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Book Reviews247 rather ride the sweaty and overcrowded buses than the air-conditioned Peace Corps van. In the end, the connection Dad makes with his son is inextricably bound together with the connection he has made with both the Sinhalese and the Tamals. Because of this, and because ofToner's insightful prose, Serendib is an impressive first book. Reviewed by MarcJ Sheehan All the Lost Girls: Confessions of a Southern Daughter by Patricia Foster University ofAlabama Press, 2000 308 pages, $24.95 WiUiam Faulkner's epigraph in Patricia Foster's beautifuUy written and compeUing memoir states:". . . the past is never dead. It is not even past." In her first fuU-length memoir, Patricia Foster writes about being trapped by a past imposed both by her mother and by traditional Southern society. Foster's internal journey toward self identity, toward coming to terms with the past, is long and arduous. For not until Foster is an adult does she discover a secret in her mother's past that profoundly affects both of them: as a young girl Foster's mother was sexuaUy molested by a brother. Foster's mother was raised in abject poverty with little hope of a better Ufe.Yet as a young girl, she knew that the only way to flee this poverty, this brother, was to get an education and find "a talent." Education and talent: two words that come to govern her (and her daughter's) life. With the help ofa teacher and much determination, Foster's mother was able to leave her home in rural Alabama and attend coUege, where she met and married a young medical student, thus seemingly guaranteeing a safe, middle-class fife. Into this Ufe she gives birth to three chüdren, Patricia being the youngest. Yet Foster's mother remains so profoundly affected by her past that she is determined her chüdren wfll never share the same fate. Foster shall get the best education, receive the best grades, always be perfecdy coifed and dressed, learn as many talents as possible, lead a "miraculous" Ufe. In other words, Foster shall be a success—while emphatically maintaining a happy and proper Southern lady facade. This society expects its "girls" to be prim and proper whüe being raised as model wives and mothers. The message that Foster constantly hears her mother speak is:"You must be appropriate at aU costs,mindful ofthe codes of respectabiUty and achievement. That alone is the road to entitlement." Foster foUows her mother's advice UteraUy, beUeving that she "must work 248Fourth Genre longer and harder than anyone else, for sacrifice alone can save your mother!" Heartbreakingly it is the only way she beUeves her mother wfll love her. But what kind oflove is this? By avoiding a simple chronological reteUing of events, Foster, the mature narrator, reveals in many fine reflective moments how her mother's rigid rules—her definition of love—aUow no room for spirituality or an inner life. For example, Foster, as a young girl, wants to wander in the woods, observe nature, orjust sit stiU and feel sun on her bare arms. But her mother relentlessly drags her to yet another piano lesson, another dance lesson. This insistence on perfection comes at a price: Foster feels inadequate, lost, unable to discover the girl she was meant to be. Foster feels rejected by her mother, and "I walk out into the backyard grass and empty my bladder, letting the pee run down my legs into my socks and the soles of my shoes. ... I can think of no other way to admit my fury." It's not until her first creative writing course, with a sensitive teacher, that she encounters emotional truth. Her teacher says, "Writing's a kind of uncovering . . . and if you start with false emotions or befiefs, there's nothing behind them but emptiness." Of course, part of the legacy Foster has inherited (Jam a happy, perfect child) is this very "terror of emotion, ofunburdening the heart." Now, in her writing class, Foster questions: "How does a person know what stories she has to teU, what should be uncovered and what left behind?"To this her teacher responds:"You...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1544-1733
Print ISSN
1522-3868
Pages
pp. 247-249
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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