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Mommie Dearest? 

Wednesday, Feb 16 2011
There are plenty of memoirs about horrible childhoods, but few damaged authors went through what artist, writer, and musician Mira Bartok endured. As detailed in her new memoir, The Memory Palace, Bartok grew up in the shadow of her schizophrenic mother, Norma Kurap Herr, serving as Herr’s caretaker from a young age. It’s a role that Bartok performed into adulthood, until Herr attacked her with a broken bottle. She changed her name and stopped speaking with her itinerant mother for the following 17 years, until a social worker notified her that Herr was dying. Watching her mother die, Bartok found some degree of clarity, if not closing, and the book serves as a powerful document of how she reluctantly worked through a lifetime of painful, conflicting emotions. Her ambivalence gives the book a credibility and pathos many personal narratives lack — unlike certain memoirists who eagerly air their dirty laundry for book sales and microcelebrity, Bartok spent decades trying to bury all remnants of her troubled childhood. She had plenty of practice: As Bartok explains, the greatest keepers of secrets are the children of schizophrenics, always covering for their volatile and unstable parents. What results is a nuanced coming-of-age narrative that steadfastly avoids self-pity or victimization, and it examines how Bartok made peace with circumstances out of her control.
Mon., Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m., 2011

About The Author

Paul M. Davis


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