Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Flying Sparks

Flying Sparks: Growing up on the Edge of Las Vegas by Odette Larson
Verso, 2001
Hardcover, 280 pages
ISBN-13: 9781859846063
highly recommended

Synopsis from Publishers Weekly:
After suffering years of abuse, Larson finally realizes that she'd only "wanted to be wanted." Her memoir opens when she's nine [sic; 8], with the school psychiatrist bullying her into finding images in his Rorschach cards. School troubles are fast overshadowed when a family "friend" rapes her. Soon, her life falls into a nightmarish pattern of running away and being abused, each betrayal further confirming her sense of unworthiness. Eventually, she's sent to a mental hospital called Sparks [sic], from which she escapes and ends up alone at age 12 on the streets of Oakland.... Only in the end does she suspect it's her mother's approval she's been craving, the mother who has beaten her for every little slip.... Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

My thoughts:

First a note: The mental hospital was not called Sparks, the hospital was IN Sparks... Sparks, NV, which is right by (and essentially part of) Reno today. The book made that clear but both the synopsis on the cover and the Publisher's Weekly review didn't seem to comprehend that Sparks is the name of a city. Maps are our friends, people.

This is a graphic account of the abuse Larson suffered as a young girl, beginning at age 8 until she was 12, not only at the hands of her mother but by predatory men in the late 50's early 60's. It's disturbing and graphic in its brutal honesty. As a young girl, Larson seemingly jumps from one awful experience to another, all while fearing the beatings her mother will give her, a vicious whipping with a belt. While Larson does write about the desert landscape with a real passion, most of her story will incite in readers a real rage against the way she was repeatedly mistreated and abused. The books ends quite abruptly and really without a satisfactory conclusion or a complete resolution. We know Larson is a successful teacher and author today. I'd like to know more about how she overcame her tragic childhood experiences and faced the challenges of adolescence.
Highly Recommended - but not for the tender hearted


"What is it?" he asked, holding the card out.
"I dunno." His bulging eyes jerked behind thick lenses. He was probing for something. I wasn't sure what. opening

She'll see the other times they talked to me, will see that I don't fit anywhere. She'll know it's my fault, children are supposed to be seen and not heard. She'll hear me, hear me trying to make the words come out, easy words that stick in my mind and my throat, but won't come out of my mouth. She'll know I'm stupid, and my momma said she didn't raise any idiots. She'll be disgusted because I made problems. pg. 4

I go back to school because Momma means business. She'll spank me 'til my bottom's blue and little droplets of blood trickle down the edge of the belt marks if I cross her. But, when I go back, the school people will send me home again. They did the last time, when they found me sitting on the steps. If that happens again, Momma will be really mad. So I find a quiet place at school, beneath the bushes, a waiting place where Momma won't see me if she drives by and the school people won't see me if they come out. I sit with my back against the wall, my knees pulled up close to my chest. While the normal children learn about letters, numbers, and which colors match, I learn to wait. pg. 5-6

For the disillusioned, Las Vegas was a trap, but for me, it was home. pg. 11

"It's your turn, Jack wants to talk to you now, baby. Is that okay? You wanna talk to Jack?" His voice was so low and close it vibrated in my ear. pg. 28

Jack chuckled and sat up. "That's my ex-wife," he explained. "she's just jealous. She thinks I shouldn't be able to have kids around me, not even my own. There's nothing she can do about it though. She would hurt me if she could." pg. 32

Momma says girls ratting their hair are just building nests for black widows. One girl got bit and went to the hospital because she didn't comb the rats out for a whole week. pg. 38

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