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 Memoir Review    



Fierce: A Memoir 
by Barbara Robinette Moss
Scribner, 2004
Hardcover, $24.00 (256 pages)
ISBN: 0-7432-2945-2

In Fierce, Barbara Robinette Moss revisits the patterns learned in childhood. As in her earlier memoir, Change Me Into Zeus's Daughter, the author is unfailing and unflinchingly honest about her life. The fourth of eight children, Moss grew up in and around Anniston, Alabama. Her mother had unrealized artistic ambitions, her father was an alcoholic, albeit a charismatic alcoholic. The family's poverty was stunning. 

Determined to fulfill her dream of becoming an artist, Moss also has to overcome her misconceptions of love, and the ways men and women interact in order, to reinvent her life. Like many young women with familial problems, Moss makes a classic jailbreak marriage to a man more controlling than and equally destructive as her father. After a particularly abusive episode during the eighth month of her pregnancy, a woman from Social Services offers Moss an idea of how to escape once her child is born. The advice proves to be practical and prophetic. 

Even though the author's family couldn't offer her financial support, their emotional support gives her the strength to pursue her dreams. Packing everything they own, Moss and her son Jason move to Sarasota, Florida, where Moss attends the Ringling School of Art and Design. Unable to afford, and unwilling to trust a babysitter, Barbara takes her son to the darkroom at night; he sleeps in a sleeping bag on the floor while she works. 

After earning her BFA, she's accepted into Drake University's MFA program. Moving to Des Moines, Iowa from Alabama is more of an adjustment than moving to Florida from Alabama. Moss feels unwelcomed by the neighbors, disconnected from her family, and unsettled by the landscape. Throughout her formal education, the author's unconditional love for her son offers stability.  

In her foreword, Moss compares Fierce to her mother's patchwork quilts, suggesting she's using bits of the whole to create a life. 

Engrossing and poignant, Fierce ends on a triumphant note, the artist/author has a well-adjusted, loving grown-up son, a second marriage to a good husband, and success as both an artist and a writer. 

Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

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