Revisit author’s life in ‘Kookooland’

Published: 3/30/2016 7:00:04 PM

Gloria Norris will visit the Toadstool Bookshop on Saturday at 2 p.m. to discuss her memoir “Kookooland,” about growing up in the projects of Manchester.

 “KooKooLand” is what Norris's magnetic, bullying Greek-American father, Jimmy, called California, a place for “numbskulls” that he wouldn't be caught dead in.Jimmy’s stomping ground was the poverty-stricken, domestic violence-filled city of Manchester of the 1960s and ’70s, brought to life in this funny and deeply felt memoir.

Norris’ telling begins in the voice of 9-year-old Gloria, who lives with her rebellious half-sister and eager-to-please mother all under Jimmy’s roof, expecting it to fall in on them at any moment. Gloria, Jimmy’s sidekick in lieu of a son, learns everything from him – how to fence stolen TVs, bet racehorses, shoot rats at the dump and watch the bloodiest slasher films without screaming like a stupid girl. Life with Jimmy is an adventure, filled with hilarious characters and cockamamie situations. But as Gloria gets older and wises up, she begins to see Jimmy in a different light: erratic, self-absorbed and oppressive.

One person in Gloria's world shows her there might be another way of life. Susan Piasecny, the daughter of Jimmy's mean-tempered hunting buddy, Hank, takes an interest in Gloria. Susan seems to have the perfect life: she is beautiful, athletic and brilliant, a college student with all the best clothes on her way to medical school. Susan is everything Gloria hopes to be – until a series of shocking, violent acts sends their lives on surprisingly different paths.

Encouraged to dream big, the course of Gloria’s life is changed by a brutal act and she learns to carve out a future on her own terms.

 As Norris writes,  “One main motivator to write the book was seeing the continuing proliferation of gun violence and domestic violence. Sadly, these are not problems that have lessened since the ’60s and ’70s – they’ve gotten worse. In some ways it’s even harder for women to escape from dangerous relationships because it’s so much easier to track a person down, harass them and shoot them with one of the millions of weapons that are floating around out there. I wanted to try and shine a light on this issue through my own personal experience of it and hopefully to move the needle a bit in the right direction.”

 Now an independent film producer, Norris’s career began in New York as an assistant to film directors Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese, and Woody Allen.

This event is free and all are welcome. For more information, call the bookstore at 924-3543.

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