Sunday, November 27, 2011

Why in the world would I want to read a story about child abuse?

     "A Child Called It" is a story that explains how much the human spirit can endure and remain whole. Pelzer's point in the story was to show that he never gave up. While he couldn’t make the abuse stop, he learned how to manipulate his mother’s behavior enough to keep the situation from getting worse. It is an incredible tale of strength and courage in a person not even old enough to reach the bathroom sink. If a child can endure this and end up being as successful as he is, what the hell do I have to complain about? Pelzer helps us realize how blessed we truly are.

     The second thing that Pelzer accomplishes is that he puts a face on child abuse. He refuses to let us have the easy out of just ignoring the abuse we see happen everyday. There are people all around us, similar to those involved in his stories that are suffering in ways that we cannot possibly imagine. To turn our backs on them makes us no better than Pelzer's father, the man who knew better and did nothing. I challenge anyone to read this book and not admit that we must do something to stop the abuse that we see going on everyday to people all around us.

     Yet, if you can't handle some graphic and gruesome descriptions of abuse, then this book isn't for you. Pelzer goes into extreme detail on some of the "games" his mother forced him to play and reading it can get pretty difficult. It isn't too terrible though because the story begins with his rescue.

Chapter 1 - The Rescue

In the first chapter, Pelzer begins with describing the day that he is finally rescued and gets to leave his mother and the rest of his family. Instead of starting right away with how his life and his child abuse began, Pelzer starts at the end. As I began reading the story, it was reassuring to know that no matter what I was about to read, I knew that David had a safe rescue from his mother. This seems pretty obvious at first because he wrote this story, meaning he has to be alive and well now. However, after finishing the story I realized that this first chapter explaining the rescue was one of the most important, especially because it was in the beginning of the book. This first chapter makes it easier for the reader to endure the painful stories that Pelzer later explains in his childhood. Even though without this chapter we know he will turn out okay, it is imperative to know exactly how and when David was saved so that the rest of the book is bearable to read.

Page 91 of "A Child Called It"

     In this part of the book, David is standing before his father, showing him the wound his mother just gave him in the stomach. David's mother had just accidentally fallen and stabbed David in the stomach. She quickly wrapped it with gauze and left David to finish washing the dishes. Now, David is standing infront of his father, waiting to see his reaction to the wound. All his father says is, "You go back in there and do the dishes. I won't even tell her that you told, okay?" At this point in the book, David loses all respect for his father. It is clearly shown that his father cannot be the savior that David is hoping for. For some reason, David's father is too much of a coward to help David and to get them away from his mother. This page's description of how David's father does nothing to help him, makes me almost hate his father more than I hate his mother. It is evident that his mother is suffering from a mental disease, that is worsened by her drinking. His father, however, has no excuse other than the fact that he is too much of a coward to even try saving David from his mother. Pelzer feels all of these same emotions, and portrays them through his writing. As I read this part of the book, particularly this page, I could feel Pelzer's hatred for his father and also his loss of hope that his father would ever be his rescue.

Summary of "A Child Called It"

A Child Called “It” is a story based on a real life boys tribulations with his mothers shocking abuse. When he was younger Dave and his family were considered the “perfect” family. Then, all of a sudden his mother and father started drinking and had problems in their relationship. Dave started getting the worst treatment imaginable. His mother all of a sudden treated him as a nobody or an “It”. His father wouldn’t do anything about it and it made Dave hate him. He had two other brothers but they didn’t get any of their mother’s harsh beatings or tortures. David’s mother would starve him weeks at a time without giving him even a morsel of food. He had to steal food from stores and the school to survive. One day he stole hot dogs from the school cafeteria and someone caught him. When he got home his mother made him puke it up and then eat it again. She also went to the extent of making David eat his baby brother’s feces. Another incident was when David was cleaning the kitchen floor for his mother. She all of a sudden stormed into the kitchen and started yelling at him. She took him by the arm, turned on the gas stove, and burned the flesh on his arm. She then proceeded to make him take off his clothes and lay on top of the flames. She tortured him for no reason except for her own sick pleasure. She would also make him drink ammonia, wear tattered clothes, sleep in the garage, and she even went to the extent of stabbing him and not taking him to the hospital. This story ended with David's school calling the police to rescue him from the abuse. The school has known about his abuse for awhile, but they finally decided that enough was enough and the child services came to pick him up. He left the school that day and never returned back to his mother.

10 Events in the Story

1. Trip to the river (the good times) - When David was younger, he did not suffer from child abuse his mother presented at an older age. Once, they took a trip to a river not far from Johnson's Beach. This was David's favorite trip and memory of his family.

2. Arm Accident - David's mother soon began to change drastically in her behavior. She beat David often, and once she popped his arm out of place. She claimed he had fallen out of the top bunk in his bed.

3. The Burns - One day, David is forced to put his arms and body over the kitchen stove. He figures out that if he can stall his mother more, she will give up when his older brothers come home. He continues this method throughout his abuse.

4. Starvation - David's mom soon started to play a little game with him, by starving him constantly for days at a time. David became weak and skinny, and his mother often let him eat only the leftover cereal left in his brothers' breakfast bowls.

5. Last Trip - The family vacations one last time at the Russian River by Johnson's Beach. David is abused by his mother still on this trip, and he doesn't have very much fun anymore. He feels like his family is falling apart.

6. His Father Fades Away - From the years 1968 to about 1971, David's abuse is continued more and more frequently. He tries stealing from other childrens' lunches because of his hunger, and is only punished even worse. When David's father is away, the abuse is much greater. He tries to get his father to help him, but he never offers much. David is very lost without his father, and sleeps in the basement all alone.

7. The Stabbing - David's mom becomes very drunk, and while in her rage she stabs David accidentally. The wound is not taken care of properly, and it becomes infected. David shows his father, who just tells him to keep doing all the chores that his mother insists he should do.

8. The Games - David's mother has always played little "games" with him. She invents a new one called The Gas Chamber. She dumps many chemicals into a bucket, and while they are reacting she puts them in a bathroom with David. He cannot breathe during these periods of time, and nearly dies several times.

9. Father Leaves - David's mother's games continue. He is forced to do everything for his drunken mom, and soon after a fifth child is born, David's father leaves them for good. David is left with his mother in the home, and begins to lose hope of ever escaping the household.

10. Rescued - David Pelzer was saved from child abuse by his school teachers and principal on March 5th, 1973.

Two Important Places in the Book

     Dave mentions a city called Guerneville where his family would go camping. They visited the Russian River in that city and spent many summers there for vacation. Before the child abuse started, Dave remembers it as his favorite place in the world. He and his brothers would climb the trees, swim in the river, and watch the sunsets with their parents. He recalls a moment watching the sunset with them, when his mom came from behind to hug his shoulders. A few years later, as the abuse from his mother just started, the family returned to the river. This time however, David was rarely allowed to go outside to play with his brothers and father. While they were out playing one day, David's mother forced him to eat his own baby brother's feces and she broke his nose while shoving it into the diaper. After that trip, David never wanted to return to Guerneville because the experience ruined it for him.

    David's school is another imporant place in the book because it is where he was rescued on March 5, 1973. He attended Thomas Edison Elementary school in Daly City, CA. His principle and school nurse knew that David was suffering from child abuse, but it was not until they noticed bruises all over his face from being beaten on the kitchen table that they decided to call the police. The police came to the school, drove him to child services, and he never returned to his home again. David believes that if it weren't for his school, then he might not have ever been rescued.

The Two Most Important People in the Book

David Pelzer and his mother, Catherine Pelzer. Dave is the author of this autobiography, which obviously makes him one of the main characters. In his book, Dave only describes his life as a young child up to age 12. He experienced a normal childhood until about age 7, when he began suffering child abuse from his mother. Dave became almost a completely different person to the point where he didn't even consider himself to be a part of his family. The entire book is from his point of view and describes his account of child abuse.

David's mother, Catherine, is the cause of his abuse. It started when David was 7 and she began to abuse him. The book does not explain why she began to abuse him, but it is assumed that heavy drinking is one of the causes. Pelzer describes his mother, before the abuse starts, as a beautiful woman who always wears make-up and dresses up. As her abusing gets worse, her appearance does too. She slowly begins to stop getting ready and putting make-up on. Pelzer also describes her gaining weight as the story goes on. It is hard to describe the personality of his mother because the reasons for her abuse are not explained. It is apparent that she has mental disabilities that lead her to abuse David. Catherine plays sick "games" throughout David's childhood because she believes he is the cause of all of her problems. She begins to refer to David as "the boy" or "it" and tortures him for enjoyment.

"A Child Called It" - Where did that title come from?

In Dave's true story, he describes growing up as a victim of child abuse. Overtime, Dave did not even consider himself part of his family. He lived in the garage, was not allowed to eat with his family, and could not even talk to his other brothers. Dave's mother never referred to him by name, and he recalls in his book the first time she called him "it." Not only did his mother act like he did not exist, but she even took away his own name. This took away his identity and his sense of self. "A Child Called It" is the title of Dave's book because that is how he perceived himself.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Getting to know Dave Pelzer

David Pelzer was born on December 29, 1960. Dave nearly died several times by the hands of his mentally disturbed alcoholic mother. Many years later it was determined that Dave’s case was one of the most extreme cases of child abuse in California's history. At age 12 Dave placed many foster homes until he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force at age 18. Some of his accomplishments are being honored as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans, the only American to be honored as The Outstanding Young Person of the World, holding the Centennial flame for the Olympic Games, and a recipient of the 2005 National Jefferson Award. He is the author of not only "A Child Called It," but also "The Lost Boy," "A Man Named Dave," "Help Yourself," "The Privilege of Youth," "Help yourself for Teens," and Moving Forward."

"A Child Called It"

Pelzer, David. A Child Called It. Health Communications; 1st edition. 1 Sep 1995.