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
480
Sales rank:
183,145
File size:
1 MB

Meet the Author

MARTHA LONG was born in the 1950s in Dublin, where she lives to this day. She is the author of the eight-part “Ma” series of memoirs, which have been best-sellers in the UK and Ireland. In 2014 Long published her first novel, Run, Lily, Run. A self-proclaimed “middle-aged matron,” she has successfully reared three children.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Ma, He Sold Me for a Few Cigarettes: A Memoir of Dublin in the 1950s 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book while on vacation in Ireland...its really not a poor pitiful me story...its the story of a tough kid surviving life as she knows it..an intriguing look at life in Ireland.
BrittanyHolland More than 1 year ago
There really are no words to describe how incredible this book is.  I stumbled across it randomly, trying to find something to read to pass the time over my Christmas vacation.  I was drawn in by the photo of the young girl on the cover.  Her clothes ratty and her face dirty, but whose eyes show a twinkle of mischeiff, defiance, and strength.  It isn't easy to read.  Martha's living conditions were deplorable.  The beating of a young girl by a drunken lunatic is hard to swallow.  It's hard to imagine, but unfortunately beatings are not the worst abuse this poor girl had to endure.  The whole time I was reading it, it was hard to imagine this happening in the 1950s and 1960s.  Seemed more like the story of a poor girl at the turn of the century. I hope this book does well here in the United States.  It is an eye-opening, extremely detailed and in-depth look at the life if a girl born into an extremely unfortunate life, but comes out on the other side with her zest for life and sense of humor intact.  I don't know how!  The fact she survived to adulthood at all is in itself a miracle!  Do yourself a favor and read this book.  This little girl's story should be heard by millions. This book personally woke me up.  I had no idea people, little children, were still living like Martha had to so recently in our past.  The sad fact is, people still live like this today all over the world.  It's hard to imagine...especially for a girl living in the US who has never had to endure hardships like going days without food or bathing, being bitten by fleas in your sleep.  It's hard to take in and it's heartbreaking, but ends up being uplifting once you find out she is alive and thriving.  If nothing else, this book should make you think twice the next time you are confronted with an opportunity to help someone less fortunate than yourself.  It should make you reconsider it next time you think about looking down on someone who doesn't share your privileged status.  I hope publishers don't waste time releasing the rest of Martha Long's books in the United States, because once you read this one, you won't want to wait very long to read the rest of the series!  I highly recommend this book, and once I read the rest of her books, I'm confident I'll recommend them too!
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