Reading Frankie Lennon feels like you become part of the story, you feel connected and involved at every scene that unfolds. The characters she introduces makes it more vivid and real, you can’t help but think of your own family and relatives that have been part of your past and shaped your own present life. You begin to look back at your own childhood and adolescent years and recall the many struggles you went through to become the person you are now. It makes us think back and wonder how we got over the conflicts and complications and been able to confront them. Readers connect to the stories due to similarities in culture, race, sexuality, and childhood.
The author said in an interview, and to quote her: “…I narrate stories starting with my childhood and take you with me on my turbulent life journey and struggle to find freedom from the many prisons that bind me. I tell stories that make you think and re-evaluate issues. I offer the reader the chance to see and experience my naked feelings, conflicts, fears, and struggles and you get the chance to experience my trials and tribulations along with me. It will be exciting, funny, and heartbreaking. And it will never be dull.”
“The Mee Street Chronicles: Straight up Stories of a Black Woman’s Life is a turn pager narrative of blunt memories in her struggle to live her own life and sexual identity. The book passes through generations dealing with sensitive issues like racism, oppression, homosexuality, and alcoholism that still exists in our society today. It lets us enter to places never seen before but will make us aware of our own feelings, in what we love and fear of, of our desires and what we value in life. The book mirrors that presents to readers what has happened and still happening in our lives. Many people identify and unconsciously reflect with at least one story in the book. In a special way, it surprised and touched readers on their own personal journey.
Like the author, we also preserve our memories through journals, diaries, photographs, and keep it in our hearts. We become proud of these memories because it is what our identity is all about. We pass them on to our children to tell them who we are to reveal secrets setting us free from denial. This book reminds us that we are not alone in our struggles. We may think we are strange and has a dark past, but who doesn’t? It inspires to move on no matter how bad it seemed or what people have done or said or how bad it appeared. Others out there also went through the same difficulties and survived. Others who repeat the same mistakes just when they have lifted themselves up, and picking themselves back in shape and has finally found their way.
In it, stories on childhood life were depicted like it was your own. Significant characters were portrayed as if they were your own family. It is amazing to relate because you have your own aunt , grandmother, uncle, and cousins who can be irritating and unpleasant when they are around you, on the other hand you truly adore. People who in one way or another have contributed in shaping your life as a whole.
One chapter in the book entitled “Adversaries” narrates some fragments on the childhood events in the author’s life. At a very young age she could still remember clear details and accounts of family members and various emotions in facing her auntie and the tensed encounters that prevail between them. You feel a little bit at the edge of your seat as words and emotions are revealed that causes you to be anxious and empathize with the girl..
Somehow, upon reading this particular story, I was able to relate to the characters and circumstances that the author encountered. Similar events and people I grew up with. I remember these people and what they signify had an impact in my life, may it be good or bad memories. Reading through it brings back memories of kids being punished for reasons not explained very clearly would sometimes make you think now that it was senseless. Folks back then were not even aware that we kids need to be treated fairly sometimes. They just come lashing out of nowhere and give you spanking for all the world to see. I had my own taste of that ‘cruelty’ back then. I experienced some old school discipline where I can get so ashamed of myself for something I have done wrong, just because the ‘crime’ is against the elder’s rules.
Characters like “Auntie” were also part of my so called privileged childhood. My mother’s sister would sometimes go on a vacation in our house and would stay for a long time I think for decades and my life miserable. I remember her as the lady who keeps an eye on me, scary sometimes because she would watch every move I make. She was so stern and uptight and she is so particular about being proper. She made a great deal of impact in the whole household with her continuous bickering, comparing her life to my mother’s. What’s worse is we have to bear with her and leaves us no choice, but be under her rule when my parents are away for a few days. I did my best to please her and make her feel that I liked her though I was faking it. I pretended hard to be somebody else just for her to accept me and have a harmonious relationship altogether. She is now a ‘stigma’ among us cousins and her grand kids because of the character she played in our lives.
The author in the story had to go through that kind of misery. The emotions she felt in some instances and the way she describes ‘Auntie’ in detail like her appearance, reactions, and attitude made me think back and reminds me of my own aunt. I was touched so much by the incident that her aunt would bad mouth her father. I cannot forget the way my aunt would back-stab my mother and insult her in front of us and for other people to hear. She compares her life and her way of raising her kids to that of my parents. She boasts of a better life and material things compared to my mother who has to work harder for a better life.
My aunt and I did not talk too much. I tried the best I could to avoid her, not to be in the same room with her and even look her in the eye. I was not sure if it is because I was scared of her or hated her. She, like Aunt seemed to be so powerful to make us frightened of her. Picturing Aunt in my mind while reading makes me feel scared just by recalling how my own aunt was.
However, unlike the author, I was never confrontational. I never talked or fought back. Frankie had the courage to stop Aunt from hitting her. I had my share of hard spankings courtesy of not only of my aunt, but in some instances from my own parents. But I just take it as part of growing up and that is how I should be disciplined. Sometimes I would ponder, regretting that I did not question or prevent it from coming or could have ran away.
If only I had the choice and wishes come true, I could have spent more time with my mother and have spent more loving moments with her. I could have understood it better if the she did the spanking herself.
Sundararaj, A. ( 2007, March 14). How to Tell a Story, A Beginner’s
Guide to Storytelling. Interview with Frankie Lennon. Retrieved
May 23, 2007, from www.howtotellagreatstory.com/byot/byot