Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Women Who Raised Me by Victoria Rowell: A Book Review

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (May 1, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0061246603
ISBN-13: 978-0061246609
Available online: new from US$2.55

I am one of those people the universe blessed with healthy and balanced parents. I have a loving mother and father who were high school sweethearts and who 30 plus years later still love each other. They showered me, and my twin brother and sister with affection, attention and even tough love when the situation (or our hard heads) called for it. I’m approaching 30 and my mother still threatens to beat me when I step out of line. While reading the story of actress, dancer, and foster care advocate Victoria Rowell however, I have to admit I had my jealous moments. I never before realized how much a child can benefit from having multiple influences, multiple sources of love, and multiple sources of wisdom from which to pull throughout life. In The Women Who Raised Me, Rowell painted an overly detailed picture of her life as a foster child in New England and of the women who helped her become the woman she is today.
Yes, Rowell could have toned down the details quite a bit. But it was clear that she values her childhood memories and the gifts, both physical and spiritual, she received from the women in her life and that this book has helped her chronicle them all in one place. Although the book, which is organized in chapters describing select experiences with foster parents, teachers, social workers and friends, follows no clear chronology, Rowell somehow compartmentalizes her life into snippets that sometimes leave the reader heartbroken and other times truly inspired. As a writer and journalist, I thought Rowell’s job of incorporating family records and other historical documents was a bit overwhelming at times. At certain points in the book, it seems her interest in writing The Women Who Raised Me stemmed from her quest to build her family tree or to fill in the blanks of her personal history. However, it was intriguing to learn how much we can learn from public records and how they really give us a peek into the past and a more clear view of who we are and where we fall in the history of our families.
The concept of Sankofa, meaning “it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot," was one of the most powerful themes throughout The Women Who Raised Me.  To me, that was Rowell’s main purpose. She wanted to go back in time, memory and space to pick up, explore, and put together the fragments of goodness the women in her life planted within her. I think she did just that. She also opened my mind to the unique ways the universe blesses children. For me, it was with loving parents. For Victoria Rowell and countless other foster children throughout the world, it was with women who were willing to put themselves last and the greater good first. Thank the universe for the women who raised Rowell and for the families who raise and take in foster children all over the world.
– Janelle Williams
   Writer and Beauty/Skin Care Consultant
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  1. I was once an avid Y&R watcher, so this review struck a cord with me.It is so nice to hear foster care success stories. It takes a phenomenal person to open their heart and home to a child, hats off to her foster mom's.

    And a hearty congratulations to you too for having such a strong family unit, what a blessing.

  2. I agree. The women in Rowell's story were indeed phenomenal, particularly Agatha Armstead and her social worker. I suggest you check it out but just be prepared to soak in the details!!!

    Thanks! I am blessed!

  3. Thanks for a wonderful reveiw. This is going on my list of books to purchase and read sonn.

  4. What would you say some other themes of this book are?
    -foster care
    -never giving up
    -growing up