A colleague shared with me that one of her favorite authors, Barbara Robinette Moss, had died recently (Oct. 9, 2009). Considering that Moss had lived in Iowa (Des Moines and Iowa City) for a good portion of her life, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of her passing. Moss was both an artist and an author.
Her memoir, Change me Into Zeus’s Daughter, is one of our Book-Club-in-a-Box selections. It’s compelling reading. The opening scene has her mother preparing a meal of seeds they had intended to plant — seeds saturated in pesticide. The family is starving and there is nothing else to eat. Her father is an alcoholic, often out of work and often abusive. Barbara is particularly unfortunate in that malnutrition has caused the bones in her face to elongate, giving her a “twisted, mummy face.” Her wish to change her appearance — which she eventually is able to do — is the basis for the book’s title.
Though at times it’s difficult to witness the hardship the family endures, this is truly an uplifting book. In her follow-up memoir, Fierce, Moss covers later episodes in her life, including finally leaving Alabama and her abusive second husband for art school at age 27, with her 8 year old son in tow. To know that she overcomes her harsh beginnings and becomes a productive and successful adult is amazing. It’s unfortunate that we cannot look forward to more work from this creative talent.