Morgan Smith has a way with words. In the author’s coming of age memoir, about growing up in the ‘60s in Toronto, she weaves a tapestry of words, a kaleidoscope of psychedelic experiences. All are grounded in her upbringing by her progressive parents who routinely marched for peace, and for civil rights, bringing along their young daughter as both witness and participant.
The book is built from chronological anecdotes that display how her parents imbued her
with their values, such as providing temporary housing for draft dodgers and deserters. Other snapshots demonstrate how even at a young age the author had absorbed her parents’ ethics. The story of her kindergarten classmates standing up to their anti-semitic teacher was both shocking (the bigotry) and delightful (the civil disobedience of 5-year olds). The children eventually devolved into tears, perhaps the more age-appropriate response than their impressive philosophical stance.
“We burst into tears, wailing in utter terror at this complete loss of stability in our world.”
While the author experienced this brief exposure to an evil teacher, and more typical school bullying, her true loss of stability in her world came a few years later upon learning that her mother was dying.
“There were the long stints of hospitalization for my mother as doctors tried to find chemical and surgical solutions to the time-bomb ticking inside her.”
I consider the great strength of Morgan’s memoir is how alive her mother is on the page. This woman was a force of nature, secure in her beliefs, and unflagging in her work to make the world a better place; one that matched her vision of peace, equality, and fairness. My favorite moment was when her mother retells the incident of her getting arrested at a protest rally for hitting a copy with her sign. But she contends it was accidental, as she adjusted the sign under her arm freeing her hands to help someone who had fallen and inadvertently nicked “the cop standing over someone he was beating with a nightstick.” She was a pacifist after all.
Facing her mother’s death was an excruciating journey for the author and her father. “Look: no amount of time eases this. My mother died before I could know her as one woman to another, and that is a pain that can’t be measured.” Everyone responds to death in their own personal ways, and this is embroidered into the chapter called Funeral Games replete with the somber tenor of loss and balanced with humor for navigating the grief.
Memoir continues to be my favorite genre as I recognize the courage it takes for authors to share such deep and personal aspects of themselves. I also believe this sharing is important because when it resonates with readers, we feel less alone in the world. I find myself marveling at how this author knew herself quite well early in her life, owing to the guidance of her parents. What a tremendous gift.
Morgan Smith is also an author of fantasy novels. Find out more about her and her books at her website: https://theaverrainecycle.wordpress.com/