Kerr’s autobiographical memoir is more complex than it would first appear. Aside from revealing how an author shapes fiction from real-life events, the book also gives insight into how teenagers have similar experiences despite the different eras in which they grow up. Kerr must confront fears about sexuality, the cruelty of peers, the secrets of friends, feelings of unacceptance and prejudice, and embarrassment at the actions of adults, especially parents. Such incidents remain a part of the growing-up process, along with the increasing importance of clothes and appearance, sibling rivalry, feelings of awkwardness, and the influence of peer pressure on teenage actions. Consequently, Kerr helps readers to see the universality of the rite of passage from adolescence to adulthood. At the same time, she reveals that these conflicts are manageable and, in the future, will provide the insights that are necessary for true maturity. The mischief, trick playing, and defiance of adolescence are all steps to the goal of adulthood.
Significantly, however, Kerr’s vignettes go even deeper. First, using techniques similar to those of John Dos Passos, Kerr paints an accurate picture of the war years and their effect on growing up. Readers are able to experience the rigidity of the family circle in this era through Kerr’s demanding father and her overprotective mother. In addition, they will also come face-to-face with such 1940’s realities as gas rationing, housing shortages, anti-Semitism, Adolf Hitler’s speeches, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death, and what to some was excessive religiosity and patriotism. Kerr personalizes the experience by relating how her family coped with the drafting of her older brother and how their fear for his safety dominated their reactions to the war.
Second, Kerr’s stories all seem to reveal the male chauvinism of the period. As a result, Kerr, convinced that...
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Me, Me, Me, Me, Me joins several other autobiographical works about young adult authors such as Beverly Cleary’s A Girl from Yamhill: A Memoir (1988) and Lois Duncan’s Chapters: My Growth as a Writer (1982). These authors attempt to satisfy the curiosity of their readers about how they work and to explain their own growing-up years. In an author’s note, Kerr calls this book “an answer to many letters from kids wanting to know if the things I write about really happened,” and she dedicates it to “YOU YOU YOU YOU YOU kids who wrote me, and to your teachers and librarians who encouraged you to read me.”
The real life of authors and how they transform facts into fiction does have a genuine appeal to a young adult audience and hopefully will serve as a motivator for readers to explore more of Kerr’s works. In addition, Kerr’s reminiscences include much material that may be considered “bibliotherapeutic” in nature, including psychological assessments of teenage problems and in-depth analysis, rather than a superficial look, at the dilemmas that one encounters. Family relationships, infatuation and sex, the place of women in society, and the problems experienced by being non-conformist or different are all confronted by Kerr with honesty, coupling seriousness with humor. Like her novels, Kerr’s Me, Me, Me, Me, Me portrays the adolescent experience as initially self-centered and ego-motivated, but as eventually enlarged and tempered by experience and interaction with others. Although Kerr’s nonfiction may not be as popular as her novels, this book will remain important to young adult readers as an effort by the author to link her life to her literature.