Title: Do Tampons Take Your Virginity? A Catholic Girl's Memoir
Author: Marie Simas
Publisher: Self-published via CreateSpace
Publication Date: September 2010
Note: Free review copy received from the author via Goodreads Giveaways program.
The quality of self-published books varies across the board from truly horrendous to truly spectacular. Simas' book falls somewhere in the middle but definitely leans towards the spectacular end of the spectrum.
Ignore the title - I know, you want to react to it. Just ignore it. As horrible as it is, it did its job as it made me give the book a second look. However, it is incredibly misleading. This is the memoir of a girl, who just happens to be Catholic, growing up in a household with a controlling and abusive father. Very little is mentioned about religion; instead, Simas focuses on the abuse she was forced to endure and witness while growing up, and how her experiences shaped and affected her adulthood. Much of the oppressiveness of her household which she probably ascribes to religion is more accurately cultural norms and expectations.
Simas' parents were immigrants from Portugal. Her father was a teacher in the school district. Her mother was a homemaker who suffered from brain cancer. Simas candidly talks about how her father would beat her if she got in trouble at school or got bad marks, would come home to rape her mother, and ruled the household through intimidation and tight control of power. The short, episodic nature of the narrative mirrors Simas' own memories of her childhood and life. While she focuses on negative experiences, she does so unflinchingly and defiantly with a touch of tongue-in-cheek humor. Even her own bad behavior is honestly portrayed, particular the period in her life where she tries and asserts her own power over the guys she dates.
I gathered that writing this book was a cathartic experience for Simas, and that the process helped her move past the abuse. I imagine so, anyway, as the last few pages were much more hopeful and positive than the rest of the book. I truly admire Simas. I don't know if I could have survived in her family situation and emerged even half-way functioning.
I loved my mother, but I couldn't forgive her weakness.