Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress: Tales of Growing Up Groovy and Clueless
Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress Tales of Growing Up Groovy and Clueless Author:Susan Jane Gilman A funny and poignant collection of true stories about women coming of age that for once isn't about finding a date. — Gilman's memoir of growing up on Manhattan's upper Upper West Side in the '70s starts slowly but gathers momentum. Readers who find themselves drifting during Gilman's reveries on lying during show-and-t... more »ell will find themselves pleasantly riveted by the time she's getting in touch with her roots as a reporter for the Jewish Week.
Gilman, author of 2001's Kiss My Tiara, a women's self-help guide, makes common scenarios fresh with humor and wry social commentary; on the first day of school, she quickly learns "boys might be fighters, but girls could be terrorists."
When her brother asks their dad why their Jewish family celebrates Christmas, she doesn't miss a beat: " 'Because your grandmother's a Communist and your mother loves parties,' said my father. 'Now eat your supper.' " These one-liners don't detract, however, from a serious and moving look at one family's efforts to keep itself intact through divorce and other life challenges. After her parents separate, Gilman, then in her mid-20s, fears she and her brother had spent their childhoods in happy oblivion while their parents were "spellbound with misery." Probably not: Gilman's recollections of moving bumpily toward adulthood are keenly observant. « less
For those who've yet to read it, the book can be divided into roughly three [unequal] parts: childhood, high school/college and Susan-as-an-adult. The first part was the best for me - perfect mix of funny and sad, just like a good sweet-and-sour sauce should be. The second section is shorter than the others, which is a good thing.
High school pretty much consists of a looooooooong riff on virginity, with a drawn-out celebrity stalking adventure thrown in. Her college years are covered by one anecdote; all I'll say about that is that Henry seemed like a "metrosexual before his time" and the more he went on about needing to screw his girlfriend the less convincing he sounded. This section was the low point for me. Stick with it though as the later stuff gets better.
Ms. Gilman's conclusions on the concentration camp tour of Poland were the high point of the book for me; her subsequent Congressional job and wedding plans are well-written, interesting stories that coast the book nicely to a smooth end.
I did have a major problem with her presentation: how could she possibly have gotten into Stuyvesant (one of the most prestigious high schools in the nation) and Brown, and have been that clueless? Her rant on having all those deductions from her first actual paycheck (as a high school student) struck me as preposterous. I don't see how she could possibly have not known about deductions (nor have missed the student withholding exemption status when she filled out her tax forms)? Her ignorance about Judaism (she is a native New Yorker raised in an ethnically Jewish, though non-practicing, household!) was so very far-fetched that I had to consciously disregard it as a failed fictional device. I deducted a star for this, and the uneven middle section.
That having been said, I enjoyed the book a lot, and would consider it as gift material for friends and family.
What a great read! If you were born in the mid-1960s, chances are you will appreciate many of the popular culture references and social issues recounted by Susan Gilman in this autobiographical book. Parts are seriously laugh-out-loud hilarious, too, largely due to Gilman's mastery of description and knack for highlighting the absurd with understatement.
In interesting memoir. Raised in a fairly dysfunctional family and making the best of it, Ms. Gilman has a way of softening what could have been horrid scenes with her wit and slightly skewed outlook on life- which I like... you know you gotta play with the cards your dealt- she does it quite nicely.