Taking her title from her adoptive mother’s response to the news that her daughter had a girlfriend, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (Grove, $25), Jeanette Winterson could easily have written another Mommie Dearest. Mrs. Winterson, as the author refers to her mother, locked young Jeanette outside overnight, kept her captive in the coal hole, condemned her for her attraction to women, and, perhaps most painful of all, burned the future novelist’s secret stash of books. Winterson describes these experiences but does not wallow in suffering. In fact, she even finds humor in her upbringing, painting her grim industrial home town in bold strokes of black wit. A survivor, Winterson credits books with saving her from her cold, rabidly Pentecostal mother, and her memoir is as much a tribute to Fiction A-Z as it is the story of an indomitable girl becoming a fiercely independent literary artist.
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