The Glass Castle

This another one of those books I picked up from the rag store, but when I was looking on the old interwebs for a picture of a cover for this review, I learned that it had been made into a movie back in 2017 (I'm writing this in 2022) so that's neat. I might watch that, because I liked the book. I mean, having said that, never judge a book by its movie.

This is one of the easiest books I've ever read; there's not a lot to it. It's an autobiography, so it's just the telling of one person's childhood. I happen to like stuff like that, but it's always weird- autobiographies are always weird because there's never an ending. If the person is alive to write their own story then obviously the story hasn't ended. So they always just kind of peter out, which is always weird if you got into reading the way most of us did, with fiction. Like I'm sure I read nonfiction as a kid but I don't think I read many autobiographies when I was 3 or 4, it's mostly things that make narrative sense, which life doesn't, so any autobiography is a departure.

Also, as a psychologist I like autobiographies because they're not objective, they're just a collection of memories, which are faulty. It's always neat to me to see something presented like it's real when it's not because objective reality is one thing and human memory is another and I've always liked the juxtoposition of those two ideas, on a personal level. In general, a biography pulls from facts about a person, but an autobiography pulls from memory, and I think that even though that makes them less objectively factual, it makes them more true, in an artistic sense, in that you get a real glimpse into someone's mind, and again, as somebody who loves psychology, I love that shit. I eat it up. So I'm gonna reccomend the hell out of this book.

The way the thing is written really makes a lot of sense with the contents. Walls remembers growing up hard and mean in a broke-ass environment framed by straight-up child neglect, and her writing style, and I assume the way she thinks and speaks, is very straight-forward and practical as a direct result of that upbringing. It makes perfect sense.

Also, a huge chunk of her childhood was spent in West Virginia, down the road from me, and I know a lot of people like her, a lot of folks raised in a very similar environment, and it's always nice to see real representation. There's a part later when she's in New York and she has a job and everything where she's in college and a teacher asks her what she knows about hardship and she doesn't want to disclose that she grew up broke, that really reminded me of one time when I was in college I took this class that had volunteer opportunities for "volunteercations"- which is a thing I hate- and one of them was in my hometown, because it's one of the most impoverished places in the US, has the highest rate of child neglect in the US, and is the opiod capital of the US. It's always a little buckwild to be in college and be this kind of trailer trash person, because for some reason the folks there talk to you like they ain't talking about you. I didn't shut down like she did, though, I was like, "Y'all know you're talking about me, right?" But I also had more reason to give a shit in that way, it was two completely different experiences.

Either way, this book is super relatable, this author is super relatable, and if you like autobiographies I heartily reccomend it. I will say, because it just sprang to mind, that if you hate or pity poor folks this is probably not the book for you. Because you'll get sad or whatever it is rich people who want to pretend they have empathy instead of actually having empathy and trying to connect with people do, like my classmates and teacher. The people who will sit around telling you to feel sorry for yourself because of how shitty your life is instead of thinking for one fifth of a second that it's really insulting to tell somebody their life is shitty probably won't like this book. But if you're like, a normal person who lives a normal life it's super relatable.

Basically, if you ever went on a 'volunteercation' to dig a well that you didn't know how to dig because you're an untrained college kid and not a local cntractor who knows how wells work instead of donating money to a community so they can hire a local contractor so that the well you dug instantly caves in the second you leave but you pat yourself on the back anyway because you were only there to pretend you did something so you can feel good about yourself and didn't actually give a shit about the community you were pretending to help, like you just wanted the selfies, you won't like this book. But if you're a noraml person who likes seeing normal people make money and get out of bad situations because they have sense and work hard, because it inspires you to think that you may be able to do that, it's a pretty good read.

It's also written so practically, like it's just plain English prose, that it's so easy to get through it really does take no time to read. I think I finished it in a couple of days because it really is just listening to somebody talk. The one thing, in terms of writing that aggravated me, was that she consistantly spells holler "hollow". And the thing is, that is how it's spelled, but it just seems so pretnetious and fancy to me. Like it's hollow, window, etc but it's pronounced holler, winder, etc. They have hollows up in New England, but round these parts we got hollers. I know for a fact she says holler when she talks, I would bet money on it.

Any time I read something like this, I do have to wonder how the siblings feel about it. But not enough to actually look it up and see if they've done any interviews or anything.

The thing about this story, in general, is that pretty much every hardship in it is pure child neglect. And being written from the perspective of the child, I think it would be good for folks who haven't been neglected to read, because I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there about child negelct, and this is, I mean obviously, being a real story, a really realistic representation. These parents will make your blood boil. Something that really pissed me off as I was reading is the way the system really drops the ball on these kids.

We still have a pretty big problem with sibling placements in the foster system, and that is the biggest fear that these kids have of CPS. They know that it's likely they'll be seperated. So if you take nothing else away from your time with this book, I would love for you to make the bullet point that you remember to please take sibling placements as a foster family. As social workers we want to keep siblings together. Sibling relationships are formative relationships, and as such are some of the most important relationships in a person's life. I'm personally very fortunate in that I have good relationships with both my siblings, but I know that this is a real problem. And I get that with a big family like this one a lot of foster parents are not going to feel like they have the resources to take care of four children. I know it's a big ask. But if there is ANY possible way that you can, you will be doing an invaluable service to your community. A lot of kids who experience neglect are part of large sibling groups.

Probably the one issue that I have with this book is that the timeline is nonexistent. I know where it's set, but not when it's set, and as a result I felt lost pretty frequently. I don't even know how old the author is, so her telling me her age to establish the timeline does nothing without having a base for how old she was at the time of writing. If I don't know how old she is starting out then I have no idea what year it is when she's 6 or whatever. No time period, to my memory is ever established at all. Could be the 60s, could be the 80s, I have no idea, and that's a huge difference so it does become a pretty big problem.

I think I'm keeping this one. It was well worth the quarter I spent on it at the rag store, and I don't think I'll reread it, but you never know. It's such a fast, easy read that I might. It really is kind of just like talking to someone that you know, it really does remind me of a lot of people I actually know. It feels real, likely because it is, I don't think there's a huge gap between the way she presents her life and actual reality.