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Welfare Brat: A Memoir
     

Welfare Brat: A Memoir

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by Mary Childers
 

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An intimate and frank look at poverty, abuse, and welfare dependence by a "welfare brat" who came of age in the blighted Bronx of the 1960s.

Mary Childers grew up in a neighborhood ravaged by poverty. Once a borough of elegant apartment buildings, parks, and universities, the Bronx had become a national symbol of urban decay. White flight, arson, rampant

Overview

An intimate and frank look at poverty, abuse, and welfare dependence by a "welfare brat" who came of age in the blighted Bronx of the 1960s.

Mary Childers grew up in a neighborhood ravaged by poverty. Once a borough of elegant apartment buildings, parks, and universities, the Bronx had become a national symbol of urban decay. White flight, arson, rampant crime, and race riots provide the backdrop for Mary's story. The child of an absent carny father for whom she longed and a single welfare mother who schemed and struggled to house and feed her brood, Mary was the third of her mother's surviving seven children, who were fathered by four different men.

From an early age, Mary knew she was different. She loved her family fiercely but didn't want to repeat her mother's or older sisters' mistakes. The Childers family culture was infused with alcohol and drugs, and relations between the sexes were muddled by simultaneous feelings of rage and desire toward men. Fatherless children were the norm. Academic achievement and hard work were often scorned, not rewarded; five of the seven Childers children dropped out of high school. But Mary was determined to create a better life, and here she recounts her bumpy road to self-sufficiency. With this engaging and thoughtful examination of her difficult early years, Mary Childers breathes messy life into the issues of poverty and welfare dependence, childhood resilience, the American work ethic, and a popular culture that values sexuality more than self-esteem.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Childers' tale of growing up white, Irish-Catholic and on welfare in the Bronx rises above cliché and melodrama with humor and uncommon grace.” —Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Whatever preconceptions we may have about ‘welfare moms' and their families, some will be challenged and some confirmed by this feisty autobiography.” —Boston Globe

Kirkus Reviews
Clear-eyed coming-of-age story traces the author's girlhood in the Bronx of the 1950s and '60s, and her iron determination to claw her way out of the system. Childers was born into a large Irish Catholic family: one mother, several absent fathers and numerous half sisters. The pope's position on birth control meant that Childers's mother, Sandy, would never abort a child, and her drinking, loneliness and poor impulse control kept the Childers clan ever increasing. The author reports on the many small moments that added up to her unhappy childhood. There were the nights of searching for her mother in the bar and the days she had to fight to attend school rather than baby-sit the younger children. And there was the growing instability of the world outside. Crammed into a small apartment in one of the few neighborhoods they could afford, the Childers girls (and later one boy) had a front-row seat for watching the crumbling of the Bronx. In her dry, clear voice, the author reports on the growing crime, the flight of white neighbors and the racial tensions that played out in school and on the streets. It's clear that this sense of distance came at a cost to Childers: The day she left for college, her mother told her she might as well never come back. These tangled family relations, the tensions of wondering how the latest financial crisis can be solved, Sandy's raffish but undeniable appeal, the author's slow but inevitable escape from her family's undertow, the difficulty of seeing her less determined siblings going under-it all makes for raw, magnetic reading. The close, however, a brief commentary on social class, is a jarring and unnecessary addendum to an eloquent work. Childers's veryspecific portrait of a time and place makes for a valuable piece of social history, as well as a potent personal tale.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781582345895
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
05/02/2006
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
939,407
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.83(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Mary Childers is a consultant who mediates conflict and provides discrimination prevention training for higher education and corporations. She has a Ph.D. in English literature and lives in Hanover, New Hampshire.

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Welfare Brat 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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