Each Has Its Own Story: 8 Books About A Difficult Youth

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Each Has Its Own Story: 8 Books About A Difficult Youth
Each Has Its Own Story: 8 Books About A Difficult Youth

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What doesn't kill us gives our psychotherapists work. Difficult youth sometimes becomes a powerful motivation to defend the right to a dignified life - for yourself and your loved ones. Here are eight books about strong heroines who have found the strength to face childhood trauma in the face: four true stories and four fiction novels.

Text: Dina Klyucharyova, author of the telegram channel One Oscar For Leo


Lisa Wingate

While we were not with you

Arcadia. Translated by Anastasia Lazareva

A fictionalized story about the activities of the so-called "Society of Tennessee Orphanages", which existed in the United States in the 20-50s. It was headed by Georgia Tann, a kind and pretty woman - at first glance. In fact, Tann, along with her accomplices, directed the abductions of hundreds of children who were tricked and blackmailed from low-income parents in the Midwest. Tann gave preference to angelic-looking babies - fair-haired and fair-skinned, whom she later placed in wealthy respectable families under the guise of unfortunate abandoned orphans in exchange for a solid reward. Even celebrities were Tann's clients - for example, with her help actress Joan Crawford adopted the twins.

In Tann's institutions, children were kept in inhuman conditions, some were raped and tortured. In the 50s, when the Tennessee Orphanage Society recorded a record death rate among children, Tann's business was closed, and she herself was put on trial. Paradoxically, despite her deeply immoral activities, Tann has helped reduce the stigma of orphanhood and adoption of children with disadvantaged backgrounds in the United States.


Varys Dirie, Kathleen Miller

Desert Flower

Bombora. Translation by Yulia Sashnikova

Biography of supermodel Varis Dirie, who was born into a family of Somali nomads. Dirie spent her early childhood wandering in the desert with her parents, sisters and brothers, and the first part of the book is about this simple life - spending the night under the open sky strewn with stars and a natural flair for finding drinking water (for which you can go for several days in the desert), - perhaps the lightest.

When Varys turns five, she strives, like her older sisters, to go through the rite of "becoming a woman" - although she does not suspect that behind the pompous words lies a mutilating operation known as "female circumcision", which is carried out in monstrous unsanitary conditions. This turning point determines Dirie's entire future life - she flees from the desert from marriage with an old man, then from the capital of Somalia to England and accidentally ends up in the modeling business.

In the 2000s, Dirie left her modeling career for the sake of human rights work - in 1997 she was elected UN special ambassador against female genital mutilation. Since 2002, she has led her own foundation dedicated to combating this practice, which is still widespread even far beyond Africa.


Mary Carr

Liars club. Only deception will help you understand the truth

Bombora. Translation by Alexey Andreev

Mary Carr's memories of childhood in the Texas outback in a family that is entirely composed of atypical personalities. A windy mother is prone to nervous breakdowns, a dad is prone to alcoholism, a strange grandmother suspects everyone around and carries a criminologist's camp set with her everywhere, and a daring and aggressive older sister has such a well-hung tongue that she can argue with anyone - even a city sheriff.

Carr recounts the darkest moments of his youth in a strikingly light style, ironic and somewhat reminiscent of Salinger.Behind this talentedly written text there is a lot of work on herself: the writer went through completely unchildish trials - two episodes of violence, caring for a painfully dying grandmother and psychotic episodes in her mother. The book will appeal to those who enthusiastically read last year's bestseller Tara Westover "The Apprentice", written just under the influence of Carr's memoirs.


Janet Winterson

Not just oranges

AST. Translated by Anna Komarinets

Memoirs of the English writer Janet Winterson, who grew up in a deeply religious small community and faced homophobia at an early age. Janet's mother is an ardent Christian, active parishioner and respected person. Instead of telling stories about how the universe works, she teaches her daughter psalms and covenants and prepares for missionaries, but contrary to her convictions, she is forced to send her to a regular school - where Janet becomes a black sheep. She tells her peers about paradise and fiery hell, and in labor lessons she embroiders religious dogmas on napkins instead of lambs and flowers, which shocks both the children and their parents and the teachers themselves. Janet's world turns upside down overnight when she meets a sweet girl in the parish, whom she falls in love with at first sight - for which she later pays dearly: the community subjects her to condemnation and the rite of exorcism, and later her own mother renounces her.

At first glance, Winterson's pertly written autobiography hides much more - a deep, hard-lived trauma from not being accepted by his own parents and the important message that sincere faith and deep prejudice are far from the same thing.


Dorit Linke

On the other side of the blue border

Kick scooter. Translation by Vera Komarova

Marked with the "young adult" mark, the novel about three schoolchildren from Soviet Germany is a tragic and surprisingly relevant work for modern Russia for readers of all ages. Hannah, Andreas and Saxxy grow up in an atmosphere of despair: widespread state control, poverty, scarcity and intimidated people who are ready to inform family, neighbors and friends in order to be the first to do it and not fall into the meat grinder of the totalitarian system.

The guys are faced with a difficult choice - to become cogs in this giant machine, for the production of which she is sharpened, or to try to escape in order to preserve their personality and the right to openly express thoughts. It is difficult not to associate themselves with the heroes of the book: even though they live in authentically recreated scenery of a completely different cruel era, they still think and dream about the same thing - they want to eat delicious food, live in beautiful cities, say what they think, read what I want to communicate with those they like without asking permission from Big Brother.


Bianca Marais

Sing even if you don't know the words

Phantom Press. Translation by Elena Teplyashina

A dramatic story about how to survive an incredible loss and retain a human face even in the most inhuman circumstances, as well as a faithful picture of the apartheid era in South Africa. 1976, Johannesburg, white skin by default means domination, and the indigenous people are deprived of almost all civil rights and forced to settle in the ghetto.

Nine-year-old Robin from a prosperous white family grows up like a princess and enjoys all the privileges of her origin - until tragedy comes to her house. African Beauty comes to Johannesburg in search of her eldest daughter, who moved here to study at a city school, but became involved in the affairs of the underground African resistance army. One day, the paths of Robin and Beauty will cross, so that each of them will receive their own lesson in humanity, kindness, honesty and mercy and will learn that any person is valuable, regardless of skin color, gender, religious and gender preferences.


Grace McClean

The most beautiful land in the world

ABC. Translation by Alexandra Glebovskaya

A powerful novel about the negative side of a conservative religious upbringing and how hard a child experiences parental depression and school bullying. Ten-year-old Judith lives with her dad in a small town. Dad, never burned out by the loss of his wife, works at a factory, and in his spare time he goes to preach about the impending apocalypse - he is a member of Jehovah's Witnesses. Judith got used to the idea of ​​the imminent end of the world and builds her own Beauty of the Earth in her room - a tiny city of objects that seem to everyone else as rubbish. Judith is disliked and bullied at school: she is sure that she hears the voice of the Lord and is able to work miracles, and the children seem like a strange nerd.

Despite the detailed recreation of the atmosphere of a small stuffy town, full of inert-minded inhabitants, and chilling episodes of bullying, which gradually develops from offensive pokes into life-threatening incidents, the story leaves a pacifying impression and does not crush religious reasoning. The heroes of the book hope for a better outcome even in the most difficult situations and, like the current Pope, fully admit that the Big Bang, which formed the Universe, does not at all deny divine intervention.


Isabelle Pandazopoulos

Three girls in a rage

Kick scooter. Translation by Dmitry Savosin

In fact, there are much more than three girls in rage in this book: this frank novel, written in the epistolary genre, is a living portrait of women's destinies in the late sixties in Europe and a real hymn to sisterhood.

One of the heroines flees from her native Greece from the dictatorship of the "black colonels", the family of another is torn apart by the Berlin Wall, and the third joins the Parisian circles of protesting students. Their personal stories are woven into the context of a rebellious era: the heroines try to defend their views and look for themselves in revolutionary protests, casual relationships and arguments with friends.

This is a book that every family has skeletons in the closet, that children should not pay for the sins of their parents, and that patriarchal attitudes have become obsolete half a century ago. The book is supplemented with archival photographs and maps - a nice bonus that helps to create an even more voluminous picture of this important milestone in the history of Europe.

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