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White Elephants - A Memoir [Paperback]

Chynna T. Laird
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Feb. 1 2011
Elephant in the middle of the living room. That is one way of explaining how a family walks around the invisible presence of huge problems. Hindsight is what brings the elephant into focus. Somehow, Chynna T. Laird began to see at age five the bulky creature crowding her family. And from that time as the child, Tammy, she took on a sense of responsibility to her mother far beyond expectation for her age. Her mother was different than other mothers. Family life in their household was not pretty. No one seemed to notice. No one did anything about it, and Tammy wanted someone to do just that. As an adult, Tammy took on her first name, Chynna, and took up the challenge to find out what might have helped her mother fight her battle of self-destruction. She couldn't help her mother, but she would consider it worth everything if her family's story helped another.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Unflinchingly honest and equally compelling July 5 2012
Format:Paperback
White Elephants is an unflinchingly honest and equally compelling tale of the strength it takes to overcome the myriad vicissitudes of mental illness and addiction. A story of damaged mother-love, White Elephants is written with loving kindness while really taking the reader there, into that house, into that room. We see that love, peace and happiness, while not easily achieved, are possible and that life can be what we choose to make it.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest and Inspiring...A Brave Story of Survival Oct. 10 2011
By Angela Mackintosh - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
There are books that resonate with you long after the last page is turned and Chynna Laird's memoir White Elephants is one of them. This brave, bold memoir starts with the author (then called Tami) at age five overhearing her mother say "I don't want them" in a phone conversation with her grandmother. Her mom was on one of her "vacations," which was really an excuse to leave Tami and her brother with their grandparents so she could go on a drunken bender. Hearing those words broke Tami's heart for the first time, and from that day on it seemed she knew she had to protect her younger brother. But that was not an easy task. Tami had to endure more than any child should ever have to.

Tami's mom had a mental illness, and alcohol only fueled the fire. We get our first glimpse into one of her episodes when Tami sees her mom in the living room getting beat up by the neighbor for hitting on her husband. Something she wouldn't have done had she not been drunk. But her alcoholism led to many bad decisions, including the men she allowed into their lives. Tami witnessed her mom's sexual encounters with these men on several occasions and, at the tender age of twelve, was raped by one of her mom's boyfriends, which resulted in Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. When the doctor asked how she could have a condition you couldn't get without sexual contact, her mother said, "Maybe she's just a tramp." I cried when I read this.

For the length of this honest, inspiring memoir, my heart ached for the author. I felt her pain when she read her mother's diary and found out that her mom was suicidal and wished she never had her. I wasn't surprised when she turned to alcohol and cutting herself and even attempted suicide. Her mother's abuse also led Tami to develop an ulcer at age eighteen, and later on a dangerous "coping mechanism" called anorexia. Her brother wasn't much better off either, turning to alcohol and drugs to ease his pain, even though Tami did all she could throughout their childhood to protect him. And although there are many, many tragic events that take place throughout the volume at hand, the author writes in the perfect voice for this tough subject matter, never diving into the depths of despair, which makes White Elephants a highly readable memoir.

White Elephants is a story of survival, strength, and hope. Chynna's story is a testament to the fact that you can rise above the abuse experienced in childhood and become the woman and mother you always wished for. That's what Chynna is today, and so much more. She's a true inspiration and a gifted writer with the courage to step up and tell her heartbreaking story, warts and all, to help other people who may be experiencing the same thing in their lives. I know it's helped me. And I have to say one thing: even though there may have been an elephant in the room that no one seemed to notice, Chynna did all she could as a young lady. It was a different era and therapy wasn't as common as it is today. Now, we have resources. So if you know someone who is suffering, speak up and find help.

I recommend White Elephants to anyone who has experienced alcoholism, mental illness or abuse in the family. You will find comfort and inspiration in this memoir, knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Inspiring Memoir! Aug. 30 2011
By HIPCHICK - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
White Elephants is a bittersweet account of a life lived through huge adversities, which sadly, many will be able connect with this all too familiar scenario. Chynna accounts for each phase of her life, the good, bad, and ugly... not only living through and surviving, but learning from and thriving. She lets us peak into her childhood all the way to present day in a no nonsense manner, without diving too far into the bowels of despair, but enough for you to get the picture. As with any child, all she ever wanted was the love and approval from her own mother, which sadly was impossible to receive due to her mother's own demons from which she battled. I connected with Chynna's words and felt her longing for the one thing we all strive for, our mother's approval and love. But the most important message of this memoir is that there IS life beyond our parent's shortcomings...after all, they are here to teach us, and sometimes they teach us through negative actions, showing us how NOT to be! And sometimes we have to give ourselves what we wish we could get from others.
A perfect story that reminds us we all have the capability to 'rise above our raising' and thrive, as in the end we see Chynna morph into the family woman she always desired within her own mother.
I recommend this memoir to anyone that needs to find their way too.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read! Riveting! April 23 2012
By CMash - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
My Thoughts and Opinion: An extraordinary read!!! A memoir that was both emotionally disturbing yet inspirational. Chynna Laird, author, penned and shared a very transparent look into her abusive childhood and how she took back her power to become a scarred but forgiving and content adult. Her writing style is exceptional. A book so engrossing that I read it in 2 days because it was the type of book one could not stop reading. A story that HAD to be read, wishing it was fictional due to the trauma that this author had lived. I kept thinking how painful it must have been for her to write this book because she had to revisit so many tormented memories. Her young life living with an alcoholic parent with mental illness that was not treated, cared for improperly by a parent that was not equipped to love, having to be the adult at the age of 8 for her younger siblings and being molested at 12, attempted suicide when she was 15, just to name a few. Her coping mechanisms to get through it all from her own use of drugs and alcohol, cutting, and eating disorder.

As I said, I could not put this book down. Reading the excruciating agony of a child, who felt "trapped and hopeless" was heart wrenching!! Knowing and wanting to help her mother, a child with adult thoughts of "fixing" her mother but not knowing how, riveting!! A story that consumed, captivated, and had me feeling an array of emotions, that at times were overwhelming. As a parent myself, I found myself agonizing for this child. And I also found myself to be so angry with the parent, at times even detesting, but then also realizing that she was a very troubled woman with untreated diseases. As distressing as this story was, it was also inspirational. It was about this battered child, who had lived through in surmountable times but prevailed to become a forgiving, sympathetic, loving adult. A spell binding read!! Poignant and profound!!! Off the chart read!! Touching!! I definitely recommend this book, it will stay with you for many years to come!!!

My Rating: 5+
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Searingly honest.Amazing survival of spirit despite incredible obstacles. May 10 2011
By Sue S. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Chynna Laird bares it all- the good, the bad, and the ugly. And there was plenty of bad and ugly in her early life. More than anyone should have to endure. She is able to remain true to herself by being brutally honest about growing up in a very dysfunctional family, headed up by a bi-polar mother who was more out of control than anything else. But Chynna also, aptly, captures her mother's musical talents and beauty, reminding us readers that she was a woman who had potential, if only she had gotten proper treatment. More than a story about the horrors that Chynna Laird survived, it's a story about making it out the other side. For anyone who has experienced living with a person who has an untreated mental illness, or who has experienced any sort of abuse, this memoir is an inspiration.

I guess the one thing I really got out of it, is that when there is a White Elephant in the room, have the courage to speak out and make a change. If you are too young to make the change yourself, find an adult who will do it for you.
5.0 out of 5 stars Unflinchingly honest and equally compelling July 5 2012
By Lisa De Nikolits - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
White Elephants is an unflinchingly honest and equally compelling tale of the strength it takes to overcome the myriad vicissitudes of mental illness and addiction. A story of damaged mother-love, White Elephants is written with loving kindness while really taking the reader there, into that house, into that room. We see that love, peace and happiness, while not easily achieved, are possible and that life can be what we choose to make it.
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