Who Do You Think You Are?

A Memoir by Alyse Myers

Now in paperback!
Photograph of Who Do You Think You Are?

At the heart of this powerful memoir is a compelling mystery. Shortly after Alyse Myers's mother dies, Alyse and her sisters are emptying her mother's apartment, trying to decide what to discard and what to keep. Alyse covets only one thing—a wooden box that sits in the back of a closet. Its contents have been kept from Alyse her entire life. That box, she hopes, will contain answers to her questions: Who were her parents really, and why did her mother settle for so very little in her life?

We are then transported back in time to the 1960's, to a working-class neighborhood in Queens, New York. It is not a happy home. Alyse's parents are young and attractive, but they constantly veer between their mutual attraction and contempt. Her parents argue bitterly about everything—money, family and her father's constant sickness. Her father drifts in and out of their apartment, and what his illness portends is never discussed.

After her father dies, Alyse's mother, 33, is left with three young girls. She retreats to the kitchen table with her cigarettes and resentment, determined to stay there forever. Alyse, on the other hand, yearns for more in life, including the right to escape. After a childhood of harrowing fights, abject cruelty, and endless uncertainty, Alyse adamantly rejects everything about her mother's life, provoking her mother's infuriated demand, "Who do you think you are?"

A heart-wrenching and ultimately uplifting portrait of a mother and daughter, Who Do You Think You Are? explores the profound and poignant revelations that so often come to light only after a parent has died. Balancing childhood memories with adult observations, Alyse Myers writes with candor and eloquence of her journey to adulthood. Her story's power lies in its simplicity and the emotions it conjures up in the reader.

No matter what your relationship with your own mother is like, this book will stay with you long after you put it down.