The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v Wade by Ann Fessler
This is one of the books that should be made compulsory reading for anyone who’s able to procreate.
I am at chapter 4, and naively hoping to come across interview subjects from the opposite gender. I know it’s likely impossible, but it would be nice to hear from them. How they felt after their girlfriend were disappeared, what they took and carried with them to the Marine Corps – and some, the Vietnam War – after their families told them they are never to marry the girl they impregnated and love, how they felt all these decades knowing they have a daughter or a son out there.
But I know it’s not gonna happen. I’ll make do with the women’s testimonials. It’s tragic enough.
I read this before watching the movie. The movie could only cover this much, plus there are tens other biographies of the late Freddie Mercury. I decided to go with this because it’s written by a journalist – someone who was actually there, having bore witness to, and living it up during one of the greatest decades of music production.
Worst part of the book? I think it’s about the Chinese girl trying not to get bullied and hence chose to hate on blacks so that she could “be” left alone by the whites – by hating on the blacks. It’s disgusting, having to publicly express hatred toward another race in order to survive in a f*cking school. A f*cking school. Only in America? Don’t think so. I didn’t go to school with kids from other races until my teens. Even then, they were considered ‘exotic’ because there were so few of them. We actually wanted to make friends with them, because their culture is different, intriguing, something we don’t get to experience probably because our country’s school system is so segregated it’s f*cking ridiculous.
Before reading this book, I never had to have an opinion about their way of life, their culture. After all, I live in Asia. There are no Gypsies here. While I’m aware of how certain people hate them (why, what for), I never dug deeper beyond the stereotypical “all Gypsies are thieves and uncouth” line. I did have first-hand conversations with Europeans (friends, ex-colleagues) about the Romany people, but they weren’t white supremacists so there weren’t much to hate on beyond those lines. So I’ve finished the book – Still no opinion. It’s their way of life. To the normal society, they are in dire need to change or “be changed” (i.e. continue to be discriminated against until their culture vanishes altogether). It’s sad, it’s tragic. It’s no different than oppressed little girls forced to go through FGM or marry old men at the tender age of 5.
This post has been sitting in my drafts folder since March 6th. It’s a good time to clear my drafts this morning, once and for all. Yeah, wishful thinking.
This is my first full-on book on Libya. I came into this book with limited understanding on the average-sized African nation, having read quite a fair bit of Time and Newsweek magazines (shhh, please just leave the word ‘biased’ out of this) in the 80s and 90s as a kid. I wasn’t even a teen yet when I started skimming and half-reading those magazines.
I vividly recall Gaddafi gracing (I was a kid, what much do I know) the covers of those magazines, in his flamboyant robe and headgear. I even thought he was rather charming, as he was sometimes clad in his camouflage gear complete with a pair of black Docs (I assumed it was Docs since he did have quite a lot of contact with Marie Colvin, who was living in the UK then. Who knows. He might have gotten a pair of Docs just to impress her, am I not right?).
I wouldn’t be able to say anything substantial nor smart about this book (I don’t usually do so on this blog, anyway), because I have always considered myself a rookie in world affairs despite having read quite a number of books on current affairs and dictatorial regimes.
I always come away from these books with a fresh new understanding on how certain countries function. The way they function isn’t always the way a ‘normal’ country functions. There’s developed countries, developing countries, and then, there’s countries that are no where close to the ‘developing countries’ line, as dictated by certain, ‘accredited world governing bodies’. Libya is one of it. It is still, in 2019, a new country, though people elsewhere around the world are expecting it to be built into Rome in 8 years (Gaddafi was ousted from power in the wake of the fall of Tripoli to the rebel forces on 20 August 2011).
If you have another nonfiction, good read on Libya, please send them my way. Thank you. Also, preferable first-person accounts.
I took quite a while to finish this book as the author went in really deep on this (he’s most certainly not the first to write about the girls, hence he had a lot of referencing to do). I can’t recall whether he wasn’t born yet or whether he was a toddler when the murder took place, but the author hails from New Zealand and is a lawyer who was (is?) based in Hong Kong when he began writing this book. It was mentioned somewhere in the foreword.
The author made a lot of references to the girls’ diaries, often citing old movies and literature which were favored by the girls. Bear in mind all these were in the early 1950s, so even if you’re familiar with WW2, it’s not enough. The references to WW2, the cold, bitter weather, South Africa, the state the families were in (post-war), probably took up less than 5% of the book. I say this because I am (indefinitely) not into classic literatures, thrillers, plays… Well, generally the sort of things that were heavily described throughout the book.
I didn’t have much difficulty reading the book, the prose wasn’t ‘old English’, but I did bump into dry bits where I couldn’t relate to at all, as the girls were really into fiction and imaginary characters plus stuff people who enjoy Romeo and Juliet might be able to connect with.
Other facts were okay and informative, such as mental illness in the 1950s, the court battles, family predicaments. The best takeaway, for me, were within the last few chapters, where the author attempted to analyze how the girls were raised by their mothers – the abandonment, the resentment, the shortcomings between mother and daughter relationships etc. I did highlight a few passages. It made me cringe, as I myself, am a mother…
Would I recommend this book to anyone? I don’t know. None of my close friends who are bookworms are into true crime nor would they give a **** about these two murderesses. Don’t think they’ll bat an eyelid with Leopold and Loeb neither.
I gave 5 shining stars on Goodreads. Everything in the name of effort and details.
p.s. It seems that I didn’t write about the girls, the murder… What is there to write?
The author didn’t quite address how he felt – When the revolution was happening, when Qaddafi/Gaddafi was captured, tortured. There’s almost nothing on that, so in case you were hoping for a wee bit on that, don’t.
The book is literally what it presents itself to be – The author’s search and yearning for his father, who was betrayed by the Egyptian SS, imprisoned by the dictator, and of course, disappeared by the regime.
The body of the author’s father was never found. He never met anyone specifically who could give him a straight answer, or closure, on what happened to his late father.
There were dry facts in between the pages, which is beyond necessary for those who are not familiar with the regime’s history.
There’s also no talk of the country post-Qaddafi. Like I said, it’s about him, his father, and the regime in between – and Egypt is part of the narrative as well.
If you are looking for a dose on the revolution and other issues which were not addressed in The Return, I think you should consider “Sandstorm”, written by Lindsey Hilsum. I’m currently reading that book, so hopefully I’ll get to learn more about Libya then.