Book Review: Miss America By Day by Marilyn Van Derbur

Talia Felix

Ok perhaps you are thinking, ” Leslie,  Miss America By Day doesn’t sound like your kind of book.” And you would be right.  I don’t think it sounds like my kind of book either.  I think this book is mis-named.  I never would have picked it up on my own, but it was recommended to me.  And I LOVE it.

The reason I don’t like the title is that I feel it is misleading.  It makes it sound like a girly girl book.    Since I am not a girly girl, it’s not the kind of book I would normally pick up.  But the author Marilyn Van Derbur says she’s not a girly girl; she’s a tom-boy.  And a very competitive one at that, which is how she somehow ended up in the Miss America contest, and won.

What the book is really about is in the subtitle: A guide for parenting. . .resource for professionals. . .handbook for survivors of sexual abuse. . .love story.  It truly is all these things.  The first part of the book is a memoir.  Don’t worry there is nothing graphic about the abuse.  Survivors may find it triggering though.  She talked about things I have felt, talked about and written about here on the blog. It was so validating! Here is an example:

(note-Larry is her wonderful husband, and Jennifer, her daughter that she shares a close relationship with.)

“A dear friend stopped by one day.  She couldn’t have been more loving but her words cut me to the bone.  ‘Lynn, its a beautiful day.  You have Larry, Jennifer, this wonderful home, an incredible career, you need to let this go now and move on with your life.’  Not one word had been said with malice.  She had always been supportive of me but her words were so hurtful.  If only she knew how desperately I wanted to move on.  The feelings and emotions had become more than I could suppress or control anymore.  The recovery process has nothing to do with willpower or choice.

“I wish I had known that many–if not most–adults sexually violated as children, are in their 40’s before they begin to deal with their childhoods.  Just knowing that this is ‘normal” for many survivors would have helped me cope with friends and family members who were saying, ‘This happened a long time ago.  Just move on with your life.”

I didn’t realize forty is a common age either, and yes, I have gotten the “move on” message from well-meaning friends.

The second “half” of the book is a “guide”.  I thought I knew a lot about this topic–not only from living it, but from my study and work.  But I learned a lot of new things from this portion of her book.  Chapters titles in this portion include: How Common is Forgetting; Do Babies and Toddlers Remember?, Seven Things You Should Never Say, Why Don’t Children Tell?  etc. There is some wonderful information about protecting your children that will enlighten and empower you.

I want to fill this post with tons and tons of quotes, because I love her book so much.  But, you know, they have copyright laws about that sort of thing. So I will limit myself to one more that I feel highlights my favorite thing about her book.  She is so very encouraging and positive.  She gives me hope.

“The good news is that the pain can end.  The bad news is that recovery is an indescribably agonizing process.”   In another part of the book she says the pain can end, but you have to do the hard work.

I think anyone: survivor, friend of survivor, parent etc could benefit from this book.  Read it!  You won’t be disappointed.  That is a money-back guarantee (money back that you spent on this blog post– that is!)

When I “grow up”, I want to be just like Marilyn.

Photo Attribution:  Talia Felix


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