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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