Cycles of the Ghetto a memoir by Andrea Woods

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Cycles of the Ghetto

a memoir by Andrea Woods

Cycles of the Ghetto is a brutal but beautiful firsthand, narrative account of Ms. Woods’ childhood — growing up in the ghettos of Los Angeles and ultimately triumphing over her dangerous and difficult situation.

Reviewed by Beth Cummings
Andrea Woods is a product of South Central Los Angeles. She has written a difficult memoir describing everyday life for a child in that ghetto with an alcoholic mother. It is not a pretty picture, although Andrea is a lovely girl. She has the gift/curse of an excellent memory and re-creates domestic chaos with almost dispassionate clarity.

She is her mother’s second child and relies on her older sister, Wesina, for much of her mothering, even though Wesina is only three years older. Neither of their fathers stayed around to support the family, but a third father figure was on the scene for much of their “childhood.” It wasn’t much of a childhood with a mother who drank all of the time and a stepfather that alternated between absences and drug-induced family violence. The children were regularly beaten, often hungry and always dirty.

As she grows up, Andrea tries to take charge of her life, but is also drawn to the “drama” of ghetto life. At a very young age she shoplifts in order to get some necessities: shampoo, sanitary pads, and clean underwear. She works hard at school, but falls for a guy who treats her badly. Her struggle to escape her pathetic life with him is both extremely sad and exasperating. Her few real choices are often those that cause her problems to continue.

This is a raw, unvarnished and largely unedited story. It is filled with violence and anger and excessively bad language – both vulgar and just ghetto talk. I’m sure it is true to its locale, but it is sometimes unpleasant to read. Yet, since this is a memoir and not just fiction, I hesitate to be overly critical on that account because I do believe that Andrea Woods is writing from her heart and from her experiences. These are not experiences that many of us would wish to share.

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