Monday, June 21, 2021

Nowhere Girl

Title:
  Nowhere Girl
Author:  Cheryl Diamond
Publication Information:  Algonquin  Books . 2021. 320 pages.
ISBN:  1616208201 / 978-1616208202

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and a publisher's blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "My first near-death experience occurs at the age of four, when the brakes fail, with my dad at the wheel, sending us hurtling down the Himalayas."

Favorite Quote:  "I've noticed people often complain about the monotony of life. How sometimes very day is just like the last and they all blend together. Do they know how lucky they are? But maybe that's the problem with a smooth pleasant routine, you begin taking it for granted."

***** BLOG TOUR *****


Review

Cheryl Diamond, born (I think) with the name Harbhajan Khalsa Nanak, becomes a New York City model at age sixteen. She publishes her first novel at age twenty-one. She has since published a second novel and this memoir. She currently lives in Luxembourg. Before, however, comes an entire lifetime, filled with more than most people live in their entire lifetimes. "By the age of nine, I will have lived in more than a dozen countries, on five continents under six assumed identities. I'll know how a document is forged, how to withstand an interrogation, and most important, how to disappear."

Her family - parents, brother, sister, and her - is on the run. The first half of the book is country to country, identity to identity, and life to life. Parts are a child's adventure. Many more parts are sudden goodbyes, no friendships, and constant new beginnings. Some other parts get even more harrowing with abuse, interrogation, and escape.

The question that is not addressed until almost the middle of the book is why? Why is this family on the run? What and who are the running from? The events described make the first part of the book so very sad, but the constant question of why lingers. When finally answered, it is not quite as I expect, but it provides the needed context. I think I would have preferred the context earlier if only to shift the focus from that question to the actual events. Given the current structure of the book, the question of why looms over the entire first half of the book, overshadowing some of the events themselves.

The answer to the "why" seems to be the fulcrum of the book. Before comes the childhood, such as it is. After, although still a child, the book jumps to the emergence into adulthood. What stands out throughout the book is the fractured relationships of this family. I am still not entirely sure of why the fractures exist and why they loom larger and larger. How and why does abuse and violence find its way into this family? How is it allowed to remain? The fact that the constant moves and no past and no future leaves them nobody but each other. That kind of the dependence perhaps leads to many things. This is one family member's perspective; part of me is left wondering what story would show from a different perspective.

I am also not entirely sure of the fate of some of the family members, but perhaps that is the nature of a memoir. This story is not over yet. However, it does leave me wondering about what happens to the others particularly Frank and Chiara. One point of closure is offered. "Your father loved you. That was never a lie. But you outgrew him, Harbhajan. Simple as that. He's a con man, who gave birth to an idealist. And after a certain point, the two just don't go together anymore."

The truth of this memoir is truly stranger than fiction.

About the Author

Cheryl Diamond is now a citizen of Luxembourg and lives between there and Rome. Her behind-the-scenes account of life as a teenage model, Model: A Memoir, was published in 2008. Diamond´s second book, Naked Rome, reveals the Eternal City through the eyes of its most fascinating people.

About the Book

Cheryl Diamond had an outlaw childhood beyond the imaginings of most. By age nine, she had lived in more than a dozen countries on five continents and had assumed six identities as her parents evaded Interpol and other law enforcement agencies. While her family lived on the run, she would learn math on an abacus, train as an Olympic hopeful, practice Sikhism and then celebrate her bat mitzvah, come to terms with the disappearance of her brother, become a successful fashion model, and ultimately watch her unconventional yet close-knit family implode. Diamond’s unforgettable memoir, NOWHERE GIRL: A MEMOIR OF A FUGITIVE CHILDHOOD (Publication Date: June 15, 2021; $27.95), is a harrowing, clear-sighted, and surprisingly humor-filled testament to a childhood lost and an adulthood found. With its page-turning candor about forged passports and midnights escapes, this is, in the end, the searing story of how lies can destroy a family and how truth can set us free.

Diamond, whose acclaimed first book, Model: A Memoir, earned her accolades as “America’s next top author” in The New York Times Style Magazine, begins her story with her earliest memories as a four-year-old in India. Even at that tender age she had been schooled by her complicated and controlling father to never make a mistake, never betray the family, and never become attached to a place or other people. As the family continent-hopped, switched religions, paid for everything in cash, assumed new names time and again—always one step ahead of the law—young Cheryl (then called Bhajan) developed the burning need to achieve and win approval. By twenty-three she had seen so much of the world, but only through a peculiar lens that had somehow become normal. And she was plagued by fundamental questions: Who am I? And how can I find the courage to break away from the people I love most – because escaping is the only way to survive.

“For a long time, I felt that having had such a strange and often traumatic childhood had somehow marked me and made it impossible to be understood or connect with the outside world, to ever have a good life,” Diamond reveals. “It was only when I forced myself to begin to open up, make friends, and talk about what I had survived that I realized how many people had gone through similar challenges. Perhaps not as many, but enough that we genuinely understood each other. I decided to write NOWHERE GIRL because I came to see how many people carry some sort of shame or fear about not fitting in, often never voiced. But the very act of baring our darker side actually brings people closer—rather than the judgment we so fear.”

“An absolutely breathless read,” says Paul Haggis, Academy Award-winning writer/director of Crash, Million Dollar Baby, and Casino Royale. “NOWHERE GIRL is a courageous, heart-breaking, and beautifully written story of a girl doing everything in her power to protect the ones she loves.”


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