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to wonder who on earth reads these books? And why??

(184 Posts)

I forget the snappy term for them but I'm referring to all the books about child abuse. Titles like "No Daddy No" and the like. I can understand that if you have suffered abuse it could be cathartic to write about it but I really don't understand why anyone would want to read it.

I may be a bit unreasonable as I have never read one of these books - have I missed something?

BegoniaBampot Sun 27-Jan-13 18:57:17

Why would you really want to read all that stuff, really don't understand it. Once, maybe but some folk read loads of it.

ImperialBlether Sun 27-Jan-13 18:57:24

I spent a day shadowing someone in a women's prison (not, not a prisoner!) and I was told that the misery porn books were far and away the most popular books and it was thought it was because of the abuse they had suffered. Second were books on dreams.

ithaka Sun 27-Jan-13 18:57:51

Some people enjoy taking a cheap holiday in other people's misery.

I have experiences tragedy of the sort that could be written in a misery lit book & I wouldn't touch the things with a bargepole. I know what it is to suffer in real life, so I don't need the vicarious thrill.

CrunchyFrog Sun 27-Jan-13 19:02:47

I think it's vouyerism, faux concern, a need to experience catharsis and being a bit thick that makes people read them.

I really dislike it, and have to absent myself from the staff room when the grief vultures start circling.

CaptChaos Sun 27-Jan-13 19:02:50

I have read some of them, they helped me to see that my childhood wasn't normal.

My mother reads them, I think they give her ideas.

I'll scrub the writing of cathartic book then, shall I? confused

confusteling Sun 27-Jan-13 19:04:37

My DM has a couple, I don't know if enjoying them is the right word but she was advised to read them by her pyschologist.

I don't see it as any different to holocaust literature to be honest - or stuff like The Bell Jar, etc.

Although I've always found that books like that, if I'm feeling low or anxious, only make things worse; especially Sylvia Plath's stuff.

BambieO Sun 27-Jan-13 19:04:47

captchaos you have just given a prime example of why I think people write them/read them. They helped you and I'm sure they help many others get a perspective on what sort of treatment they received themselves.

jojane Sun 27-Jan-13 19:07:56

I haven't read the books although DH often jokes that I should write my own and make my fortune of the back of my childhood misery. I do confess to having a compulsion to read any peadophile related news story or story of parent abusing their children in an attempt to understand how it happened and how the person gained access to the child in order to make sure it doesn't ever happen to my children, I am quite paranoid about whether my children are place in a situation where they could be open to abuse.

voddiekeepsmesane Sun 27-Jan-13 19:10:44

I admit to reading the series starring with A Child Called It but didn't go on to read the numerous misery lit books that followed. Don't knowhow anyone can they are so depressing and sad.

CartedOff Sun 27-Jan-13 19:14:15

Every time I used to see this section in Borders I used to think that they even had a set style: white background, curly handwriting-like title, small desperate child on the front. Seeing them all together in a group was a bit unsettling. They looked like they'd all been designed by the same person.

KatoPotato Sun 27-Jan-13 19:16:35

Oh gawd I read somewhere about an author who's childhood tale of woe wasn't selling so her publisher ran it through the 'cover generator' and changed the background to white, added a sad face and a swirly font and the name to 'oh please don't daddy' and it rocketed up the misery charts.

I also remember overhearing an old friend and her neighbour discussing these books:

'Oh have you read 'daddy's little secret?'

'Is that the one where XYZ (insert horrific act here)

'No that's 'daddy's secrets' this is the one where ZYX (again)

All discussed in this most flippant tone ever, as if nail polish colours'

Ghastly women.

HugAndRoll Sun 27-Jan-13 19:17:09

Ill let you know why I read the peltzer series. To read about someone else who had a fucked up childhood.

In short the following happened to me:

- beaten
- beaten in my sleep with a pillow over my head
- made to write lines and beaten if I spelled something wrong
- made to wet myself in the car as I should have realised at the age of 7 I would need a wee between Somerset and London
- a nappy made for me out of a towel, me wearing only that with lipstick writing on my mid section "my name is hugandroll and I pee myself" photo taken and a threat it would be sent into my school at age 9.
- made to eat my own vomit
- locked in a cupboard
- thrown down the stairs

There is more but I've prob derailed the thread with that lot.

I'm on anti ds, had my Nhs counselling - all 6 sessions, lucky me!

Can't talk to many people about it as the person who did it to me is still very much in my life, totally reformed and even tried to take their own life over it. I wouldn't report them now as the person they are now is not the person who did that to me.

Sorry if this offends anyone etc but I was trying to make sense of what happened to me and not my siblings and the peltzer series was about one child of a family etc. I'm certainly not thick and am worried every day I have the potential to turn into that person and do it to my own children. Although I would section myself or kill myself before I actually would do anything like that iykwim.

As you were if I haven't killed it.

KatoPotato Sun 27-Jan-13 19:17:12

X-post cartedoff

Like MrsKeithRichards I have read some holocaust books, although haven't been able to face any since having children. Too upsetting. Many of the personal 'memoirs' seem very distasteful and voyeurist but genocide scares the shit out of me and I think we have no hope of preventing it (or indeed recognising and stopping it where it is already happening) unless we understand it. What I can't get my head around is the indifference of those who must have known or at least suspected what was going on. It's their accounts I find the most telling.

As for No Mummy Don't Hit Me With The Mangle and that ilk, I'll pass thanks. Although I did read Natascha Kampusch's autobiography because I couldn't bring myself to read the tabloid newspaper coverage and figured that if someone was going to profit from it, then it may as well be her.

PimpMyHippo Sun 27-Jan-13 19:21:31

The person I know who reads these is also very interested in serial killers and "true crime" stuff - I think she just finds the darker side of human nature fascinating. It does seem tasteless to satisfy that curiosity with real people's lives though. At least the misery lit books are written by the victims who choose to share their stories - the victims in the "50 Most Evil Serial Killers" type books don't have a say in it, and that makes me feel very uncomfortable. I like a fictional horror book/film as much as the next person, but using someone else's genuine tragedy as entertainment seems wrong.

Chelvis Sun 27-Jan-13 19:26:11

About 8 or 10 years ago, I remember a columnist in the Guardian asking readers to submit their favourite real Mis Lit titles and their best made up ones - I think 'Mammy sold me for a cigarette' was the best real one and the best made up one was something like 'No Grandad, not in my face'. Sick really but it made me shock grin shock.

My sister read a few when she was training as a drug misuse counsellor to get an insight into some of her clients' backgrounds .... not something she'd choose for pleasure though!

ComposHat Sun 27-Jan-13 19:26:37

It reminds me of a competition in the New Statesman to find wildly inappropriate titles for autobiographies.

The winner was 'My struggle by Martin Amis'

pouffepants Sun 27-Jan-13 19:26:47

I read them.

I read them because I'm haunted by memories of the kids I knew when I was younger. We were quite well off, but my mum did charity church type work in the estates of a small town.

I was utterly utterly naive, and read a diet of Enid Blyton books having jolly adventures. So when other kids were telling me that J had to climb out of his window to find food at night, because mum hadn't fed him for days, I thought it a great adventure and would never have dreamt of telling an adult. He was at my school for a while and was bullied for roaming the playground eating rubbish and licking out old crisp packets. Looking back, I realise the whole family looked emaciated. There were apparently 13 children but I only knew the youngest 7.

The next brother up from J, was my first boyfriend, aged 12. It was mostly platonic, but I now realise that some of his behaviour was suspect, I didn't know this at the time though. He was my best friend although I never went in his house, we just hung out together. I was heartbroken when he moved away, aged 14. I didn't see him again until a couple of years ago when he turned up on the front page of the sun having been jailed indeterminately for attempted rape of a 2 month old.

I knew someone who would show off his bruises to us kids, where his dad beat him with a cricket bat. He told us not to tell, so we didn't.

Someone else's mum burnt down their house, and did a moonlight flit to avoid debts. I just thought it exciting.

I know someone who's mum left them home alone, for 2 weeks while she went on holiday. She was 8. I thought that was amazing, how exciting, I was jealous.

When I was older, and started to realise what was right and wrong, a girl told me that she didn't like grandad coming over because he would always take her upstairs for a fuck as soon as he got there. I attempted to get her to tell someone else, and I told the midwife, because shortly afterwards she fell pregnant. She would never speak about it again though, so nothing happened.

There are areas where this stuff is commonplace. Even if the books themselves may not be true, I'm certain that the stories in them are happening to someone. I want to DO something, but I don't know what.

I wanted to become a social worker, but a) I don't think i'm clever enough to qualify, and b) I think their hands are tied most of the time through budgets etc.

Some really creepy fuckers borrow them from the library. They like to try and engage you in conversation about the worst bits too.

KitchenandJumble Sun 27-Jan-13 19:28:30

It does seem very odd that this sort of "misery lit" has become so popular. I admit that I read A Child Called It (while browsing in a bookstore, I didn't actually pay for it) and found it to be voyeuristic, lingering over salacious details of abuse in a really unpleasant way, and very badly written. This seems to be par for the course of this type of book. Why do people like to read this drivel? Shudder.

Of course, not all books that deal with the issue of child abuse fall into this category. Mary McCarthy's Memories of a Catholic Girlhood is a brilliant memoir about a terribly abusive childhood (and her rescue from the abusive relatives by her maternal grandparents). It deals with the subject of abuse without hysteria and OTT scenes of horror described with purple prose, instead thoughtfully showing the perspective of a child in that situation. Richard Rhodes' A Hole in the World is another example of a memoir that can deal with this subject without becoming misery lit.

And then, of course, so many of these so-called memoirs are either exaggerations or completely cut from whole cloth. I remember one such memoir by a woman who claimed to have been raised in a Satanist cult, with all the attendant abuse one might expect. Some years later she wrote a completely different memoir (under a different name) about her childhood in a Nazi concentration camp. She even met another fantasist, Binjamin Wilkomirski, who had written a celebrated (and completely fabricated) memoir of his own Holocaust experiences, and she claimed she recognised him from their time together in the camp. I'll bet that was an awkward "reunion," each one waiting for the other to blink first.

IneedAsockamnesty Sun 27-Jan-13 19:35:50

I'm not really sure I care who reads what and why.

Thank you for posting HugAndRoll. I'm sorry that happened to you.

magimedi Sun 27-Jan-13 19:42:24

HugAndRoll - so sad to read your tale.

I volunteered in an Oxfam bookshop for some years. We had a lot of 'misery' books in & put them all in the window one morning. A woman came in & bought the lot (about 10 or so) as she was - to quote -:

"So pleased to have found all the reading for my beach holiday".

I still wonder about her..........hmm

InNeedOfBrandy Sun 27-Jan-13 19:46:31

I agree I dislike these books and feel like I'm snooping on someone, really dislike it.

I did however read a boy called it (think we did it in school) and thought he was amazing to over come his terrible life and cried the whole way through and another called cookie which got passed to me to read. Was a really really good read and although terrible and sad did have a good ending and I really really related to what she went through.

gimmecakeandcandy Sun 27-Jan-13 19:49:50

I think it is unfair to label it all as misery lit for people who read it. I have read the dave pelzer books as I wanted to find out about his journey through life and he had written it to show what he had gone though too - he wanted to expose the abuse that can happen to children didn't he.

I think the op unthread who said his story was bull is really out of order.

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