BOOK FEATURE – Banned Books Week
“This is the searing opening to Edna “Gertrude” Beasley’s raw and scathing memoir, originally published in Paris in 1925 but ultimately suppressed and lost to history as a banned book—until now. Only five-hundred copies were printed, very few of which made it into readers’ hands, having been confiscated by customs inspectors or removed from bookshelves by Texas law enforcement.”
This book had a limited release in the 80’s but still was a legend since most of the copies had been destroyed. Because it talked about birth control and female’s sexual freedom. Think of where we would be if more women were able to have written their words cause she opened that door, but that door was slammed shut.
My First Thirty Years
Pub Date: 9/28/21
Gertrude Beasley was never heard from again after she was extradited from England to America. In the prologue after some digging through old records she was found to have been admitted into a mental asylum and had died at the age of 63 of pancreatic cancer. The lengths they go to to silence women and keep the narrative at a fantasy standard is horrific.
This book is a biography of the author’s life being born into a large family in poverty in Texas. This book discusses sexual abuse, sexual feelings, birth control, politics in the school system, women’s rights, fair pay, and so much more. There was nothing off limits as a topic, it was a vent of frustration being born into the least and trying to be a successful person but continually hitting these glass ceilings.
Though this was very empowering with womens rights and basically whistleblowing on the patriarchal and hypocritical system. This was only women’s rights for white women at the time.
There was a thread of hope that she was making change that she couldn’t be touched and she was a powerful voice. And that last line of the book it broke my heart. We all are just looking for someone, our someone. After all that shit she went through she was stuck in one of those horror asylums.
Thank you @sourcebooks and @netgalley for the e-ARC for my honest and voluntary review.
TW: Sexual assault, racially insensitive language, incest, beastiality
When published in 1925, My First Thirty Years was briefly hailed as one of the best coming-of-age memoirs of the era and “the first genuinely realistic picture of the Southern poor white trash.” Within the next several months, forces conspired to curtail the book’s distribution and the career of its promising but blunt and radically feminist author. Britain, where Beasley was living at the time, banned the book for its violent and disturbing material; most copies were destroyed by Scotland Yard or U.S. Customs. The few that made it to Texas were mostly yanked off shelves by the Texas Rangers, probably on the orders of prominent Texans maligned in her book. Then the author vanished. She was 35.
My First Thirty Years was Beasley’s only work, depicting a hardscrabble and intelligent frontier girl attempting, and often failing, to retain her dignity as she strives to overcome the hardships of her roots. Beasley’s voice is compelling, dark, and full of complex motives. Writing at the highest pitch of anger and with a tough-as-nails sense of survival, she pulls no punches while vividly recounting the impossible life she barely escaped. Much of the memoir is about young Gertrude’s attempt to come to grips with her own budding sexuality by repressing it, the only socially approved solution in that era, and her scarcely contained rage at the inhumanity of turn-of-the-century frontier life. Hers is the still-relevant story of a bold woman overcoming brutal circumstances in the search for a different way to live.
You couldn’t say these sorts of things a century ago. The autobiography was printed in Paris by the publisher of Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway, and suppressed on both sides of the Atlantic. Two years later, Beasley disappeared under dark circumstances, leaving behind nothing more than an extraordinary example of memoir writing.
Upon rediscovering My First Thirty Years 60 years later, famed Texas author Larry McMurtry writes that her memoir “is one of the finest Texas books of its era; in my view, the finest.”