Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Almost Famous Women: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman

Almost Famous Women: Stories
Reading the blurb to this one, I very much expected to "...a collection of stories that explores the lives of talented, gutsy women throughout history." Sadly, I didn't. While the author may have had the best of intentions, she wrote about many of the characters in such a way that I had no desire to learn about the women. I found myself asking whilst reading more than one story, "What an awful person. Why would I want to learn about this woman? She doesn't deserve to go down in history. She should stay obscure, or almost famous... Why reward people such as this?"

The first story is very cool. It's about conjoined twins, Violet and Daisy, how they were guilt tripped into believing they owed their caretaker for everything--meaning their caretaker used them for profit, putting them on display. They go on to be abused by men in a variety of ways, yet one of them, Daisy, goes down still trying to talk to that "agent", still not ready to give up on her dreams, not ready to settle for being a "nobody". There was a lot to like about this sad story. It was very insightful. I'd never heard of the twins.

The second story I didn't like much at all. It takes us back to WWII when the fastest woman on water, Joe Carstairs, has her very own island on which she treats the "natives" like crap, plays god, changes lady lovers more than some people change underwear, and has a visit from a very snotty Marlene Dietrich. The story is narrated by her current piece of meat, Georgie, who has no spine whatsoever. I didn't feel there were any strong women here. Having tattoos, being butch, riding a bike, and chewing a cigar, and treating others like crap--while it may create an intimidating appearance--does not make one strong. On the contrary, I wondered what this woman was trying to prove. She was obviously very insecure. The story also ended in an unsatisfactory manner. In real life, this woman may have been a wonderful person; this story did not depict her as such.

The third and fourth...the third hardly even stayed in my mind. Even though I read it before bed last night, this morning I had to think long and hard to remember what it was I'd read. It was some singing sisters. It made little sense to me.

The fourth was awful. Narrated by a very jealous caretaker--male--but about a former artist who has become this cranky old lady. The story wasn't necessarily about her though so much about this caretaker's jealousy and how he wants her life.

Have I mentioned there are no quotation marks surrounding the dialogue?

Hazel Marion Eaton's story could have been great, but it limited her to deathbed and all it told me was that she left home, abandoned a baby daughter, to ride bikes in the carnival. That's it. The nunnery story I skipped completely as I didn't care to read about Lord Byron's daughter, especially not as a little girl. That's not interesting to me.

Then there was a tale so short it doesn't bear mentioning.

My favorite is the story about Butterfly McQueen. It's amazing how one short conversation can stay in someone's mind forever and somewhere down the road affect their life choices. I really liked this one.

Dolly Wilde...I wasn't the least bit interested. Perhaps if the story had showed her in her ambulance-driving days rather than her drugged-up days? Again, I must point out the author seemed intent on portraying these women at their absolute worst.

I enjoyed a couple of the last ones: a very short one about the women in concentration camps and lipstick. That is a touching one that reaches deep into the soul. I also enjoyed the jazz player one. I had no idea there was a group of female jazz musicians touring the U.S. (and integrated) called the International Sweethearts. You can watch the trumpet player in the below video. And I must thank the author of this book for introducing me to this group.

I liked some of the stories, but considering I liked only 4 out of...13, I'm afraid I can't rate this very high.

Thank you to Netgalley for the digital review copy.

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