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My Mama's Waltz


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About the Author

Eleanor Agnew (left) is an associate professor of English at Georgia Southern University. She has been an editor and columnist for regional news magazines, and has presented her published academic works at national conferences. She lives in Savannah, Georgia.


Academics Agnew (English, Georgia Southern) and Robideaux (writing, Univ. of Missouri) are also offspring of alcoholic mothers. They recount stories of their childhoods as well as the experiences of some 100 women they interviewed for their book. Their point of departure is the persistent view that alcoholism in women is more shameful than in men because it suggests weakness, inferiority and promiscuity. However debatable that contention, the authors argue convincingly that a drunken mother is more hurtful to a daughter than to a son, whose prescribed social role is to seek independence, whereas it's traditionally anticipated that a daughter will bond with her mother and use her as a role model. Thus a mother who abuses her daughter physically or verbally leaves unhealed wounds. The authors claim that repercussions of the abuse poison the daughter's relations with both men and women, although, they report, most resolve that their children will be spared the suffering they endured. Agnew and Robideaux estimate that at least four million women in America are afflicted by this legacy. These women should draw consolation from these harrowing accounts, if only to realize that their upbringing was not unique. (Apr.)

The Washington Post Book World The authors have brought the family secret of maternal alcoholism out into the open....The book benefits tremendously from the emotional understanding they bring to their subject and their elegant crafting of the...stories they have collected.
New York Newsday Well-written, and full of personal anecdotes, this book is a valuable resource for the many women trying to recover from a difficult childhood....Enormously helpful.
Hope Edelman, bestselling author of Motherless Daughters My Mama's Waltz fills what was a noticeably empty spot in the literature of loss, addressing what Eleanor Agnew and Sharon Robideaux evocatively reveal to be the specific issues and concerns of daughters made motherless by alcoholism. This book gives a voice to the millions of women who lost theirs as children and whose stories of survival deserve to be told.

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