Published by Weinstein Books
Hardcover: 304 pages
November 6, 2012; $26.00 US/ $29.00 CAN; 9781602861725
Buy now at Amazon for only $15.29.
"When Melissa, an anchor on the FOX Business Network program "MONEY with Melissa Francis,” was eight years old, she won the role of a lifetime: Playing Cassandra Cooper Ingalls, the little girl on the world’s most famous prime-time soap opera, Little House on the Prairie.
The life of a child star in the 1980s appeared to be charmed. However, in her memoir, Melissa tells the startling tale of a family under the care of a highly neurotic and dangerously competitive “tiger mother.” While Melissa thrived under pressure, her older sister -- who had tried her hand at acting and shrank from the limelight -- was often ignored by their mother in a shadow of neglect and disappointment.
It wasn’t until after Melissa had graduated from Harvard University with a degree in economics, found love, and married that her sister’s personal problems culminated in a life-and-death crisis. When Melissa realized the role her mother continued to play in her sister’s downward spiral, she resolved to end the manic, abusive cycle once and for all.
Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter can best be described as The Glass Castle meets Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. In fact this book began as Melissa’s answer to Tiger Mother, but evolved into something much more. A dazzlingly honest and provocative family memoir, it is also a meditation on motherhood. She asks the questions so many of us ask ourselves: how hard should you push a child to succeed, and at what point does your help turn into harm?
Now the mother of two young children, Melissa knows from personal experience that the key to raising happy, confident and successful children is to respect each child for who they are, and avoid the one size fits all, pressure-packed approach."
It has been awhile since I picked up a book to read and found myself not being able to put it down. This ended up being the case with Melissa Francis' new book, Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter." I first heard about this book when Hoda Kotb talked about on her morning talk show with Kathie Lee Gifford (one of my guilty AM pleasures). I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie, and was a fan of Melissa's character, Cassandra Cooper Ingalls. Who would have thought that this bright and cheery young girl on a hit television series, had such a heartbreaking upbringing. You hear a lot of child stars falling prey to drugs, alcohol and other poor choices, but after reading about Melissa's family life, I could see why children stars would turn to these outlets to drain their pain.
As I read through each chapter, where Melissa shares her touching and personal stories about being raised by a "tiger mom," I wondered how she was able to deal with her controlling and oftentimes cruel mother. Did you know that Melissa Francis had an older sister, who also tried her luck in acting? I didn't, until I read this book. But, unlike Melissa's successes, her sister, was not as lucky to land roles, and in turn was shunned in ways by their mother, who was only interested in fame and getting Melissa (the successful child) into the limelight. I can't imagine how Melissa's older sister felt -- not being successful liker her sister, not having the love and support their mother, and being made felt worthless and inadequate by her mother (the one who is supposed to be there and love you no matter what).
I ended up finishing this book in one sitting, and found myself tearing up between chapters. Not only did I feel for Melissa and her sister, but I kept thinking to myself that I will not treat my daughters like this -- no matter what. At times, Melissa's account of her childhood are raw and really make you hope for a silver lining or a happy ending of sorts. I found myself rooting for her and hoping that she would be able to find peace with her heartbreaking childhood make miserable oftentimes by her controlling stage mother. I am not going to ruin the ending, but will share that Melissa now has children of her own. Has she learned from her own experience how not to treat her girls? Has writing this telling book helped with her healing? You will have to pick up a copy of this book to find out for yourself. Just be warned, it is difficult to read, but hard to put down. Once you are done reading it, you will feel overwhelmed, as you have been taking along on a whirlwind journey of emotions, that Melissa shares in this powerful and riveting book.
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Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher in order to write up an honest review. The views above are mine and mine alone.