Authors Showcase: Street Angel by Magie Dominic
June 13, 2015
The Book: Street Angel
The Author: Magie Dominic
The Story: Magie Dominic’s first memoir, The Queen of Peace Room, was shortlisted for the Canadian Women’s Studies Award, ForeWord magazine’s Book of the Year Award, and the Judy Grahn Award. Told over an eight-day period, the book captured a lifetime of turbulent memories, documenting with skill Dominic’s experiences of violence, incest, and rape. But her story wasn’t finished.
Street Angel opens to the voice of an eleven-year-old Dominic. She’s growing up in Newfoundland. Her mother suffers from terrifying nighttime hallucinations. Her father’s business is about to collapse. She layers the world she hears on radio and television onto her family, speaking in paratactic prose with a point-blank delivery. She finds relief only in the glamour of Hollywood films and the majesty of Newfoundland’s wilderness.
Revealing her life through flashbacks, humour, and her signature self-confidence, Dominic takes readers from 1950s Newfoundland to 1960s Pittsburgh, 1970s New York, and the end of the millennium in Toronto.
Capturing the long days of childhood, this book questions how important those days are in shaping who we become as we age and time seems to speed up. With quick brush-stroke chapters Dominic chronicles sixty years of a complex, secretive family in this story about violence, adolescence, families, and forgiveness.
Praise for Street Angel:
“I finished Street Angel. Savoured it slowly, which is not always my way. Didn’t want it to end. So much loss and pain and then again, such beauty, and isn’t that the way of life, the mystery we can never quite understand. I was very very moved by it.” (Heather King, author of Parched: A Memoir, Redeemed: Stumbling toward God, Marginal Sanity, and the Peace that Passes all Understanding, and Shirt of Flame: A Year with St. Thérèse of Lisieux)
“Magie Dominic tells us many things about her young life as a little girl on the seacoast of Newfoundland, where in the 1940s it matters a lot if you are Catholic or non-Catholic. This little girl grows up to become the woman who is able to write this book against all the odds of fear and superstition.” (Nancy Milford, author of Zelda (1970), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and Savage Beauty, a biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay (2001))
“Street Angel picks up the thread of narrative from The Queen of Peace Room, spanning politics, celebrity, social history, war, television, film, pop music, and other media. Dominic imbues all of this for us, her readers, in luminous prose, crafting an odyssey across decades. In this exceptionally courageous account, the author seeks to overcome familial abuse, utilizing the virtues of intelligence, wit, and passion, accompanied by a chorus of societal furies, such as world wars, economic upheaval, and social unrest. This is where she reaches a zenith of life writing.” (Anne Burke, editor of The Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature, chair of the Feminist Caucus of the League of Canadian Poets)
Review by Charlotte Vale-Allen:
When I was four or five years old I swallowed a peach pit. My mother was terrified during the long seconds when I was choking, my throat stopped by this rough object. She turned me upside down and shook me; she jiggled me this way and that. And, somehow, I swallowed the pit. No ill effects. Life continued on. And I believed that the pit became a part of me (in some ways, I still believe it).
I had pretty much forgotten about this incident until I got near to the end of Street Angel. And then I couldn’t stop thinking about that swallowed peach pit and its supposed presence inside me as I read about the interior life of a little girl that reminded me so very much of my own. Our worst memories are like that peach pit, buried deep inside us but ever-present, felt only in our recall and in the worn grooves of our personal histories.
It’s impossible not to care for the lovable watchful child who marvels at the kindness of strangers (thoughts of Tennessee Williams) and accepts with sorrowing bewilderment the abuse of her mad mother and the teaching nuns at her school. This little girl is so present, so in tune with her physical surroundings (the wild and powerful beauty of her native Newfoundland, the sealed-off night-time interior of her home when her mother works madly to prevent any possibility of demons and danger finding their way inside) that her world is very visible to the reader, palpable.
This is a book written with extraordinary restraint and passion. It’s always amazing when a wounded child manages to go out into the world with a capacity for loving and creativity. This is a piece of personal history that has at its core profound truth about the damage inflicted on children. What elevates this narrative is not only the author’s considerable talent but also her discretion. There is no filler, no fluff, nothing unnecessary in this slim volume. It is entirely heartfelt and undeniably true.
Most highly recommended.