Thank you to She Writes Press for providing me with an advanced copy of Terry Cameron Baldwin's memoir, All the Ghosts Dance Free, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT - Terry Cameron Baldwin's memoir details her 1950's childhood in Southern California, including the divorce of her two bohemian parents. Baldwin and her sister, Carol, split their time between living with their mom in Palm Springs, and visiting their father, in the South Bay, where he lived with his glamorous new wife and her children. Baldwin explores her hippy lifestyle during the sixties, when she became a single mom to her only son, Yohosame. Baldwin remained close to Yohosame's father, Yusef, who converted to Muslim, and moved to Morocco. In the last third of the memoir, Baldwin cares for her elderly parents, and visits Yusef's grave in Morocco. Baldwin's relationships are complicated, and often unconventional, but her life is full of love.
LIKE- Baldwin has a knack for setting a scene. All the Ghosts Dance Free, often reads like a travel memoir with lush, sensory descriptions of California, Mexico, Europe, and Morocco. It's really some gorgeous writing, and I found myself consciously slowing my reading, to luxuriate in her prose. I'm a Californian and she made my state proud!
I was most interested in her childhood, especially the dynamic at her father's house. Although not neglectful, her father and step-mom made it clear to the children, that they were on their own. The adults would provide the basics ( shelter/food/clothes) and wished the children well, but they planned on living their life for themselves. Baldwin's mother had a similar hands-off parenting approach, as she lived it up in Palm Springs. As a result, Baldwin spent a great deal of her life trying to please her parents, a theme that came back to haunt her as she cared for them in their old age. It's this struggle that ties the memoir together.
I found her relationship with Yusef, and her closeness to his children by other women, to be very interesting and heartening. Baldwin is testament to family being who you choose to love. It's a beautiful sentiment. She also is very embracing of other cultures and religions. I admire her openness and willingness to put herself out in the world.
DISLIKE- I overwhelmingly enjoyed Baldwin's memoir, but I did find it to run a little long, with uneven pacing. I was least interested in hearing about her life as a hippy in the 1960's. I understand that this is her life, but that section ( as recounted in her memoir), was significantly less interesting than her childhood, or her more recent years living in Mexico, and visiting Morocco. It just seemed like it was typical of other 1960's memoirs, where as the rest of her memoir was anything but typical.
RECOMMEND- Yes! All the Ghost Dance Free is complex and engaging. Baldwin is living a beautiful life, and her memoir is a worthy addition to your TBR pile.