That Mean Old Yesterday: A Memoir

( 5 )

Overview


An astonishing coming-of-age memoir by a young woman who survived the foster care system to become an award-winning journalist

On a rainy night in November 1999, a shoeless Stacey Patton, promising student at NYU, approached her adoptive parents' house with a gun in her hand. She wanted to kill them. Or so she thought.

No one would ever imagine that the vibrant, smart, and ...

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Overview


An astonishing coming-of-age memoir by a young woman who survived the foster care system to become an award-winning journalist

On a rainy night in November 1999, a shoeless Stacey Patton, promising student at NYU, approached her adoptive parents' house with a gun in her hand. She wanted to kill them. Or so she thought.

No one would ever imagine that the vibrant, smart, and attractive Stacey had a childhood from hell. After all, with God-fearing, house-proud, and hardworking adoptive parents, she appeared to beat the odds. But her mother was tyrannical, and her father turned a blind eye to the years of abuse his wife heaped on their love-starved little girl.

Now in her beautiful memoir, Stacey links her experience to the legacy of American slavery and successfully frames her understanding of why her good adoptive parents did terrible things to her by realizing they had terrible things done to them.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[A]n unforgettable document of uniquely intelligent triumph." — David Levering Lewis, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography

"Raw with pain, anger, and yearning, That Mean Old Yesterday also crackles with an abundance of intelligence, courage, and pure guts. Stacey Patton survived a childhood of abandonment and abuse and built herself into an accomplished, truly self-made young woman. Her memoir will grab you by the heart and blow your mind. A stunning literary debut." — Jill Nelson, author of the bestselling memoir Volunteer Slavery and, most recently, Finding Martha's Vineyard: African Americans at Home on an Island

"Stacey Patton is a tour-de-force writer — weaving together her many gifts as a natural storyteller as well as a steel-eyed historian, scholar, sage, poet, and journalist. In That Mean Old Yesterday, Patton performs a kind of sleight of hand by telling her own heartbreaking and triumphant story in context of the collective journey of African Americans — out of slavery, through freedom, toward redemption. What makes this memoir even more universal and important is that in it we are movingly shown how it is possible to confront the past and why we must." — Mim Eichler Rivas, coauthor of The Pursuit of Happyness with Chris Gardner and Quincy Troupe

"For those of us who have lived through the war zone of family violence and the attempted denigration of the human spirit, Stacey Patton's That Mean Old Yesterday is a testament that you can reclaim your life and positively impact the lives of others. In her deeply moving and revealing memoir, Patton powerfully reminded me that there is always hope." — Victor Rivas Rivers, actor, activist, and author of A Private Family Matter

"Carefully reasoned and powerfully emotional." — Kirkus Reviews

"A riveting tale...touching and instructive; the style penetrating and effective." — Library Journal

"An astonishing coming-of-age story.... Patton's triumphant story will inspire African Americans to reconsider their treatment of children and their histories and be moved to better understand themselves." — The Philadelphia Tribune

"That Mean Old Yesterday, Stacey Patton's feast of wonderful writing, is an extraordinary weave of memoir and racial history that transforms a black childhood and adolescence lived in hell into an unforgettable document of uniquely intelligent triumph." — David Levering Lewis, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography

Kirkus Reviews

"Carefully reasoned and powerfully emotional."

Library Journal

"A riveting tale...touching and instructive; the style penetrating and effective."

The Philadelphia Tribune

"An astonishing coming-of-age story.... Patton's triumphant story will inspire African Americans to reconsider their treatment of children and their histories and be moved to better understand themselves."

Library Journal

Journalist Patton (African American & U.S. history, Montclair State Univ.) serves up a riveting tale of anguish and ultimate triumph in this victim's account of a torturous childhood that is a testimony to the power of perseverance. In painstaking detail, she describes her fate and the brutality of those who perpetrated unspeakable cruelty against her. Her powerful story is, however, persistently haunted by an imposed analysis it could have done without. True, the sad tale of an abused child helpless before her adoptive parents and a system that failed her is a compelling one. But Patton evokes a parallel narrative in her explication of her experience: that of African American slavery and its legacy. It is an unfortunate parallel, constantly present, explaining away every incomprehensible deed and human frailty. The story is nonetheless touching and instructive; the style, penetrating and effective enough to warrant adult readers' time and attention. The language is shocking at times, though the shock is always intended. Recommended for large public libraries.
—Edward K. Owusu-Ansah

Kirkus Reviews
Patton's inspiring memoir of survival in an abusive adoptive family offers a well-informed and startling take on violence and racism in America. At five years old, the author was adopted by a New Jersey couple who by all outward appearances were model middle-class African Americans. But the facade dropped the moment they reached their gleaming house with manicured lawn and shade trees. Patton was the prisoner of a passive father and bitter adoptive mother whose frustration at her infertility was loosed on her adoptive daughter in violent beatings and emotional abuse. From ages five to 13, the author was the victim of terrifying assaults, including beatings with an extension cord, by a woman determined to keep the child under manipulative control. Upon entering school, Patton was shocked to discover that such violence was condoned by the community, whose deeply held Pentecostal beliefs reinforced the philosophy, "spare the rod, spoil the child." Merging her personal experiences with a provocative examination of African-American history, the author credibly argues that violence is a continuing legacy of slavery. She makes many plausible connections among the corporeal punishment of children, low self-esteem, fervent religiosity and fathers too weak to assert themselves after centuries of having their paternity denied. Patton charts her nascent awareness that the abuse she experienced was plainly not right, even though her adoptive mother's family and friends condoned it. She ran away and was eventually placed in a group home. Despite the outrageous negligence of her guardians, who did their best to discourage her, she won a full scholarship to an elite private boarding high school. Personaldiscovery combines with knowledgeable historical argument to create a document at once carefully reasoned and powerfully emotional, striking in its endeavor to relate a unique individual experience to broader communal ills. .
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743293112
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press
  • Publication date: 9/16/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,423,504
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Stacey Patton is currently a graduate student pursuing her PhD in history at Rutgers University. She is also a professor at Montclair State University. She has written for The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, New York Newsday, and Scholastic magazine and is the recipient of numerous journalism awards and academic honors. She resides in New York. To learn more about Stacey Patton visit www.staceypatton.com.

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Read an Excerpt

One

Some black children living on antebellum plantations often had no idea they were slaves. During their early years, they played not only with other slave children but also white children. They wandered freely and explored the plantations. Sometimes masters, especially if they were the biological fathers of slave children, took young slaves horseback riding, cuddled them, and rewarded them with gifts and other special treatment.

But most slave children did not have such an idyllic beginning. Children were the most vulnerable in the slave community, which was characteristically fraught with violence. White youth, at the urging of adults, often abused their black playmates. Older black children meted out cruelty on the smaller ones. Slave children played games like hide-the-switch. One child would hide a willow switch, and the others would search for it. The lucky one to find it got to whip other children at will, mimicking the behaviors they saw whites mete out to their parents and black parents dish out onto black children.

In addition to many forms of verbal, physical, and psychological abuse, slave children faced the threat of being sold at any time. Children often didn't know their biological parents and could be detached at any time from people who were familiar to them because they or those people were sold and shipped off to other plantations. The births of black children helped replenish a cheap labor force and perpetuate the system. During slavery, black children had economic value even before they were born. As property, they could be used not only for their labor but also as collateral for mortgages, to buy land, and to pay other types of debts. Their bondage also helped define what it meant to be white and free.

Slave children died in droves because they were not properly cared for. Old women, slightly older siblings, or inexperienced mothers had the impossible task of taking care of a large number of children in the plantation nursery. Like adult slaves, children were fed improperly and suffered many illnesses. Despite all this jeopardy, family, such as it was in plantation society, was an important survival mechanism for slave children. Family served as a comfort and layer of protection, as well as a buffer between the humanity of youngsters and the evils of the peculiar institution.

Copyright © 2007 by Stacey Patton

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2012

    Loved it!

    Loved her book. I like how she compares slavery to the abuse she went through. Love the way she writes and openly talks about her abuse. She writes in such a way that you feel like you know her personally. When she was sad i felt sad for her and cried and when she was happy i was smiling for her while reading. Her book is beyond inspiring.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2012

    in INSPIRING

    Stacy Patton speaks truthfully and crates a dynamic parallel between Black history and socialized acceptance of abuse. Her strenght is truely inspiring.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2011

    Amazing...Incredible...Inspirational

    A must read! I couldn't put it down!
    One of the best books I have ever read. She is an inspiration that she could have made it through the hell her adoptive mother did!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews

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