Twist: An American Girl

ZE Bks. Mar. 2023. 250p. ISBN 9781736309339. $28. MEMOIR
Singer/songwriter/musician/actress/writer Bertei’s (Peter and the Wolves) memoir is narrated by her alter ego, Maddie Twist, which allows her to “journey back to the war zones” of her youth in Cleveland. This raw, vivid work brings readers into a life of poverty, domestic violence, mental illness, war, and trauma. After the author’s mother divorced her abusive husband, she lost her children due to a mental health condition that went undiagnosed; the author now believes it was schizophrenia. Bertei spent her teen years moving through foster homes, detention centers, and reform schools. Readers travel with her through her coming-of-age experiences, such as being shunned and punished for her attraction to other girls. She also candidly shares her experiences of sexual violence. After aging out of the foster-care system, the author stumbles but finds her footing in the family she forms with her drag-queen neighbors, her boss at the thrift store, and her love for music and writing.
VERDICT Bertei’s childhood is harrowing, and her memoir does not hold back on the details, which are horrific at times. But the author sounds her voice loudly in this book, and her sense of self is captured throughout the pages. The end result is likely to captivate readers.
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