"A Misfit's Manifesto" by Donna Gaines (2003)
"And some years later I did get there, an invited panelist at an international youth conference. A generation later, all the kids were fucked up and by then I was an adult, an expert on youth violence. People would interview me, quote me, hire me as a consultant. From Germany to the Navajo Nation, parents, educators, lawyers, clergy, and police would ask me why the kids were killing themselves, their parents, and one another. And I'd be able to explain."
Just think about the arrogance, the sheer egomania, typified in the above quote. Just think about it... let it sit there. I'll come back to it later.
So to begin, any (auto)biography has two tasks to perform, and two questions to answer. These are:
1. Who is this person?
2. Why should we care?
With respect to this particular autobiography, question #1 is easy to answer. Donna Gaines is, in her own words, a noted sociologist and expert on the youth of today. She is the product of - again, in her own words - a messed-up childhood, despite the fact that the "messed-up" parts of her childhood seem largely self-inflicted.
She was raised in a stable home by two loving parents. She was never molested. She grew up in a safe neighborhood. She sold jewelry at the beach. Of course she goes out of her way to dredge up details about distant relatives and their struggles with REAL problems, but she fails to make a convincing case as to how these other, more tangible problems translated into problems for herself.
Sure, she grew up intermittently obese, but so have a lot of other people. It doesn't make them all experts on the subject of self esteem, or how to cultivate it.
And then there's question #2 above - why should we care? If you believe Donna Gaines, the answer to this question lies in the fact that she's single-handedly revolutionized our understanding of youth violence. But is it true?
All I can say is that I'd never heard of her, and if I ever hear of her again it will be too soon. I don't doubt her credentials (which she lists at length throughout the course of the book), but is she, as she claims, really the voice of a generation? Either her own generation, or some other? I very much doubt it, and given her fondness for talking about her "accomplishments," I also doubt that she's the understanding type of person she so fervently pretends to be.
All of that, and this is a BADLY written book. I'm not sure what was going on at the publishing house that deigned to publish this, but at least one of their editors should've been fired. This book is chock full of both useless information and confusing transitions between time periods. Its irrelevance extends right down to discussions of a long-gone restaurants the author frequented, and the lyrics to songs that no one cares about anymore.
An editor with half an ounce of experience could have chopped this book down to half its present length, and the result would have been a much better book. What would have resulted, moreover, is the thing that Donna Gaines was really trying to achieve: a well-written resume that she could reference, distribute, and even sell at one of the conferences she attends.
And yes, anyone who thinks they're an expert on the younger members of any generation is probably full of shit. If you want to know what the kids think, it's best to consult the kids themselves. Resorting to fraudulent "experts" like Donna Gaines will just get you (and them) into trouble.