Thursday, May 19, 2011
My name is Avocet Abigail Jackson. But because Mama couldn't find anyone who thought Avocet was a fine name for a child, she called me Bird. Which is okay by me. She named both her children after birds, her logic being that if we were named for something with wings then maybe we'd be able to fly above the shit in our lives. . . .
So says Bird Jackson, the mesmerizing narrator of Connie May Fowler's vivid and brilliantly written, Before Women Had Wings.
Starstruck by a dime-store picture of Jesus, Bird fancies herself "His girlfriend" and embarks upon a spiritual quest for salvation, even as the chaos of her home life plunges her into a stony silence. In stark and honest language, she tells the tragic life of her father, a sweet-talking wanna-be country music star, tracks her older sister's perilous journey into womanhood, and witnesses her mother make a courageous and ultimately devastating decision.
Yet most profound is Bird's own story--her struggle to sift through the ashes of her parents' lives, her meeting with Miss Zora, a healer whose prayers over the bones of winged creatures are meant to guide their souls to heaven, and her will to make sense of a world where fear is more plentiful than hope, retribution more valued than love. . . .
Although I didn't come from an abusive home I really related to Bird's situation. The 'feelings' that she spoke of seemed to really ring true for me. At a very young age I knew we weren't rich, but I never realized how poor we were. Now that I'm older and can see the whole picture I really see just how poor we were. My older siblings really lived through a lot more, but I remember all the other girls in school had much nicer cloths than we did and they could get involved in school activities because they had supportive parents. My parents were not 'bad', but because there were nine of us, they didn't have the individual time to spend on each of us.
This was a very well written book and like I said I could really 'feel' what she was portraying. It brought a whole new perspective to some of the other things I've read lately. I remember a few books that spoke of Dad being a pilot and all that comes with that kind of finances and another book that spoke of buying a new home and how Mom was home cooking and baking - I was trying to remember those things in my life and they just weren't there. At a time when there were very few Mom's working mine had a full time job and we were on our own after school til someone got home.
This book reminds me a lot of my past and makes me really appreciate all that my Mom did to protect us and keep us safe. It brings to light all that could have gone wrong that didn't. Although we didn't have a lot we had each other and there was kindness and lots of fun.