The Ugly Cry

Viking. Jun. 2021. 304p. ISBN 9780525559351. $27. MEMOIR
Henderson (host of the podcast I Saw What You Did) spent years of her childhood trying to earn the affection of her distant mother and dodging the anger and attentions of her mother’s abusive boyfriend. When her home life boiled over into a level of violence that couldn’t be ignored, Henderson and her brother were swept into the care of their no-nonsense grandparents. The epitome of tough love, Henderson’s grandmother provided guidance as Henderson found herself navigating Black girlhood in a mostly white upstate New York town. Henderson’s personal journey, from wounded uncertainty to determined self-confidence, is moving, and her skill as a writer lets her balance the darker moments of her childhood with diverting recollections of all-day banishments from the house during the summer and catastrophic teenage trips to concerts in New York City. The narrative moves seamlessly from childhood to adulthood, and Henderson recounts her college years with a combination of fondness and regret. Ending with a chapter about the memory of her grandparents, she writes powerfully about the slow reversal of their roles, with Henderson eventually becoming her grandparents’ caretaker.
VERDICT An honest account of an unconventional childhood, and of learning to accept the hard truths of loving people who disappoint you. Henderson’s debut is a treat for memoir fans.
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