Donald R. Dempsey
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A Hoffer Award Grand Prize Finalist, and recognized by the Hoffer Awards as one of the best new memoirs of the year
"Heartrending and humorous." Kirkus Reviews
"Highly recommended." Dr. Alan Gettis, Ph.D., author of The Happiness Solution
"An unforgettable memoir." San Francisco Book Review
In the tradition of Frank McCourt and Angela's Ashes, Don Dempsey uses Betty's Child to tell the story of life with his cruel and neglectful mother, his mother's abusive boyfriends, and hypocritical church leaders who want to save twelve-year-old Donny's soul but ignore threats to his physical well-being. Meanwhile, Donny's best friend is trying to recruit Donny to do petty theft and deal drugs for a dangerous local thug.
Young Donny is a real-life cross between Huckleberry Finn and Holden Caulfield as he tells his story, with only his street smarts and sense of humor to guide him. Donny does everything he can to take care of himself and his younger brothers, but with each new development, the present becomes more fraught with peril--and the future more uncertain.
sound like any high school kid’s. He sounded even stronger than he felt. “That nigger’s friends catch us down here, and we’re fucked. Let’s go.” “Hold on.” Chris was panicking. Obviously, the big sucker holding me was kind of in charge. Probably the driver. Chris jumped up and kicked open one of the stalls, his pimpled face splitting into a wide, mean grin even as he waved his hand repeatedly beneath his nose in a vain effort to escape the noxious odor. “Yeah, it does stink in here. It smells
dog she kept chained to a stump in the back yard and threw scraps to now and again, having someone carry him out to spend time with the family at Christmas or maybe letting him sit at the table with us on Thanksgiving. I still cherish a black-and-white photo of us together, and I keep that picture propped next to his bronze star medal that I managed to get a hold of. But in my dream I was the one who was bedridden, and Betty was the one who was supposed to take care of me. I kept trying to drag
hell. The smoke seeped into your eyes and dried them out, leaving you weeping most of the night and well into the next day. “You need to let me hit you with some eye drops ‘fore you go home, baby. This ain’t no place for you boys to be hanging out, no way.” “It’s not that bad,” I lied, but she was already perusing her next hand, staring at the new guy over her fanned cards as if she meant to bite him the first chance she got. “Who busted you up, kid?” he asked me, chuckling. His eyes were dark
sometimes magically came up with extra cash. But I wasn’t yet old enough, or brazen enough, to challenge her on that particular front. I knew I didn’t like it when she let any old man move in for a while, and hated when she came home all trashed from a night out. I popped off and acted like I wasn’t afraid of these men, when they knew I was. But I wasn’t afraid of my mother, and I gave it to her every chance I got because I resented her so intensely for how we had to live. Looking back, I
over a doughnut, but none of them were buying it. The lawyer called me a smart ass and asked how old I was, so I told him I was twenty. I wish I was twenty, dammit! I’d thought at the time. I’d be long gone from here. The lawyer had promised he was going to sue me right along with Betty. I thought that was pretty funny. I told Betty she ought to let them turn off the phone, but she just mumbled something about me always thinking everything was a joke. She said we were probably going to be moving