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Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter: A…

Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter: A Memoir (edition 2012)

by Melissa Francis

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606197,694 (3.56)1
Title:Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter: A Memoir
Authors:Melissa Francis
Info:Weinstein Books (2012), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:Memoir/ Little House

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Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter: A Memoir by Melissa Francis



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This is an interesting book, enough that I kept reading it. While it's easy to put down, it is good enough that I also was anxious to pick it up again.

The reader sees Melissa grow up with a mother who saw to Melissa’s career as an actress from the time she was an infant. Melissa also went to school, unlike other child actors. Often they are "home schooled" (Melissa's quotation marks) so they are available for auditions. One "home-schooled" third grader, Melissa observed, couldn't even sound out a three-syllable word.

We read other books about poor families having their children work. Melissa did this, too. Sometimes we forget that acting is real work.

As Melissa got older, competition became fiercer, and she got fewer and fewer roles. When she wasn't working, her mother got more unreasonable and lazy. So Melissa went to Harvard, far from her home in California and her mother.

Other reviewers of this book say that they like it less after this point. But I think the opposite. While Melissa's life as a child actor is interesting, that part of her story isn't riveting. But it is while she is in college and after she gets married and moves to San Francisco that the reader really sees her mother’s insanity. She was descending for years and this is the finality. This explains how Melissa could write what she did, say what she said. I now respect Melissa Francis.

I won this book on the blog http://undermyappletree.net/ ( )
  techeditor | Jun 9, 2014 |
I really loved Little House on the Prairie and watched all of the seasons. I don't read very many Hollywood memoirs but this one struck me as pretty interesting especially since I had no idea that Melissa Francis went on to be a business anchor. (on Fox - which IMHO diminishes her success... but that is where I am coming from...:)

This story was a page turner for the most part. I was curious and interested the whole way through. I thought her story was a pretty engaging one.

It does always make me very uncomfortable reading about a family as dysfunctional as this one. Although Melissa Francis has a right to get her story out there - it is so hard to read such an unrelentingly unflattering account as this one. Her mother certainly sounds like she was a crazy person and not a nice one at that - but a public flogging such as this one is hard to read.

Melissa paints herself as the one sane person in a family of seriously flawed and mentally ill individuals. She certainly seemed to persevere despite a very troubled home life.

Little glimpses of her conservative politics poked out now and again - and that was something I found unwelcome (although others obviously might find it something that makes her more sympathetic).

Anyway - as a fan of the show - I thought it was an engaging read although pretty cringe-worthy as well. ( )
  alanna1122 | Jul 5, 2013 |
As a childhood fan of Melissa Francis and someone who we see regularly on Fox, I was eager to read the story of her life. Her story grabs you in the first chapter and moves you quickly through the the next 20+ years of her life. As a mother, I cringed again and again as she told of occasions of her mother's verbal, physical, and emotional abuse. It was completely unimaginable to me to have a mother be so completely unreasonable and unstable. Even her husband was afraid to confront or stand up to her. What a sad situation for Melissa and her sister Tiffany growing up. I am just grateful that they had each other.

As I read the story, the mother's behavior reminded me of someone with bipolar disorder with her manic episodes and extreme highs and lows. It didn't seem to matter what the girls did, the mom always found a reason to yell and be upset with them. If it wasn't for Melissa's strong drive to succeed, I'm not sure she would have ever come out from under her mother's stranglehold. I was impressed with Melissa's ingenuity in finding ways to avoid being home and for ways she found to get ahead. She truly saved herself from future disaster. I just wish her sister could have done the same.

Just when you think the mom can't do much more harm to her family, she completely outdoes herself. The ending left me crying, shocked, and angry. I give Melissa credit for sticking to her guns, not repeating the cycle of abuse, and moving forward. I'm sure writing this memoir was therapy in itself. ( )
  Staciele | Apr 15, 2013 |
A powerful and eye-opening memoir.

This book was so interesting I found myself totally immersed in the life of Melissa Francis. I really appreciate her candor in bringing light to the taboo of mental illness, while telling her story. I remember watching Little House on the Prairie as a child and although her picture looked familiar, I don’t remember Melissa from the show. That’s probably because I was about the age of Melissa Gilbert at the time, so she was who I could relate to. So when I came across this memoir I was really curious to learn about Francis , her role on the show, as well as her life in general.

I found this book to be an emotional rollercoaster and the situation with Melissa’s sister and her mother at the end really hit me hard. In fact the honest truth here is that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you live, mental illness and abuse can hit home for anyone anywhere. In Melissa’s case her mother suffered from mood swings that left her and her sister never knowing when she would lash out at them physically and emotionally. While her father at first seemed an enabler you find out later he also felt the brunt of the situation, also suffering at the hands of his abusive wife. The sad truth is that this type of situation where the family is torn apart by mental illness is common, yet rarely talked about. The paramount understanding Melissa delivers at the end of this book is that no matter how bad ones childhood is one doesn’t need to let it get in the way of our future as an adult. Melissa has used her past as a tool and learned from it instead of letting it consume her. She has moved on with her life and is now rasing her own children, unfortunately her sister wasn’t so lucky.

I loved reading about Melissa’s auditions, as well as what went on while filming, even with her mothers crazy antics. This memoir was well written easy to read and I didn’t feel as if Melissa was looking for pity for her situation, but instead is looking to inform others of the insanity of her past. I also felt that part of her mothers emotional turmoil and the depression she suffered was due to her failing to work on and create her own life, which left her feeling empty once her daughters moved on with there lives. But the underlying factor here is that her mother had an undiagnosed bipolar personality and when it comes to this type of mental illness the ones most to feel the impact is the immediate family. As someone who also has suffered at the hands of a dysfunctional mother with a personality disorder, and also deals with others family members with bipolar disorder, the scenarios described in this book are very similar to what I have experienced. At times these scenes left me feeling exhausted, just reliving them through Melissa’s eyes. I also know those scars never completely heal. These personalities most of the time are not even noticed by others outside the family as the bi-polar can be very manipulative, controlling and tend to show only a pleasant demeanor to others outside the home. While those family members in the home suffer from constant battles, rage, the ups and downs, the lies, irresponsible behavior of which includes the physical and emotional abuse. I feel Melissa did the right thing when she decided to cut her mother out of her life completely out of respect for her father and sister, it was about time.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves to read memoirs or who has suffered at the abuse of a loved one who has a personality disorder. Melissa tells her story in a clear and well assembled book that takes the reader from her first memories as a child right through to her present life. I also feel if Melissa received any bad reviews on this book it had to be from people who don’t understand this type of situation and have never experienced it. The worst thing than not having a mother present in one’s life, is having a mother present who for whatever reason cannot or does not show or give her children love. Why people feel that a child has an ideal life growing up because they live in a nice home, in a nice neighborhood and have expensive material possessions is completely outrageous and absurd. I find these people to be empty of empathy and clueless. ( )
  autumnblues | Feb 11, 2013 |
If you were on Little House and write a memoir I am going to read it. I loved that sappy, corny show. To this day I will drop everything to watch an episode. My favorite sub job is the teacher who leaves me an episode to show the kids every time I work for her. The only thing better than watching an episode is seeing how the kids of today react to it. They love it too!

Previously I have read Melisa Gilbert's Prairie Tale (Pa was an alcoholic womanizer!) and Alison Arngrims Confessions of a Prairie Bitch (Percival was gay! well no duh). Actually the best bit from her book was her recount of the time she and Mrs. Olsen went to opens a supermarket in costume and the crowd turned on them because they couldn't understand that they only played the characters on TV, they weren't really Nellie and Mrs. Olsen. The only book I haven't read is Melissa Sue Anderson's because both Laura and Nellie say she was the real bitch. Nellie calling Mary obnoxious, how ironic. Anyhow I remember the character of Cassandra quite well. She was supposed to be a "new Laura", because the old one had grown up. Sadly the show only lasted two seasons with her on it so the Little House portion of the book is only a few pages.

What the book is mostly about is Melissa Francis whining about her mother's treatment of her. Her mother did sound pretty awful but not more so than a lot of others I know personally. Although her manner was not always to be desired she managed to get her on the top rated TV show of maybe all time with years and years of residual checks. Not only that, the mother oversaw her schooling and Melissa graduated from Harvard. Not too shabby. I know Melissa blames her mother for what happened to her sister but people make their own choices in life. We are only presented with one side of the story and although I am not doubting Melissa's account I am sure you would hear something completely different from the mother. As Dr. Phil says their is no reality, only your perception of it. I would love to see Dr. Phil sit down with Melissa and her mother and try to patch that up, that would be so awesome and impossible. Somehow the dad manages to skip free from any blame about the way Melissa was raised. I guess there is a lesson to be learned here but after reading this account and Tiger Mom's I am still unsure how hard you are supposed to push your children so that they don't give up at the slightest obstacle but persevere on to success. You want to be loving and not hated but you can't be a pushover either. I guess I'll know I went to far if my daughter writes her memoir about me. ( )
  arielfl | Dec 29, 2012 |
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A memoir from the former child actress and veteran journalist describes the pride, pressure, and cruelty she felt from her ambitious stage mother while working as part of the cast of "Little House on the Prairie."

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