Why be Happy When You Could be Normal by Jeanette Winterson
Jeanette Winterson is an acclaimed British author who has written over 20 books, the first of which, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, won the Whitbread Prize, was then made into a television show, and is currently assigned reading for teens. Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal is her autobiography, and oh what a story she tells.
Winterson is the adopted daughter of a Pentecostal couple. A large portion of Why be Happy is about the author’s mother – both the comedy and tragedy of her life – and how her fierce censorship of books led Jeanette to a profound love for them. She reads secretively, hiding books underneath her mattress. And she reads ravenously, hungry to find an escape from a woman whose greatest wish is the end of the world as imagined in the book of Revelations. By reading, Jeanette survives a childhood that would crush others, and she survives it with her humanity intact.
Her humanity is surprising because it comes into focus slowly. It’s her wit and volatility that readers will discover first. Begin this book and you’ll meet a woman who has led one of the most unlikely of lives. Had her tenacity been less – or her luck different – Jeanette would have lived another life entirely.